Part of the endless annals of failed 90s Fox Network sitcoms, Herman's Head failed too - but at least it lasted a few seasons. Remembered only as a point of reference today, the show was never shown widely in syndication, reruns were rare, and anyone who wanted to see it was shit out of luck once 1994 came running through. Fox is now and has always been adamant about throwing out whatever crappy show idea a monkey threw at 'em, but Herman's Head was actually a decent little show that was doomed to a limited run because it's premise was so damn strange. For every gem a television network finds, there's hundreds of shows that get through the production process despite every last piece of logic dictating that they should never have been made to begin with. Herman's Head is probably one of those shows, but it was pretty funny.
It centered on Herman, a pedestrian guy leading a pedestrian life. The guy had a lousy job and apparently only one friend outside his coworkers, and his daily routines were for the most part completely uninteresting. At first glance, it seemed like it could have been one of those 'reality style' sitcoms featuring a normal guy doing all the usual things guys do, albeit with far more one-liners attached and a laugh track that make the cast of Married With Children blush. After all, this was on Fox, so nobody could make a movie even slightly geared towards the romantic spectrum without it being followed by 45 seconds of hooting and 'oooohhhing' by the audience track. But Herman's Head was no normal show - for those who don't remember or who've never seen it in action, the premise was one of the strangest undertakings in a prime time sitcom I've ever seen...
Any time Herman had to make a decision, we'd switch to weird scenes that took place inside his brain, where four goofy characters representing different psychological traits argued about which was the best path to go. There was 'Animal,' the fat guy who probably doesn't deserve to ever act again - he was all about Herman's libido. Then there was 'Angel' - the chick who handled Herman's sensitive side and tried to drive the others to make their human puppet do the right thing. 'Genius' was the Poor Man's Frasier, if you can believe such a thing exists. He made sure Herman's decisions were met with some degree of intelligence. Finally, 'Wimp' was there to make sure Herman didn't do anything that got him in trouble.
So throughout each episode, we'd cut to these four freaks having intense arguments, sometimes holding the others at gunpoint so they could take temporary total control of Herman. The weird thing was, as the series progressed, the novelty of this 'feature' started waning while the 'real' characters were given better story arcs, and obviously, more screen time. By the time the show went off the air, these guys, who were supposed to be the focus, were more of an afterthought, usually thrown in haphazardly for silly sight gags. Because the actual stories got better and more involved as the show went on, it seemed like even the producers and writers realized that these four were detrimental - their skits progressively became stranger and usually more lame, to the point where they'd have a few scattered appearances per episode doing nothing but wrestling each other. It was a tough situation for the show as a whole - it finally achieved of life of it's own that wasn't dependent on a gimmick, but at the same time, you couldn't remove the gimmick without killing the show. The end result? Watching Herman's Head was like watching two very different sitcoms at the same time, which on the surface all followed one continuity but really had little to do with each other aside from being the only characters on television constantly referencing someone named 'Herman.'
By the way, the 'Herman' name should be outlawed because you're just guaranteeing your kid an insult-riddled adolescence filled with despair. People named Herman only have fun on television. Once kids got past making the obvious Her-Man joke, they'd move on to the phonetically close 'hermaphrodite' and pretty soon your son's walking around the elementary school halls with a machine gun and three donuts. The gun's self-explanatory, but the donuts are there to illustrate that kids named Herman wouldn't care about their appearance. They're fighting a battle they already lost. Here's the rest of the characters that round out Herman's Head...
Louise is the secretary at Herman's place of work. I'm not sure what any of these people actually do - I don't remember the series that well - but they all pretty much sit around at desks with piles of paper, so either it's your standard admin work, or they're trying to develop a more urbanized interest in origami. Louise is played by Yeardley Smith, best known to most as the voice of Lisa Simpson. Course, she's best known to me as that monster from Billie Jean who explained that it's not blood that comes out during a woman's period, rather a substance called 'mung.' That's pretty much the only thing I remember about The Legend of Billie Jean, aside from Christian Slater looking exactly like an orangutan. Louise is the show's 'straight' character - the only one who's not either mean, grizzled, or oversexed. I enjoy Smith's work too much to be cruel, so I'll just suggest taking a look at her hair up above and leave it at that.
Jay is Herman's best friend. Actually, his only friend. Hank Azaria is all but wasted here, playing the ultimate cliche character of a guy who just likes getting laid. That's the extent of his personal depth, he's either gunning for the poon or pointing Herman in it's direction. We luck out a bit because Azaria's always so good and he makes lemonade with this dud as best he can. If anyone else was playing Jay, I'd hate him. Unless he was played by 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, which would've been better since it'd be only a matter of time till we saw Yeardley Smith sell the Stone Cold Stunner.
Jane Sibbett plays Heddy, the office's resident sexpot. This wouldn't be a sitcom unless the office has a sexpot, so thank the good lord Heddy's here to keep the rules upended. Heddy spends most of the earlier episodes making fun of every other character, which would've been fine except for the fact that she doesn't seem to have any other friends aside from them, either. It's like everyone on this show was in some parallel dimension where only they exist. The only other people who ever show up are Herman's dates, (he gets one per episode, what's his secret?) but even then most of those chicks dissapear after twenty minutes never to be seen or heard from again. By the end of the show, everyone was dating each other, which just goes to show you how much of a small world this thing took place in. I'm surprised they didn't have Heddy shacking up with two or three of Herman's personality trait embodiments. Hopefully Angel since it'd give me a little more to talk about.
