There’s something uncannily charming about Todd & the Book of Pure Evil. The show debuted last fall on the Space network and was filmed right here in Winnipeg. The series begins when Todd Smith, our unlikely hero, releases an ugly, evil book from a glass display cabinet in his own Crowley High School.
The book of pure evil — very aptly named — grants Todd his greatest wish: to be a famous, masterful, metal god. With his new skills, Todd first defeats the school jock/jerk in an intense guitar battle (by making the socially popular antagonist bleed out of his ass). Todd, who is now possessed by the book, hypnotizes and nearly kills his entire school in a bloody battle-of-the-bands competition. Todd’s best friend, Curtis, and his crush, Jenny, eventually swoop in to save the day. The three band together, soon to be joined by braniac Hannah, to try and find the book together.
And so begins the series.
The first episode is just the beginning. Season one follows the book as it finds its way into the hands of the lonely and the desperate at Crowley High. In the episode “Gay Day,” the school’s only open homosexual student uses the book to make every guy in the high school gay, inadvertently becoming straight in the process.
Later, in the episode “Monster Fat,” an overweight student wishes to be thin and uses the book get her wish. While showering, her fat melts away and she emerges from the school locker room a 10 out of 10 on the sexy scale. The leftover fat, however, becomes a hungry, murderous monster, turning anyone who touches it morbidly obese. “The Phantom of Crowley High,” easily my favorite episode, takes inspiration from The Phantom of the Opera, and Crowley High’s drama program puts on a wicked metal musical.
The final episode of the series ends with a bang: questions are answered, motives are revealed and friendships are tested. The story arch and the character development are top notch.
Early episodes of the show may leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Todd & the Book of Pure Evil is filled with profanity, guts, gore, crass sexuality and drugs. The leading role is occupied by a stoner metalhead, with no ambition outside of rock-stardom and getting with school knockout, Jenny Kolinsky. Give the series a chance, however, and the characters begin to develop. Todd, once you get to know him, is a strangely charismatic leading man. Curtis is a fierce friend — not to mention a pretty great actor. Hannah, the nerd, learns about romance, emerging out of her science coat in hilarious and unexpected ways. Jenny, finally, proves to be much more than just sex appeal.
Love, inner beauty, sexuality, parenthood and the nature of pure evil are only a few of the big issues that are examined over season one’s 13 episodes. With essential performances from Jimmy the janitor (Jason Mewes), Atticus the guidance councilor (Chris Leavins) and a trio of philanthropic stoners, Todd & the Book of Pure Evil will quickly win you over. Soon, you will be laughing hysterically in spite of yourself.
The severed heads, crushed bodies, goopy entrails, penis jokes and massive amounts of blood, blood, blood all become an essential part of the scenery.
Todd & the Book of Pure Evil has many of the same charms of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer — and as a huge fan of Buffy, this is the highest of compliments. Todd throws in some sex, gore and drugs, but both shows examine the lives of a small group of high school kids, with their own problems and inhibitions, as they combat the forces of evil . . . with mixed results.
The first season of Todd & the Book of Pure Evil was released Oct. 11 on DVD. Season two is set to debut Oct. 30, 9 p.m. (central time) on the Space channel.