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biting off more than one can chew

Downtown (TV series)

Downtown was an animated series on MTV on urban life, based on interviews with real people. The show follows a diverse and multiracial cast who live in New York City, and presents their everyday lives through quirky, humorous, and imaginative perspectives from the characters. It was created by Chris Prynoski, a former animator on Beavis and Butt-Head and produced by David McGrath. In 2000, Downtown was nominated for an Emmy in the category of outstanding animated program.

Downtown faced a similar fate as MTV's other cartoons - it only lasted one season (13 episodes). While there is little hope for another season, there has been an outcry for a DVD release of the series since the show is currently not being broadcast. The use of an original score rather than licensed music would make such a DVD release easier. Series creator Chris Prynoski has sublimated the lack of an official DVD release by way of offering a promotional DVD via his blog which includes all episodes of the series in DVD quality.

Characters

Character Description
Alex(Gregory Gilmore) Alex is smart, skeptical, and intentionally un-hip, but can't seem to overcome his self-conscious nature. His shyness and lack of confidence keep him from getting what he wants: a girlfriend, a better job, and a more exciting life. Alex tends to develop frustrating crushes on unattainable women. Although he wants to break away from his gang of comic book reading, action figure collecting social misfits, it is with them that he feels most at home. And he is overqualified for his job at Repro Man's - a copy shop.
Chaka(Leyora Zuberman) Chaka is Alex's sister, and his polar opposite. She is confident and an extroverted motormouth, looking for fun at all times. Chaka spends most of her time and energy seeking out the latest, hippest scene and scamming her underage self into places she shouldn't be. As a result of all this partying, she's not a very good student. Chaka is attractive, so guys cut her a lot of slack. Constantly flirting, she isn't terribly serious about boys. She is quick to point out other people's flaws, but can't see any of her own.
Fruity(Marco H. Rodriguez) Fruity is a slave to his hormones. He is always on the hunt for chicks, and is not very picky. An obvious horndog, girls see him coming a mile away. A showoff and a bit of a goof, Fruity enjoys the spotlight. He's impatient, impulsive, and irresponsible. Though a senior in high school, he has no serious plans for the future.
Goat(Scot Rienecker) Goat is the neighborhood freak. His behavior is outrageous and quite sleazy. Well-known and well-liked, he has diverse interests and feels comfortable in any social situation. He will try anything once, maybe twice. His philosophy: "If you ask 50 women to sleep with you, it's likely one of them will." Alex envies Goat's ability to grab life by the balls; Goat tries to encourage Alex to loosen up. Goat also appears in 2 Cartoon Network shows: Megas XLR and Metalocalypse.
Jen(Tammy Lang) Jen is Alex's best friend. She faces life with an off-beat, self-deprecating sense of humor. Although she wants acceptance and love, she refuses to jump through the hoops to impress people. She's not high maintenance; she's a one-of-the-guys type. She's often doling out opinions about relationships, even though she never had a successful one herself. She works at a kitschy used clothing store called Lord of Hoard.
Matt(Hector Fontanez) Matt, Fruity's pal, has smarts, ambition, and an artistic soul, but he chooses to keep these qualities under wraps. Girls are attracted to his understated, laid-back style. Matt expresses his creative style through graffiti - he can make his mark while being anonymous. He works part-time at a local comic book store, Starbase 12.
Mecca(Aurora Lucia-Levey) Mecca is Chaka's sidekick. A hopeless romantic, she is cerebral, dreamy, and blissfully naive. In search of "true love", Mecca often ignores common sense. She is always crushed out on one boy to another. She gets hurt easily, but bounces back fast and goes on to the next "perfect guy". She sees the world through rose-colored glasses and gives everyone the benefit of the doubt.
Serena(Phoebe Summersquash) Serena is Alex's fantasy girl. Her exotic goth style is off-putting at first, but she's actually a very likable, positive person. She works at Starbase 12 with Matt. Creatively unfocused, she writes poetry, designs clothes, makes jewelry, and plays the zither. Serena has dated a string of junkies, posers, and manic-depressives. She claims she's ready to meet a "nice guy", but she rarely notices them when they are around.
Leah Leah is Jen's promiscuous roommate.

