The pandemic has left me with a lot of free time, which means I’ve been filling that time with comfort movies, favorite series, and various YouTube binges — but after seven months, none of it was holding my attention anymore. I was craving something new. After seeing countless memes on TikTok and Twitter featuring an animated JFK barking about “pardee pladduhs” and other things, I decided it was finally time to watch Clone High. And I think it could be perfect for your next binge, too!
It’s Silly, But Has A Heart of Gold
The teenage experience seems fully baked with all the elements to make compelling TV: angst, sexuality, the tension between self-realization & the desire to fit in. These elements have been remixed and re-imagined in innumerable ways over the years, but none have been as weird or ripe for meme-ing as Clone High. A spoof of teenage melodramas like The O.C. or Dawson’s Creek — but starring the teenage clones of Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Gandhi, and JFK — the show was ahead of its time with its silly but still resonant tone.
There are puns and self-aware story arcs about the clones trying (and often failing) to live up to the reputations of their original selves, but it’s all grounded in the real struggles of teenage life. Teenage Abraham Lincoln trying to get beer for JFK’s rager sounds like something out of a fever dream, but Abe just wants to fit in (and get a chance with Cleopatra). Joan of Arc loves Abe, but he’s too oblivious to realize or acknowledge it, and Gandhi is an irritating (but still loveable) guy trying to win acceptance.
Who can’t relate to the frustrations of an oblivious crush, or just wanting to find your people? When any of the teenage clones is going through something, it’s hard to not feel for them. And this is all wrapped up in the same show that also has a whole musical episode about getting high on raisins (yes, you read that correctly). That alone is an accomplishment in itself.
The Music Is Better Than It Has Any Right To Be
Speaking of music, one lovely surprise about the show is the presence of truly great music. There are plenty of original songs (see, the aforementioned raisin episode, “Raisin the Stakes: A Rock Opera in Three Acts”), but there is also a plethora of early 2000s emo here as well.
It makes sense, in a way, to have this melodrama parody be full of some classic emo hitmakers of the time. Dashboard Confessional, Alkaline Trio, and Taking Back Sunday are just a few of the iconic angsty musicians that play in the background of the clones’ teenage shenanigans. If you’re feeling nostalgic for the swooped bangs and sad boys of yesteryear, or ever wanted to hear Jack Black sing about getting kids hooked on raisins, OR wondered what a JFK Christmas album would sound like, look no further!
It Has The Internet’s Latest Himbo Boyfriend, JFK
Speaking of JFK, allow me to introduce the Internet’s Latest Himbo Boyfriend. As of late, love for Himbos has spread far and wide across the internet — and for good reason. In our current, chaotic world, sometimes we just want someone who is kind and respectful (even if their head is blissfully empty otherwise). Himbos seem to fit that bill perfectly, and JFK is no exception. Sure he’s kind of an asshole for the first half of the series, but eventually, he comes around and becomes a more complex and genuinely compelling character.
Phil Lord & Chris Miller Have Come A Long Way
You may know the duo behind the series from their movies: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the 21 Jump Street movies, and a little animated picture called Into the Spiderverse. Clone High is a great way to trace back Lord and Miller’s sensibilities—the self-aware, fearless (but dorky) humor, and whip-smart writing are all there.
However, so is the occasional oversight. Let’s just say Gandhi looking at Joan’s boobs for a long time during the first minutes of the pilot as a running gag only feels funny after she punches him. But the traces of the humor and heart that make Lord and Miller’s storytelling as unique and compelling as it is today are all here, providing a kind of Rosetta Stone for the rest of their work (heck, there’s even a Clone High easter egg in Spiderverse).
Believe me, I know it’s hard for things to stay compelling nowadays. When it feels like the world is falling apart, it can be difficult to focus on something as seemingly trivial as a TV show. However, the show’s tight writing, silly/borderline surreal humor, and heart (plus its quick running time of 22 minutes per episode, all of which may or may not be available on YouTube) make it a show that just might keep your attention — and steal your heart.