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Surfers' paradise

Dixe Wills


'It takes a lot to make a stew/A pinch of salt and laughter too/A scoop of kids to add the spice/A dash of love to make it nice.'

If you can read these lyrics without breaking into song with the words 'too many cooks (too many cooks), too many cooks (too many coo-oooks)' then I think we can safely say you've just missed out on an internet phenomenon. It's all right, there's no shame in it. After all, I doubt anyone on their death bed wishes they'd just been able to squeeze in one more viewing of Gangnam Style.

For those who have not stumbled across 'Too Many Cooks', it's a short film that was first aired at 4am - the time slot every programme- maker fights for - on a US channel called Adult Swim (, a left-field spin-off from The Cartoon Network (no, I had no idea either).

The opening credits are clearly of a US sitcom from the 80s featuring a wholesome white middle-class family as twee and saccharin as they come. After three minutes of opening credits you begin to wonder if they'll ever end. They begin morphing into the opening credits of other generic 80s shows: gritty urban cop dramas, gungho America-as-world-policeman cartoons, sci-fi sagas and the like. Eventually the credits take on a life of their own as their smiling characters, while desperately clinging on to their homey normality are stalked by a machete-wielding serial killer. The tone gets weirder and darker and the subject matter more twisted until the whole thing collapses in on itself. If you ever find yourself with 11 minutes going spare, it's worth a spin.

According to interviews given by its writer and director Casper Kelly, the short is intended to be more than a mere satire on television opening credits but beyond that he's giving nothing away. Some have seen it as a critique of the so called 'war on terror', while others have seen in it a comment on the fragility of contemporary American society.

I watched it not knowing what it was nor where it was going, and with no idea that people were already ascribing motives to its creation. It's curious, therefore, that as it unfolded before my plangent gaze I was struck by the parallels it drew with (my experience, at least) of church culture.

At first glance many churches seem normal, if somewhat anodyne. Over time they begin to reveal their oddnesses. These become accepted by everyone as 'just the way things are done here'. Unchecked, they begin to slant the matrix through which the church does and sees everything. Then, every so often, there'll be an Emperor's New Clothes moment when someone twigs that this normality actually bears no relationship to the universe outside and the whole thing implodes. A fresh start is made. New oddnesses are unwittingly created. The process repeats itself. No serial killers are usually required.