Clone High’s quest to skewer every teen show stereotype means it was only a matter of time before it got to the student election. It’s hard to blame high school shows for embracing this trope. Student elections can be a nifty microcosm of the high school popularity conundrum. Yes, there are some hardworking high school kids who actually want to do some good in their schools, but for the most part, student elections are dominated by popular kids who like having their popularity quantified. Winning an election makes their higher status official.
With this in mind, Clone High sets up its obvious rivals for the student body president race: the ever-insecure Abe Lincoln versus the always cocky JFK. The fact that both these boys come from the genetic material of former United States Presidents immediately heightens this tired storyline. Still, neither boy decides to run on his own. Instead, “Episode Two: Election Blu Galoo” makes the smart choice to keep Abe and JFK’s goal simple and relatable to actual teens: they just want to get laid. In fact, neither boy actually gives a single shit about the nebulous issues they’re supposed to be addressing. It’s the most realistic student election I’ve ever seen on television, even when a monster truck crushes a genetic duplicate of our sixteenth president as he attempts to windsurf a half-pipe (“which the original Abraham Lincoln would have done, had he had the tools to do so”).
Now, this episode is ostensibly about candidates Abe and JFK, but it really belongs to Cleo and Joan. While Cleo was just a placeholder for a generic high school sexpot in the pilot, she’s a full-blown Lady Macbeth in this episode. More accurately, Cleo acts much closer to the traditional picture of her genetic predecessor. She seduces JFK into running because her own term is up, and she needs a replacement that will abdicate the position so she can circumvent the term limit and rule the school once again. If that shaky sentence structure didn’t tip you off, it’s an incredibly complex motivation, even if the episode doesn’t spend much time with it. Joan defecting to JFK’s campaign is less interesting—ninety percent of Joan’s storylines can be traced back to her crush on Abe—but it still results in the best gag of the episode. Her vicious attack ad on Abe is a sharp take on political smear tactics and manipulative wordplay: “[Abe] would also like you to believe he’s not a baby-eater. He’s never gone on record saying he isn’t. Maybe he’s too busy eating babies.”
The other side of “Election Blu Galoo” is a takedown of product placement and hyperactive energy drink advertising, both of which had their heydays in the aughts. Despite Tasmanian Devil levels of energy from Scrubs alums (recurring voices Zac Braff, Sarah Chalke, and Donald Faison), Red Bull doppelganger “Extreme Blu” is the least effective part of the episode. Part of this could be the inevitable drawback of reviewing a show in retrospect. At this point, the product placement parody is well-trod territory. In fact, Josie And The Pussycats came out just a year before Clone High went into production, and I’m not sure mocking product placement ever did better than that wall-to-wall satire of over seventy brands (though 30 Rock also made a good effort). So despite blu-haired Abe, the most fun aspect of Extreme Blu taking over Clone High is what it does to Scudworth. I haven’t talked about Vice Principal Dr. Cinnamon J. Scudworth much yet, because the conspiracy behind Clone High was never as compelling to me as the actual clones. Still, Scudworth and Butlertron are a delightfully unhinged pairing that are often best as accents to the storylines at hand, like they are in “Election Blu Galoo” (though an exception occurs in the very next episode, so more on that later). But when I think of “Election Blu Galoo,” I never remember the hyper-drama of product placement. I remember Abe and Joan bickering from their parallel “thinking docks” and Marilyn Manson’s twisted take on the food pyramid. The clones might be the hook for the series, but the banality of high school is still Clone High’s best joke well.
- High School Commiseration Corner: I ran for vice president in the sixth grade. I wore bunchy violet jeans for my speech, was growing out a mushroom haircut, I was running against triplets, and my campaign mascot was the Road Runner (“Beep Beep, Caroline for Veep!”). So yeah, I lost.
- Hey, it’s 2002!: The guest judges for JFK and Abe’s final speeches not only include Marilyn Manson, but Mena Suvari’s forehead glare and a fictional Wayans brother.
- Nicole Sullivan is just aces when Joan has to dig herself out of a verbal hole. (“That makes me so mad I could kiss you!” “Wait, what was that last part?” “I’msorrywhat?”)
- Abe in a nutshell: “You know what hurts the most, Joan? This nail I just stepped on.”
- JFK in a nutshell: “Hark! That sounds like the gentle knock of a vulnerable teenage girl!”
- Clone High in a nutshell: “Numbers don’t lie.” / Number 4 walks by: “I’m a number 5!”