It's only a
matter of time before Zorak takes over the entire network.
Raise your hand
if you've seen more than one episode of Dexter's Laboratory.
Johnny Bravo? Power Puff Girls? We thought as much. And so did
Cartoon Network. No longer do you have to skulk around sneaking peeks,
because at last they have put together a block of shows just for you,
that highly coveted 18-34 demographic. You can get hooked starting Sunday
night, September 2, at 10 p.m.
Under the umbrella
title of Adult Swim, the network has revived a couple of shows
thought dead, while adding a few new twisted titles.
Originally developed for UPN, which too quickly cancelled it, Home
Movies features the adventures of Brendon Small, the insecure fourth
grader son of a single mom (Paula Poundstone), who makes sense of his
confusion by making short films. Using "Squiggle-Vision," the animation
is crude, but the storytelling is sharp. Small (the show's creator and
voice of himself) and the rest of the cast allegedly ad-lib their dialogue,
resulting in the rhythms of real conversation, only funnier. And somehow
it captures the truth about fourth grade, only with a much better vocabulary
than any of us actually had.
At points painfully
honest, Home Movies balances its reality with giddy juvenile
humor, such as a running gag with a Russian student who pees in the
coach's canteen. It also deflates a lot of the stereotypes that go with
its scenario. "You know your father and I love you very much, and it's
absolutely not your fault that we split up," Brendon's mother tells
him. "I really hadn't considered that at all," he answers, "thanks for
planting the seed of doubt."
starts off the block, and should not be missed. What else can Cartoon
Network save from broadcast network oblivion? Mission Hill, anyone?
Thankfully, I cannot
actually remember Brak from the original Space Ghost series,
so no fond memories are getting ripped to shreds here. Former space
tyrant Brak stars in a typical domestic sitcom of the sixties, as the
teen-aged son of a giant monstress and a suave, vaguely latino father.
As a teen, Brak
suffers many of the same problems we all had, such as trying to win
the high school talent contest. Unfortunately, best friend Zorak has
coughed up a pink protoplasmic blob, leaving him with a lovely singing
voice that takes first place. Meanwhile, wacky next door neighbor Thundercleese
has an army of killer cyborgs after him. See? Just like on Leave
It To Beaver.
It's twisted, it's
funny, and despite the overlapping characters, has a distinctly different
vibe than Space Ghost: Coast-To-Coast.
Attorney At Law
An even more obscure
hero than Space Ghost once was, Birdman has traded in his solar power
for the power of attorney. Wisely, Cartoon Network has opted not to
duplicate the Space Ghost re-thinking, and the result holds a lot of
Birdman and his
sidekick eagle Avenger have become practitioners of cartoon law, which
means that a lot of long-used stand-up routines can finally be put to
rest. In the first episode, Harvey Birdman tackles a custody battle
between Dr. Benton Quest and Race Bannon, to be followed next week by
Shaggy getting busted for possession.
Though the plotlines
are the subject of one-liners, the execution works well, playing to
both the hard-core cartoon fan and the guy who just wants to laugh.
And extra points go to the show's creators for casting The Mighty Mightorr
as a fussy southern judge.
Directed by J.J.
Sedelmaier, who also occasionally works on TV Funhouse, the show
has much the same vibe. But really, if anyone has the right to mock
those old Hanna-Barbera adventure shows, it's Cartoon Network, not SNL.
If Hanna-Barbera still ruled traditional Saturday
mornings, and smoked some of Shaggy's stash, they might have come up
with this show. Three super-powered man-sized food items join forces
to fight crime with a hip-hop beat. It works because it knows how stupid
The leader, Master
Shake (who is just a large milkshake), would rather quickly jump to
a conclusion and collect a reward. Only the mysterious Frylock has any
skill or real power, but even he cannot counteract the leader's apathy.
They band together with the shape-changing Meatwad, who only wants to
dance to the sounds from his jambox. Rapper Schooly D narrates the show,
in a bit that may grow tired.
Of all the shows,
this one made me laugh the least, but then, I'm old.
Coast To Coast
Cartoon Network wisely resurrected this innovative
talk show. Not much has changed. It still has its unique rhythm, full
of uncomfortable pauses. Space Ghost and his crew remain petulant. And
Dave Thomas (of SCTV, not Wendy's) makes a heck of a guest.
If you were a fan
of the show before, rejoice. If not, you owe it to yourself to give
it a try.
This show may wear out its premise rather quickly. Taking a fairly obscure
Saturday morning show, Sealab 2020, the producers cut, paste,
redo and redub scenes to create this one. Where the original awkwardly
fulfilled some educational mandate, this show recasts everyone onboard
the Sealab as idiots, and rewrites the plots to have substantially more
The cast may be
idiotic, but the writing is not. Esoteric jokes pop up. The only real
drawback may be that it has a similar rhythm to Space Ghost.
Putting that aside,
the show does have one stroke of pure genius: the only competent character
on board, Marco Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar Gabriel Garcia Marquez, gives
Erik Estrada a job. Tweaking his ChiPs image, Estrada finally
comes across as three-dimensional in this two-dimensional world.
It may not last,
but we have hope.
The evening rounds
out with the U.S. debut of an anime series called Cowboy Bebop,
but Cartoon Network did not provide us with a tape of it. Check it out
and let us know what you think.