Mr. Brackman was Herman's boss. Picture Morgan Freeman. Then, erase that picture and replace it with another one, this time of his stunt double wearing a bow tie. That's Mr. Brackman, divorced grump who continually manages to hang out with his employees outside of work, despite very obviously having nothing in common with any of them and being four thousand years their superior. If you're wondering what sort of character Brackman was, this should get it across - one episode featured all the employees debating the best way to tell him about his breath problem. I'm not sure what he's doing nowadays. I think I saw him working at our local Petco, though. He was the only staffer up for handling the water scorpions.
The show was what it was, and it's difficult to explain a sitcom so few of you saw and even less actually remember. You'll just have to take my word for it, Herman's Head was pretty decent. I know it's difficult for you to put that kind of blind faith in me, because after all, you wouldn't want to be caught with the incorrect opinion of Herman's Head if someone ever brought it up. BOY WOULD YOU HAVE EGG ON YOUR FACE! To put your mind a little more at ease, I'm going to waste Sunday morning doing a quick review of one of the episodes. Here it goes...
Louise wastes precious office time to set Herman up on a blind date with one of her friends. See, now this is a problem. Nobody on Herman's Head ever seemed to have friends before, so if Louise is claiming she does, something's fishy. Maybe some psychopath really loved Willie Ragsdale's work in Fright Night and is blackmailing Louise into getting her a date with him. Herman overlooks the grim possibilities and agrees, because apparently this entire sitcom will fall apart at the seams if he doesn't have a romance to work with in every episode.
The rest of the characters realize that their screentime is going to be terminally limited if this episode's all about Herman's blind date, so they make a quick, bold leap into arranging a poker party that night. Keeping in mind that none of these characters really seem to like each other all that much, it just shows you how important those tv cameras are. Even Mr. Brackman invites himself to the game, because 50-year-old unhappy businessmen love playing cards with their twenty-something employees. Stuff like this happened in every episode - the rest of the characters constantly scrambling to find a reason to stay on the screen, desperately holding on to whatever small story arc they can.
Herman meets his blind date later that day. We'll call her 'Wendy.' His personality traits consider her good to go - she's got all her teeth and she's not carrying a totebag she got for free from a sci-fi book club. Herman's dating criteria isn't much. What nobody realizes is that there's a great evil within this woman. Sure, she's decent looking, at least within the confines of the two other women Herman knows to compare her to. She's sharp, she's witty, smart, all those things. But there's one thing about her, one quality that separates Wendy from the rest and makes her someone Herman should avoid at all costs. Friends...Wendy is a Psycho Bitch.
Herman is on a blind date with a Psycho Bitch.
And the four people living inside his head don't even know it.
While Herman's friends play poker, he's busy back at his apartment. At first, the date seemed to be going sour - they were just talking about the weather and everyone seemed real bored. Then it hit the fifteen minute mark and everyone realized the show hadn't even touched upon the subject of sex yet, and this was a major, major no-no in mid-90s Fox programming. So they go back to his place, and she's giving him every last damn signal in the world that she wants to be ridden like a mechanical bull. A woman this desperate obviously doesn't get laid much so Herman puts aside any fears of contracting a disease that'll make his dick discharge some type of green ooze. He knows she's safe, so he figures...what the hell? He's already had a few beers, she's starting to look more and more like Haviland Morris.
Wendy starts fiddling with the buttons on his shirt, so Herman understandably takes this as an invitation to cop a feel himself. Instead of accept the reciprocation, Wendy pulls away and start freaking out as if Herman had suggested fucking her with a beer bottle. She picks up and leaves, and our hero is just standing there, blue in the face and pants, with absolutely no idea how this just happened. Of course, we all know why. She's a psycho bitch.
Moments later, Wendy comes back soaking wet. Either it was raining outside or she poured oil over her head, because psycho bitches tend to do weird things like that. She apologizes for leaving, telling Herman that she's just not that type of girl even though she's spent the entire episode trying to get him in bed. Herman, ever the gentleman, doesn't pick nits and tells her it's a-okay with him if she's a teasing lunatic. Then it gets worse - she starts hugging him in the same way you'd hug your airplane chair if the escape hatch opened at 25,000 feet, and suggests they sleep together. Not have sex, mind you - just sleep together. This would've been all well and good on a normal date, but really, Herman should be more focused on getting this chick out of his apartment and out of his life forever by this point.
Sadly, Herman and his personality traits overlook the obvious and agree to let her spend the night. It's not even a one-night-stand so he can't just drop her the next day. He's stuck with Psycho Bitch forever now. It's a good thing the continuity of Herman's Head doesn't extend to having girlfriends exist past one or two episodes.
All of Herman's friends and coworkers are asleep at the poker table, because Herman, much like the show's writers, completely forgot they existed.
Overall, Herman's Head was high-concept good television that never got a fair shake. Okay, so it didn't really have the legs necessary for a ten-year run or anything, but still, they usually threw this show at the tail end of Fox's Sunday night lineup behind whatever flavor-of-the-month they were trying to push as the next big show. And lemme tell you, Herman and his head friends were a lot more interesting than Flying Blind or the last few seasons of In Living Color. We'll likely never see the show on television again - it didn't have enough episodes to warrant reruns, and even if it did, nobody's starting any cult following for it. But in the world of X-E, where nothing's ever old, we salute Herman's Head. We salute the crap out of it. Yeah.
Click here to listen to the Herman's Head theme song. A smash it. By the way, check the pictures on the right sidebar for a small gallery of pictures from the commercials aired alongside this episode of the show. I'm a tad upset that they're far more interesting than the show itself, but what are ya gonna do? It's a lazy Sunday.
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