|"Coca-Cola tastes like donkey piss, bitch!," says Pops. (Photo source: Regular Show Wiki)|
After voicing a droid for a couple of episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, former Doctor Who star David Tennant turns up on another Cartoon Network show, Dragons: Riders of Berk, as the voice of Spitelout Jorgenson in "Thawfest." Spitelout's longtime rivalry with Stoick has been carried on by his overly confident son Snotlout and his competitive attitude towards Stoick's son Hiccup during Berk's annual Thawfest Games, the Viking equivalent of the Highland Games in Scottish culture (in writers' meetings, the Dragons showrunners must have said, "The movie turned the Vikings into Scotsmen, so which Scottish sporting events should we have them do? Neither soccer nor rugby have been invented yet, so let's give them the Highland Games, only we can't call it that because they're Vikings.").
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After so many kids' cartoons where the main characters are great athletes or superheroes, Hiccup's lack of athletic prowess is refreshing and so welcome, as we see early on in "Thawfest" when the more athletic Snotlout repeatedly trounces Hiccup during competition. But when the athletes are allowed to compete with dragons for the first time in Thawfest history, Hiccup, who's a far more skilled dragon trainer than Snotlout, finally has a series of events where he can triumph over Snotlout. However, the dragon portion of the games brings out the worst in Hiccup, who's never experienced this much success in sports before, so he never learned how to control the ego one can develop from so many wins.
"Thawfest" is a good winning-isn't-everything story and even more impressive as a series of comedic sports set pieces. I'm no fan of 3D, but I wish Cartoon Network found some way to broadcast Dragons in 3D like how DreamWorks released How to Train Your Dragon in that format because the episode's climactic race between Hiccup/Toothless and Snotlout/Hookfang would have looked even more amazing and immersive in 3D. But if Cartoon Network issued 3D glasses, the channel's people will probably neglect to tell you where to obtain a pair because they're so terrific with their communication skills.
For a news organization full of tenacious journalists, the Daily Planet staff--from younger reporters like Lois Lane and Cat Grant to world-weary veterans like Perry White--has such shitty eyesight. This is one reason why I don't care for Superman (the All-Star Superman comic excepted, of course, partly because it came up with an inventive explanation for how Superman is able to keep his secret identity from being revealed). I have to buy that these perceptive journos are unable to notice that their co-worker Clark Kent is the not-exactly-well-disguised Man of Steel? Hee-ro please.
So during Tron: Uprising's "Grounded" episode, when Beck's garage boss Able (Reginald VelJohnson) becomes frustrated with his mechanic's frequent absences from work and puts two and two together and finally realizes it's because Beck is busy being The Renegade, I loved seeing a superhero show where one of the good guys is perceptive for a change and correctly guesses the main hero's secret identity early on in the show's run (or halfway through the run if Disney XD doesn't renew Tron: Uprising). Fortunately, "Grounded" doesn't cop out and immediately kill off Able because he knows about Beck's double life.
dogs dying, you know.
I've never been a fan of the irritating sounds of Chuck whimpering (courtesy of Nate Torrence, who played a slightly similar but not-as-shrieky genius in the 2008 Get Smart and its spinoff movie Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control), but for the first time in Motorcity's haphazardly scheduled run on Disney XD, I'm actually glad to hear the cowardly Burner's mewls and girlie screams again after yet another long hiatus. Okay, by the climax of "Reunion," Chuck's screams start to get old, but I've kind of missed the panicky guy.
"Going Dutch" remarkably hinted at earlier this season without any dialogue. We learned Dutch left behind his parents (Gary Anthony Williams, Kimberly Brooks) and younger brother Dar (Shake It Up's Roshon Fegan) in Detroit Deluxe because of his frustrations with Abraham Kane's fascist hold over Deluxe and his desire to pursue a life of painting street art in Motorcity, and now in "Reunion," we find out that his biggest reason for leaving was to keep his political activism from endangering the lives of his family.
We also get a last name for Dutch and his family (they're the Gordys, which appears to be a shout-out to Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, like how Chilton, Burners leader Mike's last name, is a reference to Chilton auto repair manuals). Dar, who used to worship Dutch, resents him for leaving, so he's moved on to a different idol now--Kane--and joined KaneCo as a junior cadet. He doesn't know that his brother is a Burner, so when he does finally learn what Dutch has really been up to in Motorcity, will he seize the opportunity to turn in his own brother?
Dar is giving off some serious Nazi youth vibes when Dutch is reunited with him. His Nazi-ish phase isn't played for laughs (although the blue beret, combined with the uniform, makes him look like a cross between a Cadet Org member and Donald Duck). It's an interesting tonal choice from both episode writer George Krstic and the animators who came up with the somber lighting for the scenes between Dutch and his family. It keeps "Reunion" from being a completely light romp and lends some suspense to the proceedings when we're left to wonder how Dar will react when he finds out his brother is one of Kane's most wanted.
Meanwhile, "Reunion" doesn't disappoint in the action department, and Motorcity, a show that I've always felt has captured quite well the spirit of old Star Wars, stages a set piece straight out of the classic trilogy when Julie and Texas are assigned the task of blasting KaneCo's power hub with their cars' cannons and Julie winds up having to destroy the hub by herself. Disney XD is clearly mucking up the order of the episodes again because after the series started to hint that Julie is feeling conflicted over the cause against her father in "Like Father, Like Daughter," the last episode that XD aired, we're back to an earlier point in the series when Julie had no qualms about blasting cannons at her dad's work projects. Airing the episodes out of order wrecks the momentum of Julie's arc that was kicked off by "Like Father, Like Daughter." I'm starting to believe that XD actually stands for "Xtra Ditzy."
