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Summer Viewing Guide: 'Mission Hill'

Continuing my series of shows to watch during the summer is another series with a brief run. Mission Hill, formerly known as The Downtowners, ran on The WB for only 13 episodes from 1999 to 2000. Former The Simpsons writers Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein planned on writing 18 episodes, but their plans were cut short when Mission Hill was canceled due to poor ratings. The show's unique color scheme and focus on characters in their 20s made it a cult classic for people like me.

The main focus of the show is 24-year-old Andy French, a guy who lives in Mission Hill, an urban neighborhood based on the revitalized neighborhoods of Chicago. A recent college graduate, Andy had to care for his brother, Kevin, who moves in with him after their parents move to Wyoming. Living together in a loft apartment with Andy's high school friend Jim Kuback and a fourth roomie, Posey Tyler, Andy and Kevin learn to mend their relationship.

The show examines the struggles of the post-college crowd trying to seize their dreams and live up to expectations, while at the same time showcasing a great community. The show did a great job depicting different social and economic backgrounds that inhabit these small communities in a metropolis.

Noted Cast
Andy French: Wallace Langham (CSI, Veronica's Closet)
Kevin French: Scott Menville (ParaNorman, New Kids on the Block)
Jim Kuback: Brian Posehn (The Sarah Silverman Program, Just Shoot Me, Reno 911)
Posey Tyler/Natalie Leibowitz-Hernandez: Vicki Lewis (NewsRadio)
Wally Langford: Tom Kenny (Spongebob SquarePants, Rocko's Modern Life, Mr. Show)
Gwen: Jane Weidlin (Guitarist for The Go-Go's)

Key Episodes or Themes

The Theme
The theme song was a sped-up instrumental version of Cake's Italian Leather Sofa, from the band's second studio album, Fashion Nugget. That was the album with The Distance, Cake's big hit. This was a big thing with Mission Hill — the show's creators understood the importance of embracing the musical culture of their characters. You could imagine Jim and Andy listening to Cake, Pavement or even the short-lived ska craze. It's nice they do leave mentions of the new wave band The Go-Go's, since they had Jane Weidlin in the cast.

Episode 1 – Pilot (Or The Douchebag Aspect) 
We are introduced to Mission Hill and Andy is forced to take in his brother, Kevin.

Episode 3 — Kevin’s Problem (Or Porno For Pyro) 
Kevin causes a fire in a store bathroom when he's masturbating to a pornographic magazine … enough said!

Episode 4 – Andy Vs. The Real World (Or The Big-Ass Viacom Lawsuit) 
Andy gets on The Real World and looks to ruin it ... or does he? Seriously, nothing says 1990s more than MTV reality shows like The Real World.

This show really appealed to twentysomethings, which is funny cause they had David Clennon from thirtysomething in a recurring role. The show wasn't trying to get older generations to watch, which could be a reason for Mission Hill's demise. Show creators Oakley and Weinstein wanted Mission Hill to it to be a short-run show that appealed to only that select 18-to-30 crowd, with it catering to that group's musical and cultural references.

Mission Hill's humor and style will draw those in looking for reminders of what life was like before hipsters became cool, 9/11 and when television was not a haven for mindless reality TV jokes.
Summer Viewing Guide: 'Mission Hill' Reviewed by Seth Pohorence on 6/11/2013 Rating: 5

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