Life is tough when you’re a teenager; each day you experience the pains of slowly maturing into adulthood, the stomach-churning terror of high school, and the heart-rending promises of that sweet first love that blows up in your face. For Todd Smith (Alex House), a student at Crowley High and the titular reluctant hero of the Canadian comedy-horror series Todd & the Book of Pure Evil, those are the parts of his teen years he will one day look back on with fondness.
The parts he won’t are what has made this unusual series a minor cult sensation in North America and abroad. At the start of the first season Todd encountered the cursed Book of Pure Evil and tried using it to become a better guitar player and win the heart of his unrequited love Jenny Kolinsky (Maggie Castle). The plan backfired horribly and set the gawky and insecure young metalhead on the path to becoming the Pure Evil One, a dark destiny he tries desperately to avoid as he and his friends Curtis Weaver (Bill Turnbull) and Hannah B. Williams (Melanie Leishman) along with Jenny and occasionally wise and laconic school janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) wage weekly battles against the forces of darkness unleashed by the Book and the poor souls who dare attempt to use it to further their own ends. Without getting behind on their homework Todd and the gang encounter zombies, otherworldly monsters, and many other indescribable threats that stand between them and keeping the world safe from evil and making it to graduation in one piece.
Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil: The Complete Second Season collects all thirteen episodes that first aired from October 2011 to January 2012 on the cable channel Space (Canada’s much cooler answer to SyFy) and beginning in March 2012 on Fearnet. The episodes are presented in their original broadcast order. Here’s a full list of the second season episodes included in this set along with their initial air dates.
1. Redierment Home (originally aired October 30, 2011) 2. The Student Body (originally aired November 6, 2011) 3. Daddy Tissues (originally aired November 13, 2011) 4. Simply the Beast (originally aired November 20, 2011) 5. Jungle Fever (originally aired November 27, 2011) 6. Fisting Fantasy (originally aired December 4, 2011) 7. See You Later, Masturbator (originally aired January 5, 2012) 8. Loser Generated Content (originally aired January 5, 2012) 9. Deathday Cake (originally aired January 12, 2012) 10. 2 Girls, 1 Tongue (originally aired January 12, 2012) 11. B.Y.O.B.O.P.E. (originally aired January 19, 2012) 12. The Toddyssey (originally aired January 19, 2012) 13. Black Tie Showdown (originally aired January 26, 2012)
The second season picks up exactly where the first left off, with Jenny and her estranged father Pat (Ross McMillan) in the clutches of Crowley High’s evil guidance counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins), a former ally of Todd and the gang who secretly presides over an inept Satanist cult operating of an old folks’ home. Towards the end of the previous season Todd had to cut off one of Curtis’ arms, which has since been replaced with a killer bionic arm that has multiple functions. And did I mention that Curtis and Hannah are now romantically linked? That would be hard to miss since he reminds almost everyone he meets of that fact proudly.
This season ups the ante on the chaos unleashed upon the unsuspecting students of Crowley courtesy of the Book with senior citizens turning into cannibalistic demons, the entire student body becoming one friendly entity through a strange substance, teens having their skin stolen by someone longing to fit in with Todd and his friends, everyone at Crowley save for Hannah devolving into blockheaded Neanderthals at the behest of a loony environmentalist, a killer birthday cake, an invisible pervert, cheerleaders getting taken over by “the Beast,” and the inevitable end of all creation to top things off. Todd, Jenny, Curtis, and Hannah must deal with all of this and their raging teenage hormones too. For any kid not yet old enough to drive but old enough to spend their days mired in gore, bile, and the foulest creatures ever beholden by human eyes it can get pretty tiring after a while.
Each episode abides by a sturdy plot structure with minimal character development but a lot of geeky humor, quotable one-liners, and buckets of blood and gore flying about the place. The action is mostly confined to the school with occasional detours to the nursing home where Atticus secretly operates his Satanic cult, and his followers are constantly bickering among themselves about the increasing inanity of their leader’s supposedly foolproof plots. The shows usually end with the Book eluding the characters’ grasps but at least everyone is comfortable in knowing that it will return real soon. Otherwise, what would become of the series? It’s a formula that gets tired on occasion but the show has so else great going for it that this flaw becomes so minor it’s virtually non-existent. If you’re enjoying the twisted humor and blood-drenched practical FX you won’t really care much for such meaningless quibbles.
Performances are across-the-board enjoyable. House makes a very relatable hero whose moments of dickishness intertwined with his heroic qualities only prove how human Todd is after all, and Turnbull is an excellent second banana sidekick. Castle and Leishman are both sympathetic and smart heroines who are more proactive than you might expect and often have to shoulder the lion’s share of responsibility for defeating the latest malevolence unleashed by the B.O.P.E. With a pathetic wisp of a mustache and a slightly effeminate manner Leavins’ villain Atticus is more of sadly comedic character than a potentially powerful and terrifying adversary, but the actor has a ball exploring every aspect of Atticus’ off-putting personality. Jason Mewes shows up from time to time to dispense his unique brand of stoner sage wisdom and it’s clear he’s doing more than playing another variation on his Jay persona from Kevin Smith’s View Askew movies. The guy has real comedic chops and I hope the show gives him more to do in future seasons.
Todd and the Book of Pure Evil has a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in its soul with a gang of wiseass teens battling monsters of all sorts, but it also contains much of the interesting character dynamics and rapid fire pop culture reference-laden dialogue you would find in one of the better episodes of Community. Since that NBC comedy struggling to grow an audience beyond its devoted cult following has taken a nosedive in quality since original showrunner Dan Harmon was unceremoniously canned at the end of its third season (good thing he was rehired for the fifth) it’s good to know that there are still shows out there like Todd and the Book of Pure Evil that are permitted to be as ballsy and hilarious as they were born to be.
Each episode of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil is presented in 16:9 enhanced transfers in the 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The picture quality is rich and bright with fine image detail and warm colors throughout. No subtitles are included.
Backing up the solid transfers are English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks. These are strong sound mixes with the head-banging music soundtrack by Shawn Pierce, outrageous gory effects work, and quirky dialogue all incorporated well without causing overlap or audio distortion. No manual volume adjustment is required.
Three episodes – “Simply the Beast” and “See You Later, Masturbator” on Disc One, and “Black Tie Showdown” on Disc Two – come complete with cast and crew audio commentaries. The bulk of the extra features is contained on the second disc and start out with upfront previews of Hell on Wheels, Haven, and Sanctuary.
In the Special Features section of the disc you’ll find seventeen deleted and extended scenes (12 minutes), four extended musical numbers from the episode “2 Girls, 1 Tongue” (6 minutes), three brief special effects featurettes (3 minutes), a blooper reel (6 minutes), the 80-second-long featurette “In Memoriam: A Tribute to the Fallen Students of Crowley High” which plays brief clips of all of the students who died horribly during this season in the style of one of those Oscar tribute videos, a “Script to Screen” featurette (17 minutes) that charts the progress of the “B.Y.O.B.O.P.E.” episode from its origins in the writers room to the time it goes before the cameras, and a cast Q&A video (16 minutes) where the actors discuss their characters and working on the show with honesty and good humor.
I was lucky to have discovered Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. It’s a pleasant surprise of a genre television show that doesn’t break any new ground but delivers a blast of sheer gruesome fun every time. I hope a third season is in the works. Highly recommended.