Internet Oddities: TOO MANY COOKS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Internet Oddities: TOO MANY COOKS

Alexander Wallace spoils the broth.
I really must say I regret how I didn’t come across Too Many Cooks whilst tipsy and sleep-deprived at four in the morning. That, to my understanding, is how Adult Swim debuted it (before it became a viral video online), and honestly I cannot see how it could be introduced in any better way. If you haven’t seen it, you really owe it to yourself to put aside eleven minutes and twelve seconds of your life to experience the sheer … whatever it is that is Too Many Cooks. You may, like me, agree with one of the comments made on its YouTube page that it should be preserved by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”...

Just … where to begin? How does one even start to find an easy description for what you have just watched? Too Many Cooks is one of those things that defies easy categorization, and that makes it so much fun to watch (and so much fun to write about).

First and foremost Too Many Cooks is a parody of situation comedies, but then descends into a stew of damn near everything that American television has ever aired for advertising money. You have cop shows and office comedies and science fiction shows, but the core of this is your typical serialized domestic comedy show with your typical sitcom house as the initial setting, the idealized arcadia of American suburbia whose own precariousness and relative ephemerality is often forgotten. This is later countered with the archetypical American office (so valiantly parodied by Office Space), and then the portrayal of the hellish American inner city (as written about by people who live in the better-off parts of said cities), and the mythologized American university, and then the waging of an American war, and a vision of an American future, and a brief foray into the romanticized American New England aristocracy that runs so much of the country (heavily influenced, of course, by their British forebears). In terms of simply its setting, Too Many Cooks is a bloody, messy romp through America’s mythology as shown on the silver screen.

The show plays a lot with genre. It’s a common saying in writing and fiction discussion communities that genre is more of a marketing gimmick than anything else; science fiction and fantasy and mystery and romance can be intertwined in a kaleidoscope of combinations, sometimes all four together at once. Marketing executives, however, have enforced an iron segregation of genre upon the rest of us, leading to things that are often in concordance to be set apart from one another. By taking all these things and throwing them together into a single fictional show, Too Many Cooks forces us to contemplate that the office and the suburb and the rough inner city and the arcadian mansion are all inextricably linked.

And they are also united by the presence of William Tokarsky’s character, the knife-wielding killer (from a genre not terribly well represented on television), who lives the old saying “et in arcadia ego” (perhaps he is the skull in Guercino’s painting of that name). That man is a living embodiment of chaos, who brings murderous glee and rivers of blood to whichever setting he chooses to invade. It’s worth pointing out that he is the only character who is never named, fitting for someone who belongs nowhere.
Also worthy of note is the character of Katie Adkins, the sorority girl who runs from the killer in vain. She is given away by the credit that follows her at stomach level, glowing with faux-joyous luminance until the killer sees her in the closet. These credits are perhaps the most unreal of the many unreal things in the show that this short film portrays. We can at the very least accept the notion that there will eventually be battles between spaceships in the stars as something real, but we cannot accept that people’s names appear in front of them in a bright yellow font at all times.

All narratives are ultimately contrivances; we select the characters and the settings and the plots that we hope will create an experience that other people will find worthwhile, and to express something that has been on our minds. In doing so, marketing executives created genre to sell narratives to people who wanted more of what they already liked. But as we know, life cannot be easily be categorized into genres; as Alan Moore said:
“Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you're lucky."
Narrative, therefore, is imposing order onto chaos; it is waging war on entropy, a fight which both communist party bureaucrats and corporate bureaucrats have tried to win without success. That, ultimately, is the quest of the murderer; he is entropy embodied, breaking the comforting conventions that we have turned into a source of comfort in a world that seems to be bursting apart at the seams (like when the Capitol of the United States is stormed; living mere miles from the District of Columbia, I can vouch that it certainly felt chaotic). That is what Too Many Cooks does, and does spectacularly. It challenges our notion of what narrative is, or even should be, and for that Adult Swim deserves our (bewildered) commendation.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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