(a sales pitch to people who have never been able to get into the show)
Happy Sunday Morning!
Back when I was a church going tyke, my church would always do a special series of sermons for the Lent season. We weren’t catholic, but the high holidays still seep into the Protestant calendar and Lent is the advent season of Easter (follow me? good!)
I’ve been wanting to do a short series on Moral Orel for a while, and doing it for Lent seemed perversely appropriate. But there are a lot of people who have never watched Moral Orel! The poor souls! If that’s you, you’re in the right place!
Honestly, Moral Orel can be a little hard to get into. But it is rewarding. The fortunate thing about it is that even though there are plot arcs, you don’t have to be a completionist to get the gist. In fact, in this very article I’m going to propose that you can spend one single hour with Moral Orel and get an understanding of what this show has to offer. That’s right folks! One Hour!
Moral Orel, if you don’t know the basic premise, is the story of eleven (and later twelve) year old Orel Puppington, a Christian boy who just wants to do right. His attempts to understand the world around him lead him into troubling situations. Early in the series, those troubles are wacky cartoon things like zombies and mass impregnation. Later in the series, those troubles are internal and relational as he realizes the gulf between who people say they are and who they really are.
Sounds fun, huh? It’s quite a journey, really. A journey worth taking. But I know some people who have tried and got turned off right away. So if you’re not sure you wanna buy a ticket for the full ride, let’s take the express route and watch six ten-minute episodes to give you a taste.
Where not to start: Whatever you do, do not watch the Christmas Special first. It’s not awful. In fact, I really like it. But it’s a season finale that skewers the tropes of the first season. It was never meant to be seen first.
But don’t watch the first episode either. It is going to give you the wrong impression if you are looking for a show about character growth.
So where to start?
(FYI: episode numbers are as listed on wikipedia . All episodes are available on Hulu, but not in the correct God-ordained order)
- Episode 5: “The Blessed Union” Some people would say skip the entire first season or more. But I think this episode is a good mix of the edgy premises that characterize the early show (a 12 year old getting a genital piercing to be able to please women) and the heartfelt moments that characterize what the show will become.
- Episode 8: “Loyalty” This episode shows that even though Orel’s sense of right and wrong is kind of screwy, he means well and others . . . do not mean well. There’s an unspoken tension throughout the show that is never explicit but always present: are all these hypocrites going to ruin Orel? He wants to do what is right, but he assumes that being right and being at one with his parents and the community is the same thing.
- Episode 12: “Love” There is love and there is control and some people call control love. This episode gets that.
- Episode 15: “Offensiveness” Continuing on the theme of using love and morality as an excuse to control people, this episode is about what happens when society brow-beats people into hiding their true selves.
- Episode 18 “The Lord’s Prayer” Continuing the same theme (it’s the main theme of season 2), here Orel loses more than a pet when he has to choose between following his heart and following what he thinks God wants
- Episode 19 “Holy Visage” This episode gets a little back into the wackiness of early episodes in a gross and bizarre premise, but keeps its feet firmly on the ground in that it is ultimately about how people respond to the hurting and whether they see religion as a chance to help others or an excuse to focus on themselves.
Ok, so all of these are from the first two seasons of the series. I’ve completely avoided stepping into the end of the second season or touching the third season — even though everyone agrees those are the BEST episodes. But these episodes are a good place to start for a test run. If after watching these you think you like the show, keep watching from episode 19 on. You’ll quickly run into the real heart of the series and you’ll be glad for the background. Then, once you’ve seen everything the series has to offer, you can go back to the beginning and be much more appreciative of the weird place it starts.
If you want to have a place to talk about episodes, like I said I’m going to be doing a series starting in a week. The episodes we’ll be covering will go like this, though I’m going to be focusing in on only one or two each week. I encourage you to watch or rewatch along with me!
March 1st: all of season one (episodes 1-10)
March 8th: episodes 11-20
March 15: episodes 21-25
March 22: episodes 26-30
March 29: episodes 31-34
April 5: episodes 35-43
So, non-initiates — do you think you might try this out? Tell me in the comments about preivious attempts with the show.
Afficianados — do you like my approach? Is there different advice you would give someone if you wanted to turn them on to this series?