Take Buffy the Vampire Slayer, cross it with Saved by the Bell, center it around a bit of H.P. Lovecraft and heavy metal, and you pretty much have Todd & the Book of Pure Evil. Is that good? Depends on your definition.
The basic idea behind Todd & the Book of Pure Evil is that there is a Book of Pure Evil (get used to that kind of obviousness in this show), namely the Necronomicon, which uses teenage dreams and desires to corrupt said teens and eventually kill them. Todd apparently is connected to the book in some way, if for no other reason than he is the first teen we see get possessed by the book, and yet he doesn’t die.
The show is also notable because it started out as a web series, then later, with support of the oh so generous Canadian arts institutes, became a full fledged television series. Many folks are rabid fans, and while the story is simplistic, the writing predictable, and much of the acting (or maybe the directing) two dimensional, there is still something about it that is very watchable. I for one blasted through the whole series on Netflix in basically one go.
What the show succeeds at is depicting many archetypes clearly, and in general being super fake bloody and/or gross. It does have a couple of somewhat unique features, most of which are echoes of the critically acclaimed Buffy series.
Front and center has to be the main villain, Atticus Murphy Jr, played deftly by Chris Leavins, who Canadian TV fans might recognize from the series Traders. He plays at first the downtrodden son of the true evil leader, his father, who reigns supreme from his old age home. After he offs daddy, he then plays a very weird and wonderful version of the big bad guy, who really just wants some friends. This off kilter villain gets a lot of screen time, and is frankly more fleshed out than the other characters. Atticus may be the best part of the series.
That’s not to say the good guys aren’t likable. Todd Smith (played by Alex House) is the least believable – he’s shallow, capricious, and completely focused on winning the love of Jenny Kalinski (Maggie Castle), whose initial main goal is to find out what happened to her father, and makes it clear, week after week, that she has zero interest in Todd. The battling on this point gets tiring and predictable, despite moments where she seems to change her mind. This is no Moonlighting.
The other two main teen characters are Curtis Weaver (Bill Turnbull) as the one armed sidekick, who eventually becomes a sort of cyborg with the help of Hannah B. Williams (Melanie Leishman), the nerdy tech girl of the bunch. Finally, there’s a comparatively deep backstory with Jason Mewes (of Clerks and Jay and Silent Bob fame) as the mysterious janitor who seems to know everything and is also getting high and having sex.
Speaking of getting high and having sex, the former plays a HUGE role in the story, and the latter is definitely important as well, considering that for much of the series, virginity is an important issue for Todd and the other teen characters to deal with.
Because of the supernatural aspect of this series, there are a lot of special effects, and while they are generally cheesy on the level of Doctor Who prior to its resurgence, all of the effects are serviceable and fit the tongue in cheek tone of everything else that’s going on.
As for the DVD set itself, Disc 1 is simply a disc of episodes. Disc 2 has a decent selection of special features, most notably the blooper reel and a tribute to all of the characters killed in the series. The general print quality and production quality of the discs are good.
It’s worth noting that, while it appears the series was cancelled, the production has, as of this writing, turned to Indiegogo to seek funding for additional episodes. It appears they were successful, and so fans can expect more episodes. Check out the series at toddandthebookofpureevil.com.
Is this a good show? Arguably, no. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining. Episodes fly by, perhaps because, while predictable, plot points happen pretty fast. In a weird way, it’s kind of like watching the Nickelodeon series The Last Airbender. That show was very well written, but you did have to get past it being targeted at young children to see it. Todd is apparently targeted at teens and college students, and so it loses some of the sophistication you would find in Buffy or murder-related gore dramedy Castle. If you can get past that, though, there are definitely references to TV tropes in general, and the innovative bad guy pulls many episodes through from being derivative to almost seeming original. Of course, if you like anything Necronomicon related, you’ll see a lot of that theme, too. And the series is also reminiscent of Tenaicous D and the Pick of Destiny, especially in the humor often derived from arbitrary solutions to problems that don’t quite make sense.
There are also plenty of per episode bad guys, mostly created by the evil of the book, who add to the fun. And what’s up with Canadian TV and slime?
Overall, then, if any of this sounds fun to you, you won’t be disappointed. Don’t expect sophistication, and you’re all set.
Todd & the Book of Pure Evil
6 out of 10 flapping pages
Eliot has been orbiting show business for over 20 years as an improv comedian, video director, and general guy you might barely recognize. Currently best known for his work on the comedy podcast Never Not Funny: The Jimmy Pardo Podcast. He wrote previously for MacEdition.com, and is working on a collection of short sci-fi and weird tales that will probably be published someday. He is also one of three principals in Modest Games.