|This new version of Voltron sucks. (Photo source: Haunted Realm)|
Gravity Falls, "Irrational Treasure" (from August 21, 2012)
Pacifica Northwest down a peg after she insults Mabel's tastes for quirky sweaters and nacho earrings and hurts her feelings during the town's Pioneer Day festivities, Dipper and Mabel find their ammo when they uncover evidence that Pacifica's great-great-grandfather Nathaniel Northwest, the supposed Gravity Falls founder, was a fraud. In doing so, the Pines twins stumble onto a government conspiracy revolving around the actual town founder, Quentin Trembley (series creator Alex Hirsch), whose achievements were erased from history because of his disastrous term as the eighth-and-a-half President of the United States.
"Irrational Treasure" writers Hirsch and Tim McKeon go crazy with their alternate history of America, which provides hilarious explanations for Abraham Lincoln's top hat (it concealed a giant head that was shaped like a hand), Mount Rushmore (it's in the Easter egg below) and the replacement of Trembley with William Henry Harrison. In the top-secret government film watched by Dipper and Mabel, the Chris Parnell-voiced narrator tells of an out-of-it leader whose nutso behavior--reminiscent of Parnell's Dr. Spaceman character and his non sequiturs on 30 Rock--earned him the moniker of "America's Silliest President" ("He waged war on pancakes, appointed six babies to the Supreme Court and issued the De-pants-ipation Proclamation").
Adventure Time, "Lady & Peebles" (from August 21, 2012)
The recent Adventure Time episodes "In Your Footsteps," "Princess Monster Wife" and "Goliad" seemed to indicate that there's a recurring theme of reproduction and procreation this season. The revelation that Jake's girlfriend Lady Rainicorn (Niki Yang) is pregnant with Jake's raini-pups at the end of the highly entertaining "Lady & Peebles" confirms it.
|(Photo source: The Adventure Time Wiki)|
So I had no idea that the voice of George Takei would turn up halfway through "Lady & Peebles" in the form of a disembodied heart that's kidnapped Finn and Jake, whom Lady and Princess Bubblegum are trying to rescue. In this episode, Takei reprises his villainous Adventure Time role of Ricardio, the Ice King's talking heart (I haven't seen Ricardio's prior appearance on the show). Because I grew up watching Star Trek, Takei's distinctive voice is like an old friend. When I caught the 2007 Justin Lin mockumentary Finishing the Game on DVD and Takei's baritone made a surprise cameo in a clip of a fake '70s martial arts flick, my brain applauded, and it did the same thing when Ricardio emerged from the shadows with Takei's voice.
|(Photo source: Captain Kabluey Loves You Too)|
I can also see broadcast network execs objecting to how PB kicks the shit out of Ricardio so badly he's left with bruises on his face. It's an amusing scene in which PB the gentle science nerd gets to unleash a warrior side as she literally stomps all over a heart, and it's not Finn's this time. The fact that PB fights dirty is yet another hint that this 19-year-old princess might take a turn towards evilness years from now. We've seen her bad temper and her demonic state when she was possessed by the Lich, who had coffee with her in Finn's nightmares in "King Worm" last week, and we've been made aware that her DNA begets evil offspring like Goliad. The show has chosen to have Finn age in real time--and now, it's turning Jake and Lady into parents--so I wouldn't be surprised if it allows PB to evolve into a villainous ruler.
Babies are usually the death knell for a show, but Adventure Time is so weird and so confident in its weirdness that the sight of a bunch of half-canine, half-rainicorn babies crawling around Ooo won't have such a ruinous effect on this show. It's like on The Simpsons. Apu and Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon had eight babies, and look what's happened since then. That cartoon hasn't jumped... no, wait.
Adventure Time, "I Remember You" (from October 17, 2012)
Someone in the A.V. Club comments section astutely noted that Adventure Time is basically "a bunch of fairy tales about mentally ill characters trying to find their way in the Land of Ooo." As a newcomer to Adventure Time this season, I've witnessed a buttload of material about mental illness since I first caught "Princess Monster Wife," the third Adventure Time episode I ever saw and the first one I wrote about. "Princess Monster Wife" had the Ice King behaving like a serial killer and cutting off body parts from princesses to create his new wife. In "BMO Noire," Finn and Jake's robot buddy BMO fabricated for himself a fantasy life straight out of a film noir to keep himself from being lonely. "Princess Cookie" centered on a Candy Kingdom citizen who lost his cool and held a bunch of convenience store customers hostage before finding peace in a mental institution with the guidance and help of Jake, while Princess Bubblegum similarly came to the aid of an equally unhinged character, the Earl of Lemongrab, and attempted to teach him how to improve his social skills in "You Made Me."
