Don't be a stranger to `Candy'

Comedian Amy Sedaris returns for third season of Comedy Central show

BY KINNEY LITTLEFIELD
Orange County Register

Sweet food indeed. At 10 tonight, devilishly delicious sitcom Strangers With Candy returns for its third twisted season on Comedy Central. The manic parody of mainstream morality is a cool cult cable dessert after a season of mostly insipid broadcast eats. It is also part of Comedy Central's summer season frontal attack. The all-chuckles channel launches warped Brit-com The League of Gentlemen -- which previously aired on the BBC -- at 10:30 p.m. following Strangers.

And starting Wednesday, we get six new episodes of the bratty animated series South Park.

But Strangers has something better than South Park.

It has wildly talented comedian Amy Sedaris -- who turns kick-me misery into humor that's high art.

Sedaris plays Jerri Blank, a gawky, lugubrious, horny, clueless, nerdy 47- year-old high school student who willingly calls herself a "user, boozer and loser."

Jerri was a teen-age runaway who stole, did time and is back home 32 years later, living with her much younger-looking mother and trying to pass her freshman year after flunking it twice.

High school is just another form of hard time for still-juvenile Jerri. Her oddly sprouting hair, mismatched clothes, clownish makeup and downtrodden demeanor make her the perfect prey for more evolved adolescent types.

Also on her case is Flatpoint High School's dictatorial Principal Blackman (Greg Hollimon) whose inscrutable rules and lectures are a bizarre form of student abuse.

Each week, Jerri faces a new life lesson in Strangers, a send-up of the after-school morality movies for teen-agers that were once standard fare on broadcast TV.

Usually Jerri flunks that lesson, be it on self-esteem, sexual harassment or whatever destroys her ego on any given week.

Tonight Jerri learns that it's better to be honestly wretched and self-loathing than falsely happy, in a two-part episode titled "Blank Stare, Parts 1 and 2," concluding June 26.

The "Stare" starts when lonely Jerri goes to the local mall to drop water balloons on shoppers and is offered a hug by a friendly stranger.

Yes, this is a stranger "with Candy." Next thing you know, the loving lady has lured Jerri into the clutches of a manipulative, mindless, guru-worshipping cult called Safe Trap -- whose members repeatedly tell Jerri how beautiful she is.

No mean feat.

Meanwhile, Blackman and colleagues go to goofy extremes to kidnap Jerri and return her to the old, self-hating deviant she once was.

"Blank Stare's" syrupy veneer is a smooth take on killing-with-kindness.

It's fine fodder for Sedaris' skilled physical and emotional slapstick, especially in cult sequences involving a mantra about "trust and fudge."

Like great chocolate, Strangers With Candy has proved to be an addictive substance over its past two seasons.

This season see it on a weekly basis.

Bet you can't stop at one bite.