Episode summaries

  • 1) Sin Bin (8/3/1999) - Alex moves into his own apartment, which turns out to be a total dump. Short of cash for the big move, Alex sells some of his collectible action figures at Starbase 12 and meets his newest infatuation - goth girl Serena. Jen, Goat, Chaka, and Mecca help with Alex's big move, with several mishaps while they move in. Matt and Fruity show up and hang out with Chaka and Mecca, who were tasked by Alex to keep a lookout on the street. With the girls distracted, a young punk steals the moving van and Chaka is determined to get it back, with Mecca in tow. Jen and Goat try to cheer Alex up with his decision to move into his own place, despite his flat seemingly less than being fit for habitation. Goth girl Serena buys Alex's unwanted purple couch from Goat, who tips Matt and Fruity to help in moving it out of the street. Chaka manages to get the moving van back, and ends up annoying Alex further at the end of the day.


  • 2) Train Pain (8/10/1999) - While chilling out at Lord of Hoard, Chaka and Mecca challenge Fruity and Matt to a battle-of-the-sexes subway race to Coney Island, due to a debate as to which subway line goes there the fastest. Jen suggests that the losers have to wear gaudy, vintage bathing suits from the clothes shop. Along the way, both teams find that reaching Coney Island is better said than done, with multiple obstacles en route to their destination, and the four friends end up getting their just deserts at the finish line. Meanwhile, Alex and Jen secretly engage in several kiddie toys and board games, only to find that Alex's rigidness with the rules and Jen's short-fusing on losing results in a big blowup.


  • 3) Hot Spot (8/17/1999) - A trendy new club called "Flame" replaces a dive bar on the ground floor of Alex's building. Chaka is thrilled, and manages to sneak in her underage self, as well as Mecca, Fruity, and Matt, through the back entrance of the building. Her constant partying has led her to crash Alex's apartment more often than usual, to her brother's consternation. Chaka takes it up a notch by moving the partyphiles to her brother's apartment, which Alex sees as the last straw. Alex and Jen are appalled by the trend of the latest hot spots replacing old establishments, and they try to retaliate, but to no avail. Flame eventually gets shut down, all thanks to a certain person least likely to get it closed. However, when one hot spot folds, Alex and Jen find that another one quickly opens.


  • 4) Insomnia (8/24/1999) - Chaka arranges for Alex to share a dinner of slugs one weekend at a newly opened Malaysian cuisine restaurant with the exotic goth girl, Serena, who stops by at Repro Man's to photocopy some posters for a goth crowd event. Alex's overwhelming anxiety leads to night after night of insomnia, also in part due to Jen's negative and exaggerated opinions on his impending date with Serena, as well as Chaka's constant pestering that her brother will never have the guts to get a girl that he likes. Alex's insomnia leads him to wander around the city streets late at night and have fits of hallucinations. In the end, it's all worth it when he has an unexpected late-night encounter with his dream girl. He recounts his late-night meeting and conversation with Serena to Jen and Chaka the morning after, believing that it was all a dream. However, when Serena drops by to pick up her posters and asks him how he's doing, Alex realizes that their lengthy conversation did happen after all. Serena surprises Alex by saying that she finds him to be more than the boring facade he usually fronts, and she ends up asking him out to come and join the goth crowd party, which means more sleepless nights in store for Alex.


  • 5) The Con (8/31/1999) - Alex rethinks his geeky lifestyle of toy-collecting and comic-book hoarding and decides not to attend a Horror Convention with his nerdy friends, only to be lured there in the end by an action figure that will complete his set of White Trash fantasy characters. Serena and Matt's boss at Starbase 12, wrestler Francis, gets injured, and Fruity is pulled in as his replacement for their booth at the convention. At the con, Alex bumps into Serena and is torn by his ability to impress her with his desire to purchase the missing action figure. Also, Fruity stirs up some trouble when he accidentally sold a mint-condition comic for less than a fraction of what its worth, and is dead-set on getting it back. Serena opens up to Alex more about herself and her choice of guys, while Alex recruits Goat to buy the desired toy away from Serena's presence. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) pro-wrestler, The Undertaker, makes a special guest appearance.


