The Oblongs was an interesting idea for a show at launch. Taking the phrase nuclear family and making it into a plot point wasn’t something that was seen too often, except as villains or mockery pieces. It originally aired on The WB, then was picked up by Adult Swim when it proved too controversial.
The comedy is fair throughout, with funny-man Will Ferrell voicing the main character Bob and the rest of the family done by talented voice artists. Like many shows that came out in the early to mid-2000s, it pushed the boundaries of comedy. With some genuinely funny moments, there also some moments that make the show unwatchable.
10 Dwarf Throwing
Stemming out of a need for a second job in the first episode, Bob and Pickles drown their worries at the local bar. After trying to escape a fight, Bob is literally thrown into a new market of gaming called Dwarf Throwing. The aim is to chuck a little person as far as possible to win money.
The obvious problem is the idea of throwing a person, based on their height, is a major no-no. The issue compounds when the little people featured in the episode speak. The voice they use, a single voice across all of them, is pitched down mockingly. To add more insults, they do a weird rendition of the Munchkin song from Wizard of Oz.
9 Maori Warrior Waiter
Taking from the trope of fathers at dinner putting on voices, Bob and his family go out to eat, encountering a tattooed man. Irrationally, Bob sees this man and whispers over to Pickles that the waiter is a Maori Warrior. If you don’t know, the Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand.
He then goes on to do the slow-talking thing that ignorant people do to people they assume don’t speak English, even going as far as making mooing noises to describe a cow. While Biff and Chip are taken aback for a moment, the scene goes on for way too long.
8 Lesbian Jokes: by Straight People
One of the biggest faults of The Oblongs is its use of queer characters. In the episode “Pickles and Little Amazons” we are introduced to the Little Amazons' den mother. She is a butch lesbian character and the first words out of her mouth are a comment about Pickles. While Pickles rejects the advance, the character does it some more throughout the episode.
The worst joke is when, after Pickles takes charge of the group, the den mother says “Oh yeah boss me butchy.” Add in the fact that the overly queer character was added in as a den mother as a snide joke itself, her language isn’t comedic or smart. It is forced for no reason past shock value.
7 Fat Girl Walking
Not necessarily a single joke, but the collection of jokes about Helga being fat are tasteless and boring at a certain point. It is hard to find a television show that hasn’t made a fat joke, and under the cultural zeitgeist, fat jokes are more acceptable than most other prejudicial jokes. However, it is the way that the jokes are used that really make them in poor taste.
While Helga’s weight is the butt of many jokes, the entire season one episode, “Flush, Flush, Sweet Helga.” They say that comedy works in threes but going over that kills the joke. That would explain why the repetitive use of the phrase “poor, fat little girl,” makes for a bad script. If it seems like half of the dialogue in an episode is the repetition of one phrase, it no longer is a joke and becomes shrill in the ears.
6 Third World
In the episode “My Name Is Robbie” the Oblong family goes to a factory-based fun land for a vacation day. All of the rides are based on corporate jokes, such as the trickle-down log ride. One of the rides is the “It’s A Third World,” a parody on It’s A Small World.
The parody version includes several sections of just child laborers, assumed to be animatronics. It is seen later that they are actual children behind the line. Also, above each section is a country name corresponding to an Asian country, including China, Vietnam, and Thailand. Add in the song, which is done in a fake accent and the whole situation wouldn’t go on without some type of welcome pushback.
As mentioned earlier, the representation of queer characters leads a lot to be desired. One of the recurring characters is Anita Bidet, who is a trans woman. While some solid character moments feature her, most of them are about how un-womanly she is.
Starting with character design, she is the hairiest character in the show for no reason other than poking fun at the idea of a male dressing as a woman. She also stuffs her bra with oranges, which is a weird cutaway gag in one episode. From her introduction through the end, she is a visual gag that is aggressively bad.
4 The Mayor of Bad Language
While not exactly slurs, the language used by the Mayor of the town is extremely off-putting, especially in the episode “Get Off My Back.” While announcing a triathlon event that Chip, Biff, and Milo are participating in, the Mayor has some choice words to casually throw around.
The first thing that he screams is that the contestants are a bunch of “candy-assed Nancy boys” that couldn’t take him in a fight. That screams toxic masculinity, but later in the episode, he also screams out “Move it, p*ssies,” which was censored for television, if that shows how bad it already was back then.
3 German Slur
There is a character introduced early on in town that owns a shop called the A to Zed. The British character has some solidly funny moments, like the time he says to himself he’ll never get used to life here, then drives down the road the wrong way. It is a simple, comedic physical gag that works.
In the episode, “The Golden Child” however, there is one joke said at him that goes past fun humor and comes out just mean. As the British man is explaining his energy drink to Milo and friends, another customer comes up and says, “Go back to France you stupid kraut.” The obvious problem of using an ethnic slur is bad enough, but when delivered with such harshness as the character did, there just wasn’t anything funny about it.
2 Heart Obedience Motivation Opportunity
As if the normal representation of queer characters wasn’t bad enough, the show also codes Chip Oblong as gay. There are plenty of times it comes up, only for him to get extremely aggressive, reflecting a toxic version of closeting.
The many moments also typically include the school gym coach. In one scene that has no relevance to any plot detail except Chip’s homosexuality, Milo reads from his diary. In it, it says that he wants to stare at the coach's butt all day and hopes to see it. Even the heading is one of these moments, as when Beth notes the spelling, Chip yells at her.
1 Creep Factor at 1000
The Oblongs was truly a product of its time and nowhere is it clearer than the several times there are inappropriate touching and sexual assault allusions. While it doesn’t happen as frequently as some other shows, there are plenty to go around.
In one scene, when the family’s house is taken by the government, the Sheriff claims imminent domain, then grabs Pickles’ rear claiming it again. Towards the end of the first episode Pickles is assaulted in the bar she frequents when a man doesn’t take no for an answer. And there is a one-off joke where one of Milo’s friends, Mickey, has been knocked out and is taken away by a homeless man.