Season Analysis: Dino Stamatopoulos’ animated high school sitcom satire by way of Archie was the perfect atonal mix of taboo issues tackled with a straight face.
Maybe the major reason High School USA! never really captured a sizable audience (besides the fact that it aired in the 11 o’clock hour on Saturday night and was often preempted by sports) was its cognitive dissonance. When Mandy Moore-voiced Cassandra, who is clearly Asian, is shocked to discover that her white and quite old parents adopted her, it is obviously nonsensical, which can work in mainstream comedy, but nonsense tends to confuse when a nonsensical reaction is accepted as a perfectly understandable reaction. So when the rest of the gang are only mildly surprised that their friend doesn’t realize she looks quite different than her parents, it is a strange viewing experience. A world that operates by insane logic isn’t for everybody, but for those who like it, High School USA! hit its insane sweet spot with “Adoption.” A trip to China to find Cassandra’s birth parents results in the gang essentially being treated as visiting dignitaries. That is because in the type of clean-cut shows that HSUSA! takes aim at, the main characters are super-famous and conveniently talented whenever the plot calls for it. To that end, Cassandra and the rest of the gang are, of course, the members of a band. And just for good measure, even though they clearly are wielding instruments like a guitar and a tambourine, the music they play is inexplicably dubstep.