|And then Elise tore off her clothes and reenacted Sandra Bernhard's crazy monologue from The King of Comedy.|
Back in September, I caught most of the series premiere of Nickelodeon's CG-animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This reboot of the '80s indie comic-turned-cartoon is noteworthy for bringing back to the franchise '80s and '90s TMNT voice actor Rob Paulsen, who, when TMNT exploded as a merchandising phenomenon, was four years away from getting the chance to work with better and funnier animated material as the voices of Yakko, Pinky and Dr. Scratchansniff on Animaniacs (but on this new TMNT, Paulsen voices Donatello instead of his old role of Raphael). I might have liked this TMNT reboot if I were 12, but because I'm not 12, eh, it's not so appealing to me. The only other TMNT episode I've caught is "It Came from the Depths," the latest installment.
|(Photo source: TMNTPedia)|
However, there's one genuinely funny gag during "It Came from the Depths," and it has nothing to do with the episode's boring plot, which reintroduces mutant alligator Leatherhead, a Killer Croc-ish character from the old show. Ninja Turtles leader Leonardo (Jason Biggs) is a fan of Space Heroes, a popular sci-fi cartoon that's a mash-up of Filmation's barely animated version of Star Trek from the '70s--a show I first caught on Nickelodeon!--and Hanna-Barbera's Sealab 2020. The cel-animated clip of Space Heroes is a great animation industry in-joke from episode director Juan Meza-Leon about how stiff and crappy the animation looked on the Trek cartoon. The Space Heroes clip even resembles an actual episode of the Trek cartoon, "More Tribbles, More Troubles" (but here, the Tribbles make honking noises instead of purring sounds and are called "Trumpets"). They even nailed the Trek cartoon's strange, Ingmar Bergman-esque two-shots of Kirk and Spock! That was one of Filmation's famously lazy-ass ways of restricting the animation to just mouth and eyebrow movements.
|(Photo source: TMNTPedia)|
As someone who got involved in writing a few pieces of Asian American fiction (one published, the others either unpublished, unfinished or read by barely anybody) to help take away the power of the Jason Biggses of the world, I think it's kind of sad that the only current action show with an Asian American lead as the main hero is a kids' cartoon where he's voiced by Scott Wolf and the heroes cheesily shout aloud reverbed I-have-the-power incantations like "Tatsurion the Unchained!" and "Scaradorable of Gloom Hollow!," a kids' show-ism that usually makes me fumble for my remote. I initially didn't think I'd be able to withstand the TV-Y7-rated Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters, but in spite of its kids' show-isms and occasionally clunky dialogue, the Hasbro Studios cartoon has grown on me. The fact that it's rather nicely animated by the Korean studio MOI instead of poorly animated like the '80s versions of G.I. Joe and Transformers sort of helps, along with little touches like the attention to Ray's biracial background, the lead duo's names of Bob and Ray (c'mon, man, that's gotta be a shout-out to Chris Elliott's dad and his late comedy partner!) and Bob's words to Ray when he wishes him luck in part 2 of "The Rising," the first-season finale.
"Don't forget: bob and weave," says Bob, a.k.a. Tatsurion, to Ray in a rousing callback to the battle instruction from Ray that was misunderstood so badly by Tatsurion in the series premiere that it wound up becoming his nickname.
Ray doesn't kill his cruel nemesis the Choten like I wanted him to, but with the help of the other Duel Masters, their kaiju sidekicks, a resurrected Sasha (Kari Wahlgren) and even his newly-outed-as-a-Duelist mom, Ray's able to foil the Choten's season-long plan to open the Veil that the Order of the Duel Masters keeps sealed in order to protect Earth from the creature realm. Alakshmi (Grey DeLisle), the Shane Vendrell of Kaijudo, continues to get screwed over, even after finally wising up about her evil boss and deciding to help Gabe thwart him. She's rewarded for her moment of clarity by winding up a prisoner in the Fire Civilization, where the Fire God excites a coliseum full of bloodthirsty Fire Civilization creatures by declaring war on Earth.
Of course, nobody watches Kaijudo to see these humans make out. We tune in mainly to see kaiju wreak havoc on each other, and "The Rising, Part 2" delivers plenty of kaiju rampaging on each other (and emerging from the opened Veil to attack Earth during some of my favorite epic shots of the series), although Guillermo del Toro's robots-vs.-kaiju epic Pacific Rim, which hasn't been released yet but has just dropped an amazing-looking trailer, is already making Kaijudo look like a bunch of rough notebook doodles.