  • 6) Graffiti (9/7/1999) - Alex and Matt get a close call from an irate building owner, who catches Matt in the act of making graffiti. Emboldened by the escapade, Alex decides to do something risky for the night and heads off to Jen's apartment. Meanwhile. Chaka mentions that a subway line fire just happened earlier that day, providing Matt with an irresistible opportunity to tag the stalled trains. Fruity and Chaka tag along as lookouts. Over at Jen's place, Alex gets a sexually-charged night of platonically pleasant company with Leah, Jen's promiscuous roommate, who finds herself biting off more than she can chew for one night. Down at the city's maze of subway tunnels, the trio find themselves lost amongst the labyrinth of unused routes and find the city's underground Hall of Fame for graffiti artists. Matt's artistic temperament gets Fruity to be slightly insecure of his best friend, escalating into a heated tension between the two. Added with Chaka's motormouth demeanour, their trivial misunderstandings leads them to a night that seriously tests their friendship.


  • 7) Hotel Bar (9/14/1999) - Alex and Chaka discuss their polar opposite lifestyles over breakfast, and Goat drops by to offer Alex the opportunity to pick up girls. Meanwhile, Jen accompanies her gold-digging and promiscuous roommate, Leah, to a fancy hotel bar. With Goat's guidance, Alex cringes at the sight of Goat's social crowd and his less-than-pleasing philosophy of getting laid with girls. At the hotel bar, Leah works the handsome, affluent men in the place, while Jen stirs up a bit of trouble: getting drunk, singing her wildly inebriated rendition of Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me" to the annoyance of the bar patrons, and asking a nearby woman whether or not she is a hooker, which causes Leah's potential fling to walk out on her when Leah hotly said that she isn't a hooker. Goat and Alex eventually pick up two freaky-looking women, and Alex is slightly appalled by his partner, despite her nice personality. Goat advises Alex to lower his standards, which Alex finds some difficulty in doing. Goat manages to get laid, but is nearly beat up by the sudden appearance of the husband of the woman he just scored. Alex's quick thinking manages to get them both out of harm's way. The morning after, Leah and a hung-over Jen bond over their night of unexpected fun.


  • 8) Limo (9/28/1999) - Leah harasses Jen on her platonic relationship with Alex, forcing Jen to face facts that her sex life has hit a dry spell after a long period of time. In her sexual funk, she impulsively rents a stretch limo for the night, and takes Alex along for the ride. Fruity is being constantly pestered by Patty, the meanest Catholic school-girl in town, with whom he only had a week-long fling as he explained to Matt. Alex and Jen do all sorts of limo cliches, and end up having this awkward sexual tension between them after only a few hours. Fruity and Matt meet up with Chaka and Mecca at Chinatown, and the foursome are eventually accosted by Patty and her troupe of bad-ass, Catholic school-girl friends. Patty gets up in Chaka's grill, thinking that she is Fruity's girlfriend. Not one to be intimidated, Chaka gives Patty a good talking-down and impulsively kisses Fruity in front of her. Enraged, Patty and her friends chases the quartet all the way to the ferry to Staten Island, where it escalates into a nasty catfight between the two girls. Meanwhile, Alex and Jen almost get caught up in their sexual urges, and end the night without any seriously potential damage to their friendship. Meanwhile, Chaka clears the air for everyone due to Fruity's sexually implicit goading on the altercation, and the girlfight ends. Fruity's flirtatious nature still makes Patty obsessively jealous, but in the end, the two are left behind and end up making out at the ferry station.


