UPN television episode, 2003
In my last induction, I noted that Australia’s version of Are You Being Served? set a Wrestlecrap record for the earliest wrestling episode in a TV series’ run, and that only the impossible-to-find first episode of The Mullets could possibly dethrone it. Well, lo and ye shall behold – within days, a kind reader emailed me telling me where to find that very episode.
Mullets were all the rage in the 1970s and 80s, a ubiquitous hairstyle sported by everyone from Paul McCartney to Lionel Ritchie to Linda McCartney. The odd thing was, nobody actually called this short-in-the-front-and-sides-but-long-in-the-back hairdo a “mullet” until The Beastie Boys’ 1994 song, “Mullet Head”, by which time the haircut was well on its way out of fashion.
In the fall of 2003, UPN tried to wring the last few giggles out of Mulletmania with its new sitcom, The Mullets – a less-inspired take on Joe Dirt.
Other than its being based around a haircut, the first thing you should know about this 2003 comedy is that it premiered on September 11th.
The second thing you should know is that its premiere episode aired immediately after WWE Smackdown in an effort to piggyback off its high viewership. The third thing you should know is that UPN only aired two hours of primetime TV a night, meaning that Smackdown was cut short half an hour that week to make way for the new sitcom.
And as if that weren’t enough to make WWE fans resent the new program, those brave Smackdown viewers who toughed it out on UPN till 10 pm were slapped in the face with vapid and insulting stereotypes about wrestling and its fans.
If the show’s producers were trying to endear themselves to fans of by far the most popular show on the network, their series premiere made about as much sense as the American flag “You Suck” shirt that the babyface WWE champion Kurt Angle wore to commemorate 9/11.
The show begins with Dwayne and Denny Mullet on a roofing job, where they daydream about the bright future ahead of them before Dwayne, the dumber one, falls through the roof somehow.
Cue the opening credits, where we see highlights of all the low-brow entertainment the Mullets enjoy, including monster trucks…
…trashy talk shows…
…and yes, pro wrestling.
One clichéd diagram of their hair later…
…and the show has already exhausted all of its mullet jokes.
Hey, recognize those names? Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein used to write for The Simpsons. Good episodes, too. Classics, even: “Bart vs. Australia”, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?”, and “Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy”, just to name a few.
Oakley even wrote the freakin’ steamed hams scene, practically inventing the whole “cringe comedy” subgenre.
And these two didn’t just write this first episode, but created this whole series? A series whose entire premise is that its main characters have bad hair? For the sake of their professional reputations, I can only hope that they conceived of, pitched, and sold this show purely to fuel a crack cocaine habit. Any other explanation would just be embarrassing.
After the intro, Dwayne Mullet walks into the Mullet house with a surprise for his brother Denny Mullet and their neighbors, who also have mullets. “Who can tell me the three sweetest words in the English language?”
“Miller Genuine Draft”? No, but rednecks do like beer. Funny!
“Bacon Double Cheeseburger”? No, but rednecks do like fast food. Funny!
“Pamela Anderson Mullet”? No…
…that would have to wait about 12 years.
The correct answer is Girls Gone Wild! The guys are all fired up to watch some porn together in their living room until their mom crashes the party.
Mandy Mullet, played by Loni Anderson, is the only character on the show thus far not to have a mullet, despite her last name (she must have taken it from the boys’ father).
But now she’s married to Roger Heidecker, a famous quiz show host played by John O’Hurley, type-cast as a pompous upper-class twit.
Frankly, it should have been the other way around, with a high-society woman marrying the Mullet family patriarch and insisting it’s pronounced, “Moo-lay”.
In an attempt to fill air time, the writers have the Mullets’ neighbor pester Roger for some videotapes of famous risqué bloopers from entirely different game shows from the one he hosts. First, it’s the “strangest place you’ve made whoopee” outtake from The Newlywed Game…
…then it’s the one from The Price is Right where “that woman started jumping up and down and going all crazy and her boobs flew out.” How lazy does a writer have to be to have a character simply relay a humorous event that happened on another show?
That’s the biggest comedic shortcut since Ernest Goes to The Movies and Watches Airplane! in its Entirety.
Anyway, the boys are completely out of gift ideas for their mom’s birthday that Saturday, until they venture to the local convenience store and have an epiphany: “Wrestlemania tickets!”
Just think of what kind of bind the Mullets would have been in had they not spotted this sign that most definitely does not say “Wrestlemania” or “WWE” anywhere on it.
Yes, despite a plethora of wrestling posters around their house, the Mullets still refer to any wrestling event as “Wrestlemania”, including a Saturday night house show.
I mean, a bowling alley is a bowlarama, a charity walk is a walkathon, and a wrestling event is a wrestlemania, right?
