We all know the type. A high school fixture as celebrated and reviled as the head cheerleader or varsity quarterback. You remember her: the 47-year-old ex-prostitute drug addict who returns to complete her diploma while getting a little on the side. Well, maybe not exactly, but Strangers With Candy's Jerri Blank is more all-American high school than the PTA would like to admit.
Strangers With Candy, Comedy Central's irreverent and off-color take on adolescence, is a breath of fetid air amid TV's Glade-fresh slate of primetime stinkers. At once entirely offensive yet oddly thought-provoking, the show parodies the pre-Oprah schmaltz known as the after-school special.
Jerri Blank (played by Raleigh native Amy Sedaris) is our guide through the winding halls of Flatpoint High, where she struggles with a host of herbal and carnal temptations. An ex-convict who's returned home to start fresh after a thirty-year foray into the "adult" world, Jerri is hardly an apt pupil. When encouraged to "reclaim her womanhood" by asserting her born-again virginity, Jerri falls in line behind the in-crowd, quick to don the cherry-bobbing pins the respectable girls are wearing. As any noble heroine would do, Jerri valiantly dismisses the advances of the school hornball. But Strangers wouldn't be the jaundiced snapshot of contemporary high school without Jerri's late-episode transgression with a prudish bookworm in the ladies' room.
As if drug, alcohol and sex addiction weren't enough, Jerri is illiterate, which becomes public knowledge during the mental gymnastics of cheerleading tryouts. "V-I-C-T-O-R-Y. What does that spell?!" "WIN!!!" Clearly Jerri didn't benefit from a rigorous regimen of Sesame Street and Hooked on Phonics.
Strangers With Candy wouldn't be an insightful commentary on modern-day morality without taking a stance on the value of friendship. When Jerri schemes for an invitation to a wealthy classmate's party after declining a similar offer from her close friend, her rejected admirer chokes, "Jerri, you don't know what it means to be truly rich." Her simple and straightforward response: "Well, I know what rich isn't. And I'm lookin' at it."
While at points outlandish and ridiculous, Strangers With Candy wouldn't be so funny if its subject matter weren't so firmly grounded in the reality of Gen-Y sensibilities. Picking up where films like 10 Things I Hate About You failed and Clueless began, Strangers registers with crackling wit and couch-slapping one-liners. Refreshingly original and truly tasteless, this Candy will satisfy your sweet tooth.
Strangers With Candy airs on Mondays at 10 PM on Comedy Central.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.