Dan Vs.' high school reunion episode doesn't quite nail the boring part of high school reunions, but it gets plenty right about the awkwardness of them and the amnesia that befalls the attendees. Dan's best friend Chris, who likes to go on and on about his popularity in high school and his propensity for snagging awards and ribbons for academic and athletic achievements, can barely get anyone at his reunion to remember him.
Meanwhile, Dan, who wasn't invited to the reunion, tries to crash the party (while Elise uses her espionage skills--and wedgie skills--to attempt to prevent Dan from ruining her husband's big night). But Dan's vengeful schemes to sabotage the reunion with scorpion infestations and old volcano science project lava end up entertaining his classmates instead of upsetting them. It turns out that Dan was the class prankster, and his brand of mischief was more popular and beloved on campus than Chris' half-Max Fischer/half-Tracy Flick thing. Oh yeah, and Dan actually was invited to the reunion, but the invitation got lost in the mail--haven't his classmates heard of Evite?--because Dan's had to change addresses so much (landlords keep evicting him because he's such an uncooperative tenant).
"Dan vs. Gigundo-Mart," was a sign that "Dan vs. the High School Reunion" was going to be as entertaining as Dan's pranks, and it's filled with great lines like Dan's snarky reaction to the wack dancing in the gym where the reunion is held ("I have better moves than that when I'm tasered"). Perhaps an even bigger surprise than the role reversal of Dan the angry loner basking in all the cheers he receives for his BMOC days and Chris the relaxed and happily married suburbanite regressing to the angry loner he used to be is The Hub's decision to broadcast an episode about an attack inside a school (although it's a comedic one where harmless lava is the weapon) the day after the Sandy Hook massacre.
It's funny to see a kids' network be gutsier than either Syfy, which yanked a Haven episode about school violence (while Showtime proceeded with its massacre-related Homeland season finale but added a disclaimer to reassure viewers who are still upset about the Newtown tragedy), or Fox, which yanked American Dad's new Christmas episode because it didn't want to be labeled insensitive for airing a story of a demon who punishes naughty kids so soon after Newtown. Only a moron would associate a magic-wielding demon with Newtown. What's next? ABC Family pulls Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory because kids get punished in that story too? Do viewers need to be condescended to like this? Hey, non-premium channels, a lot of us are able to distinguish between fiction and reality, alright?
During "The Stranger," a psychedelic-looking, 2001: A Space Odyssey stargate sequence-referencing installment of Tron: Uprising, the series answers the questions "What's the deal with this Cyrus cat who helped Tron escape from Dyson?" and "What is this past mistake of Tron's that Able keeps hassling Tron about?" It turns out that this past mistake is Cyrus (Aaron Paul, sounding not at all like Jesse Pinkman), the original Renegade and Tron's first protégé, until he went mad and was exiled to the caverns beneath the Outlands, where he remained a dirty little secret that Tron kept from Beck before his re-emergence in "The Stranger."
While handling an errand for Able, Beck gets lost in the Outlands and is abducted by Cyrus, whose appearance in "The Stranger" shoots down my theory that Beck is a repurposed Cyrus. The stranger can walk on walls--the first of several great surreal touches in this trippy episode--and is rocking facial markings that resemble a Mike Tyson-style (or if you're extremely nerdy, Romulan miner-style) facial tattoo. He pretends to be benevolent and tries to persuade Beck to join him in "freeing every living program" in The Grid.
Adam Horowitz brought over from their work on Lost and Once Upon a Time), and attempting to figure out the mysterious backstories of Tron, Beck and now Cyrus is among the most enjoyable aspects of watching Tron: Uprising. "The Stranger" clears up a couple of theories I had about Beck's origin, while leaving unresolved another theory of mine: Tron and Able must have created Beck to replace Cyrus as the Renegade and gave him the identity of a garage mechanic program who works for Able. In other words, Beck is what the late Robin Harris used to refer to as a "test-tube baby."
|(Photo source: People of MotorCity)|
But there are still people who don't view robots as intelligent beings worthy of respect and were never affected by Star Trek: The Next Generation's famous "Measure of a Man" episode. One of those lone holdouts is Texas, the only Burner who thinks of Roth as nothing more than a bucket of bolts that can sometimes double as furniture (like with Julie, Texas can't even get Roth's name right and amusingly keeps calling him "Ralf"). So when Texas loses a wager he made about his outcome at the end of one of the Mama's Boy gang's "Robo Rodeo Roundups" at their arena, he doesn't take the other Burners' feelings about Roth into consideration and carelessly hands over their robot buddy to the Mama's Boys to pay off his debt, which breaks the other Burners' hearts and causes them to launch a rescue mission to retrieve Roth.
|(Photo source: Heading Back to Bass...)|
|A cameo-filled scene from Megas XLR|