But – just their luck – “Wrestlemania” is sold out, meaning they won’t be able to see Gold Mysteriberg over here…
…unless they win the four front-row tickets the radio station is giving away.
All they have to do, says the clerk, is to listen to the otherwise lame-o Top 40 pop station all week and call in when they play “Rock You Like A Hurricane”, a choice that was very obviously overdubbed during post-production when the show couldn’t secure the rights to a different song (probably “Born To Be Wild”).
Having been showrunners for The Simpsons season seven, Oakley and Weinstein knew they could use the Scorpions track for cheap.
Speaking of music licenses, the show apparently couldn’t afford the fees for any genuine Justin Timberturd or Christina Skankulera (sic) tracks, so the radio-listening montage was set to what sounded like a Kidz Bop cover of a Jackson Five knockoff. On further research, the song was in fact an original recording by SClub7 that hit #1 in the UK. Well, I’ll grant The Mullets this: they kinda had a point about Top 40 radio.
Having crashed 72 hours into their pop music binge, the boys wake up just in time to call in and win the tickets.
They then both manage to fall off the roof, bringing the total number of roof bumps to three in the first 15 minutes. With the writers using up all the best gags in the first episode, how did they expect to pace themselves over the next four to five seasons?
The Mullets arrive at Mom and Roger’s house to pick them up for “Wrestlemania”, only to learn that Roger is throwing a fancy dinner party that they were supposed to know about but didn’t.
Because he’s a moron, Dwayne Mullet tries to fit in by flexing his biceps.
When the party runs longer than expected, the Mullets start to get antsy. “Dude, this is taking forever. We’re gonna miss the smackdown!” says Dwayne. I know it’s not unusual for a TV show to use “smackdown” as a generic term for a wrestling event…
…but not when that show is on the same network as the actual WWE Smackdown, airing immediately after WWE Smackdown, and attempting to win over fans of WWE Smackdown.
When the Mullets start wrestling each other on the dinner table, the rest of the uptight guests flee the party.
The boys save themselves from a serious talking-to from mom by dropping the big Wrestlemania birthday surprise. Mom is thrilled; Roger is appalled – with their roughhousing, the boys got corn on his Emmy.
I bet you’re expecting me to say, “I don’t know whose Emmy award that is, but it’s certainly not the writers’!” But it is. Bill Oakley has three of them.
Roger insists that he would never, ever let himself be dragged into a wrestling event, but of course he does…
…and, as it turns out, it actually is Wrestlemania.
Just look at that setup and tell me that this isn’t Wrestlemania.
So to recap, they’re at an event billed as “Wrestlemania”, which is clearly a Raw-brand house show, on an episode called “Smackdown”.
The opening bout of Wrestlemania pits the Dudley Boyz against La Résistance.
When the Mullets tell Roger about the Dudley Boyz’ signature table spot, their stepdad is incredulous. Realizing that he has married into a family of marks, Roger has to straighten the boys out. Surely they know it’s all fake, right?
They don’t. Just when you thought this show couldn’t make wrestling fans out to be any bigger rubes, the Mullets think wrestling is real.
Years ago, I wrote an April Fools’ piece parodying the very basic errors that condescending news writers commit when reporting on wrestling. If The Mullets end up calling every move a “body slam”, this show will have ticked off every box.
Their faith in kayfabe shattered, the Mullets are crestfallen.
The Dudleys, on the other hand, are pissed off. This game show host is killing the business and insulting wrestling fans!
Unlike typical sports entertainers, the Bubba Ray and D-Von snatch the ringside celebrity out of the audience and beat him up for real. Even Heatwave ’99 never went this far.
La Résistance having vanished into thin air, the Dudleys chase Roger down and put him through a table as the disillusioned Mullet boys assure their mom that it’s all just pretend.
“Man, this is the best Wrestlemania ever!” say the Mullets’ idiot friends, who are watching the pay-per-view on a tiny screen at the 7-Eleven.
Even as Roger is carried away on a stretcher, horribly injured, the Mullets, who up until a few minutes ago were too dumb to know wrestling was a work, are now too dumb to realize that the brutal assault on their stepdad was a shoot. Instead, they congratulate him on the great birthday surprise and for being the most extreme member of the family.
The Mullets’ comedy formula (dumb, but incredibly stupid) proved unpopular with viewers, leading to the show’s cancellation after just six episodes.
Yet the mullet itself is making a comeback, including in wrestling, with the Usos and Brian Pillman Jr. adopting the hairstyle.
Could a Mullets revival be around the corner? Probably not, but look for The Undercuts to take the CW by storm in the next ten to fifteen years.