  • 9) Testing (10/5/1999) - Alex, Chaka, Fruity, and Goat are hanging out in the park, when they meet a university student who recruits the men to take part in a research study. Alex, Fruity, and Goat are wary of the offer, but with the mention of a hundred-dollar participation fee, the guys sign up for the test. The three guys talk about what the research study is about, and Goat begins to become extremely paranoid over the whole situation. It turns out that the test was about men and how much they have forgotten their education, and Alex manages to remember everything he had learned back in school, causing him to have a high score and the researcher asking him about his dead-end job. He lies to Fruity about his results, but discloses the information to Chaka and Mecca. The test results lead Alex to question his non-ambition, and he decides to move out of Repro Man's and apply into the more swanky Big Copy, with the sarcastic support of Jen. Meanwhile, Goat's paranoia is becoming increasingly unstable, which Fruity surmises was fueled by his incessant drug addiction to LSD. His erratic behavior of spouting conspiracy theories disturbs everyone in his vicinity, until he meets up with the female guard from the test center, who happens to be Goat's high school classmate named Bernice. Now sporting a biker punk image, she reveals Goat's real name, which is Scott. The two catch up, with Goat's paranoia somewhat abated. Alex manages to bag the managerial position at Big Copy, only to turn it down in the end, explaining to Jen that he doesn't want to become one of those stuck-up, corporate yuppies whom everyone detests.


  • 10) Night Shift (10/18/1999) - Alex's intense infatuation to Serena leads him to follow her around one rainy day, and he eventually bumps into Jen, who finds Alex's crush on the goth girl to be more than tiring to deal with. Alex ends up doing a night shift at Repro Man's due to a copy mishap he did the other day. Jen stops by at Starbase 12. While there, Alex's troupe of comic-book geek friends shyly gawk at Serena by a safe distance, and Jen snaps them back out of their daydreaming. Over at Repro Man's, Alex is constantly bothered by people coming in and out of the copy shop and distracting him from an important job, until Goat pops over and helps him out with the workload. Also, Alex goes online to Serena's personal website upon asking information about her from Lizzy, and inadvertedly printed photos of her to the delight of Alex's nerdy friends. Despite her supposed indifference, Jen eventually ends up stalking Serena herself, following her around town: to a shady back alley, an upscale apartment building, and a strip club. Added with all sorts of dubious background information on Serena from various sources, Jen becomes increasingly paranoid and worries how she might affect Alex and their friendship. However, Serena ends up at the copy shop and fearfully confides to Alex that 'someone' has been stalking her all night. It turns out that she went around town to pick up some herbal medicines (the shady back alley), watered her aunt's plants (the apartment building), and retrieved some concert tickets for a friend (the strip club). Serena asks Alex to help her, and he and Goat manage to apprehend the stalker, only to find out that it was Jen all along. Alex and Jen smooth things out over the whole stalking thing, and delivers a different version of events to Serena. She stops by at the copy shop the next day and gives a small token of appreciation to Alex and Goat for helping her, to the chagrin of Jen.


  • 11) Before and After (10/25/1999) - Chaka and Mecca discuss personal individuality, but goes way out of proportion when Chaka berates Mecca for copying her style and moves, which piques Matt and Fruity's curiosity, and seriously annoys Mecca. Jen harasses Alex for his hoarding complex of collecting junk, rationalizing that no girl in her right mind would ever date someone like Alex if he keeps on piling up useless stuff. She forces him to clean house, including his special 'woobie' from his childhood days: a red Cookie Monster pillow with yellow fringes given to him by his late grandmother - a story that Jen finds highly doubtful. Chaka and Mecca continue to debate over the copycat issue, and culminates into Chaka revealing to Mecca a set of extremely embarrassing photos of her shaving her pubic area (before and after shots, no less), which Chaka claims is something that Mecca would never dare to do. When the pictures seem to disappear, Chaka's fear and desperation leads her to apologize to Mecca so that she would help her retrieve them at any cost. Alex's apartment cleaning results in his secrets being revealed to the public, with many of his former belongings up for sale by illegal street vendors. He eventually manages to get back most of his stuff, to Jen's dismay, yet Alex still longs for his 'woobie', which is still at large. Chaka and Mecca realize that the photos are with Fruity in his geography book, and they manage to get the photographs back, thinking that Fruity has no idea about Chaka's secret. To her horror, she finds that Fruity has found out about them and makes suggestive remarks to Chaka about keeping it under wraps. A girl goes to Alex's apartment and miraculously returns Alex's 'woobie', with the two finding common ground having interest in kitschy stuff. Alex decides to let go of the pillow and give it to her, and the two end up on a dinner date... which is far from Alex's expectations.