On Adventure Time, Magic Man (Tom Kenny) overhears Finn asking Jake if it's better to date someone who's exactly like you or someone who's your complete opposite (Jake's answer: "It's not about personality matrixels and charts, it's all about the b-bumps in your heart"), so the trickster decides to mess with Finn's head by leaving him an unusual present that's bound to drive Finn insane as he uses it to try to figure out that question he asked Jake. The gift is a sack full of walking and talking figurines of Finn, Jake and their friends, who speak unsubtitled gibberish to each other.
|(Photo source: Adventure Time Wiki)|
The figurines are clearly a riff on The Sims--they even speak in Sims-like gibberish--but they're also a comment on the madness of running a scripted TV show and creating its storylines. Finn is basically being a showrunner planning love triangle storylines when he meddles with the pairing of mini-Choose Goose and mini-Lollipop Girl by adding mini-Abracadaniel (which ends up turning into a threesome) and then tries to create what he couldn't accomplish in real life by making mini-PB fall in love with mini-himself. "All the Little People" suggests that taking on the arduous task of showrunning leaves you a little bonkers. Finn's unkempt state 16 weeks after first discovering the figurines also contains parallels to recent studies that have shown that Facebook causes its most addicted users to be lonely and depressed.
Then in a great twist where it's revealed that these figurines are avatars for the Oooians' counterparts in another dimensional plane and Finn has ended up becoming the supreme being that's been controlling their every move in that plane, the clever "All the Little People" remarkably morphs from being a joke about three simultaneous things--The Sims, the TV industry and social media addiction--to an exploration of the lifelong question of "Are we alone in the universe or are all those religions right on the money about the presence of a supreme being that controls us all?" If there is a God, could he be nothing more than a 14-year-old kid from another dimensional plane who views us all as playthings? "All the Little People" addresses spirituality in a humorous and thoughtful way I haven't seen in an unabashedly secular cartoon since the "Godfellas" episode of Futurama, Adventure Time star John DiMaggio's other signature cartoon, and in my favorite bit of irreverence, it does so with the help of a masturbation joke that somehow got past the Cartoon Network censors. Not even "Godfellas" whipped such a thing out.
Regular Show's enormously entertaining half-hour Christmas special, creatively titled "The Christmas Special," ranks somewhere below South Park's introduction of Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo, John Goodman's controversial Futurama guest shot as the psychotic Robot Santa, NewsRadio's Christmas episode about Bill McNeal's Santa-suited stalker and Lee Majors' The Night the Reindeer Died as a great piece of unsentimental and irreverent alt-Yuletide TV. Okay, The Night the Reindeer Died wasn't an actual Christmas special, but those two minutes that poked fun at Christmas special excess right at the start of the otherwise not-so-great Scrooged were glorious.
I'm not sure if the Regular Show writers/storyboarders have ever seen Scrooged, but their Christmas special feels like the result of them asking each other, "What if we made a silly, over-the-top Christmas action movie like The Night the Reindeer Died?" As someone who finds the sentimental tone of most holiday TV shows and commercials to be overbearing and lame (and prefers either The Ref, the original Die Hard or any Shane Black-written holiday movie--especially Kiss Kiss Bang Bang--over It's a Wonderful Life as holiday viewing), the unsentimental Regular Show Christmas special is right up my alley. And luckily, the one moment where "The Christmas Special" gets heartfelt is played understatedly: Benson's rival Gene (Kurtwood Smith) glances at a Christmas portrait of himself with his wife and kid--aw, so the ruthless bastard does have a heart after all--while trying to decide whether or not to put aside his differences with Benson and his employees to save both them and Christmas from Quillgin (Thomas Haden Church!), the episode's villain.
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The "Christmas Special" plot has an injured Santa turning to Mordecai and Rigby for help after he and an important item he's been carrying both fall from the sky and crash through their garage. St. Nick has been trying to stop Quillgin, a disgruntled elf who used to design toys for his workshop, from getting his hands on the item, an invention Quillgin created and Santa rejected for being too unsafe. It's an empty red gift box that can conjure up anything that's desired most by whoever opens the box, and Quillgin invented it to eliminate the need for Santa and destroy Christmas forever. He used dark magic to build the box, which turns whoever opens it evil, and in a plot point straight out of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Santa entrusts Mordecai and Rigby with the task of destroying the evil box once and for all. Skips tells the duo that the only way to destroy the impervious box is to throw it into a lava pit that happens to be located inside an abandoned mine shaft on the other side of East Pines Park (I've always wondered which big city Regular Show takes place in, and the amount of snow that covers both parks during this episode automatically disqualifies it from being a coastal California city).
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The amount of Indy and Back to the Future references that series creator and "Christmas Special" co-director J.G. Quintel and his crew inserted into the episode signifies their love for '80s Spielberg--but not the usual highlights of that era of Spielberg. The quest for the lava pit marks the second time Quintel's crew has referenced the Last Crusade climax. As the Topless Robot blog noted in their "11 Nerdiest References in Regular Show" list while praising the show's Last Crusade-inspired gags during the "Eggscellent" episode, "As far as Indiana Jones parodies go, most writers have the tendency to parody the opening from Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy is running away from the boulder, as comedically hackneyed as it is... But it takes a real nerd to find humor in the last scene of The Last Crusade when Indy must choose and drink from the true Holy Grail."
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