What I’m Watching Today: Fear of a Punk Planet (1999-2000)

Link to Episode 2

Link to Episode 3

So, I can’t even really remember where I heard about this one. I just wrote it down on my ever-growing “To Watch” list without any context. The title itself caught my attention, it’s the name of a Vandals album from 1990, and in fact, Joe Escalante of the Vandals appears in the show as the owner of a punk club called “Baby Seal”

I can only find 3 episodes of the show online, however Joe Escalante’s Linked-In page says he was the showrunner for 7 episodes. It was created for an early internet television network called The Digital Entertainment Network (DEN). It was the only show on the network that acquired a fan base, and this is likely due to the punk in-jokes that appear throughout the episodes. Apparently, a comic book based on the show was released last year in August, and the episodes are actually available on DVD.

What really intrigued me about the show, and why I ended up watching it, was the inclusion of bands like NOFX and Sick of it All. This is, I think, what makes the show memorable. Kyle Gass, of Tenacious D fame, stars as the Fire Marshall that is always after those dang punk kids, trying to shut down their beloved club.

I really don’t know what to make of this show. At times, it seems to be /r/fellowkids material, but the script was actually written by Joe Escalante as well, so he definitely does have some insight into the scene. Some of the kids on the show make edgy jokes, (warning: shitty joke about sexual assault to follow) like one where the girls of the group talk about how “rape-able” a guy is. Even though these things make me pretty uncomfortable now, it did remind me of some of the kids I hung out with back in the day, and, unfortunately, it is something that would have been said. That said, I still think it’s a dumb and dated thing to include in this script.

The show is cheesy, the jokes are corny, the plot is predictable, and the characters are all straw men, but for some reason I couldn’t turn it off. It has an undeniable charm to it for reasons I can’t entirely explain.

Highlights: 

  • The theme song is The People Who Are Going to Hell by the Vandals, which I love.
  • Kyle Gass is the main highlight of the series. The show’s script is terrible, but he manages to make some poorly written lines laugh out loud funny with his delivery. His first line is actually a great example of this. Joe Escalante, as the club owner is upset with Gass, as the fire marshall, tells him that the club is a fire hazard, and Gass responds:

This place is a fire trap…the wiring is shot, the ventilation is bad. Look, I’m not going to compromise the safety of anyone, even these deviant children.

  • Right after he says that, he calls an Asian girl, “Mulan.” Ooof.
  • Another golden Kyle quote: “It’s time for your freaky friends to go back to whatever misfit holes you crawled out of. This club is unsafe!”
  • Joe Escalante is not a gifted screenwriter or actor.
  • The censorship on the show is interesting. It was only ever on the internet, so they say ‘fuck’ freely, but for some reason the word ‘dick’ is bleeped out?
  • This is definitely a realistic depiction of what a low-budget punk club looks like, though.
  • The fire marshall is so against punks that he CHAINS UP THE FIRE DOOR and frames the club owner for doing it. That’s a fucked up level of corruption.
  • One character condemns another for making a gay joke, and then proceeds to make a bunch of gay jokes about the male-dominated hardcore scene.

“If you’re going to make a gay comment, save it for your H20 dudefest! I mean, do they even let girls into hardcore shows? Or do they spoil your homoerotic cretin moshpit?”

  • The guy in question responds to that comment with “Aaaayyyy! Watch that shit! I’m Italian!”
  • The corrupt Fire Marshall finally gets Club Baby Seal closed, which leaves the punks to figure out how to save their favorite venue.

Punk 1: So, what’s the deal? Why’d they close the Club Seal?

Punk 2: Because they think we’re freaks! So they took away our club hoping we’d disappear! I’m sick of it! I’m tired of being treated like a criminal ’cause my hair is different, and the music I like isn’t on MTV!

  • The dialogue in this show is seriously taking me back to things I said in middle school, and it’s incredibly embarrassing.
  • One girl is a crusty punk, and the butt of many crusty jokes. When Italian guy says, “Ayyy! Leave the little anarchist alone!” She corrects him and says she’s a Republican. Her explanation? “Less Government.”
  • There is a montage of the punks doing research into how to save their club, which has some spectacular shots of late 90s-early 00s punk websites.

anarchy

  • So, as the website says, the punks decide to make the club a non-profit so that damn Fire Marshall can’t shut them down! But then, when they take it to the club owner, he’s not so enthused. But the gang ends up convincing him by shouting his own band’s lyrics about fighting the man at him. Can you imagine if a bunch of teenagers were shouting your teenage poetry at you? Ugh. Makes me shudder even thinking about it.

So, despite it’s obvious weirdness, I think Fear of A Punk Planet is worth watching for any nostalgic former (or current) punk kids.  Also, I would love to hear another human’s feedback, because I’m still not totally sure how I feel about what I just watched.

 

 

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