  • 12) Cropsey Clanners (11/1/1999) - Jen is commissioned by her boss at Lord of Hoard to snag used stuff at the suburbs of New Jersey to sell at the store, and invites Alex along with the lure of possibly finding collectible action figures. Chaka and Mecca drop by at the clothes shop to find some retro clothes for a party, and end up tagging along the trip. With the four in for a very long drive, Alex and Chaka bicker over their worst family trips from their childhood, with brother and sister blaming the other for the mishaps that had happened. Jen ends up getting the group lost, and finally relents on admitting her fault when they end up getting stuck in the woods. Adding insult to injury, the car also breaks down at twilight. The four share urban legends on rural New Jersey, including that of the infamous Cropsey Clanners: a freaky, inbred, hillbilly society completely shut off from civilization, uniquely distinguishable by their thick unibrows. Alex and Jen go out to look for help, leaving Chaka and Mecca behind to freak out over the eerieness of the woods. Rain comes, and Alex and Jen had already found help only to find that Chaka and Mecca are missing. The pair search for the two best friends, only to find they had sought shelter at the nearest suburban home, chilling and flirting with a pair of guys. The car gets fixed, the group returns home empty-handed, and still continue to get at each other's throats, never realizing that the Cropsey Clanners were right under their noses all along...


  • 13) Trip Or Treat (11/8/1999) - On the series finale, Alex takes photos of Serena one night at a graveyard to upload for her personal website. The two have a pleasant conversation, and learns a great deal more about each other when they discuss that there is more to them than the outer image that they front to people. Alex finally gets up the nerve to ask Serena out to a Halloween event, and Serena gladly takes up Alex's offer. Chaka, Mecca, Fruity, and Matt hang out and discuss their plans for the impending holiday. Chaka discloses that she has a nasty aversion to Halloween due to a bullying incident in her preteen days, yet relents on going trick-or-treating after being teased by Fruity. Over at Lord of Hoard, business is booming, as scores of customers rummage for costumes, making Jen completely busy and frazzled. Goat drops by to ask Jen for a specific outfit to wear, and Alex pops in and spreads the news of his upcoming date with Serena. Jen is skeptical, but Goat is supportive. Chaka channels Jen's skepticism over Alex's big move on Serena, when she drops by over his apartment to search for old clothes to deconstruct for her Halloween costume. But when Serena visits Alex at Repro Man's sans the goth look, Alex is taken one for a complete loop, forcing him to deal with the question: does he really like Serena just the way she is, or is it just her outfit? He confides in Jen and Goat over his dilemma, with the intention of ditching their date. Jen deadpans on moving on to another girl, but Goat wisely (albeit sleazily) convinces Alex otherwise, saying that looks are not why Alex dug Serena in the first place. Alex gets a call from Serena, only to find she already left Starbase 12 when he called the comic store. At the downtown Halloween parade, Chaka bullies a young girl into taking her candy, which appalls Mecca, Fruity, and Matt. Chaka rationalizes that older kids did that to her once, and now she has to make other kids face the hard truth on life. This act give Chaka bad karma when the candy she eats is apparently spiked with a hallucinogenic drug, making her spaced out and wildly running about, with her three friends hot on her tail. Her workday over, Jen gets a break and finds that Goat visits at closing time to say that he accidentally ruined his outfit. In a fit of last-minute creativity, they end up switching clothes (to humorous effect), and rendezvous with the rest of the group. In a modified mummy costume, Alex searches the crowd for Serena, only to bump into Mecca, Fruity, and Matt, who tell Alex of Chaka's crazy spell. Torn over the situation, Alex decides to rescue his sister first with the entire gang in tow, amidst a cheering crowd, who witnessed the entire fiasco on board a parade float. With Chaka under control, Alex continues the search for Serena, and finds that she has returned to her goth persona. Serena is slightly miffed over Alex's indifference, and he tries to explain how he truly feels about her, but recoils when Serena introduces her date for the night. She says that they're still cool... as friends, to Alex's great disappointment. Jen and Goat cheer Alex up, saying that there's more fish in the sea. Alex takes heed, and gets the nerve to ask some random girl out, with Goat and Jen pondering whether Alex will finally get laid.

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