"I Remember You," Adventure Time's latest short, deals once again with the Ice King's mental instability. While there are funny bits of Ice King nuttiness like the ditty he sings to one of the Gunters to the tune of the "Daddy, why did you eat my fries?" song that Marceline the Vampire Queen (Olivia Olsen) created in "It Came from the Nightosphere," "I Remember You" also finds unexpected pathos in the old man's condition and presents a tragic side to these characters that the series somehow manages to pull off whenever it briefly hits pause on the kind of surreal comedy I've come to enjoy from Pendleton Ward's offbeat creation.
|(Photo source: Adventure Time Wiki)|
Simon's amnesia may hit close to home for adult viewers who know a loved one or elderly friend who's succumbing to Alzheimer's, particularly during the off-putting joyfulness he expresses while singing aloud passages from a letter he doesn't remember writing to Marceline back when the crown was beginning to ravage his mind. "This magic keeps me alive/But it's making me crazy," sings the king, who's joined by a teary Marceline, "And I need to save you/But who's going to save me?"
Damn, Adventure Time, how do you do it? How does your often farty ass morph from absurdist fun (dig John DiMaggio's terrific impression of his former Batman: The Brave and the Bold co-star Diedrich Bader when Jake channels Batman: "Your constant harassment of the female gender makes me sick!") to genuine tragedy so smoothly and without coming off tonally as schizophrenic like a certain bearded king?
And I haven't even gotten to how peripheral Finn and Jake are in this episode yet. Some of Adventure Time's strongest shorts contain very little of Finn and Jake ("Thank You" and now this episode) or don't involve the duo at all (the gender-swapping fan favorite "Fionna and Cake"). With minimal dialogue, "Thank You" followed an unlikely friendship between a Snow Golem and a Fire Wolf Pup that the golem enjoys having around as a pet despite the danger of melting from the pup's touch. That holiday short so captivated Cartoon Network execs (they're not always jackasses, "DC Nation" block fans) that they released "Thank You" theatrically before it aired to make it eligible for the Oscars' animated shorts category that year, although in the end, it didn't make the final list of 10 nominees. Like "Thank You," "I Remember You" is a surprisingly affecting story about friendship that's worthy of being honored with some bling--just as long as it's not a crown that makes its wearer go crazy.
Regular Show, "150 Piece Kit" (from October 31, 2012)
On a very bitchin' Regular Show, an unknown part of park manager Benson's past is unveiled when Hair to the Throne, a metal act that's legendary for featuring "the most epic drum solo in history" on their first album, comes to perform at the park. Because Mordecai and Rigby view their uptight and temperamental boss as a terminally uncool gumball machine, they don't buy a single word of Benson's insistence that he was the uncredited drummer who performed that famous solo, which required 150 pieces of percussion (including a gamelan) and is impossible to re-create. "I heard some guy in Denmark tried," says Rigby, "and his skeleton caught on fire!"
The scummy members of Hair to the Throne have instead given credit for the solo to a drum machine called the Drumotron VI, a move that--what else?--pisses off Benson and spurs him to challenge the Drumotron to a drumming duel on the night of their park concert. Benson could have taken the hair band to court, where many of these musician credit disputes are handled, but that doesn't usually make for engaging animation. When Mordecai and Rigby catch the musicians sabotaging Benson's drum kit, the duo changes their tune about these ex-colleagues of Benson's they once idolized.
|(Photo source: Regular Show Wiki)|
Benson's solo is amusingly absurd ("360-degree ascending sky cage?!," says the Hair to the Throne frontman in disbelief as Benson continues soloing in that very cage) and cosmic in scope. It concludes, of course, with a giant cymbal strike emanating a Star Trek VI Praxis explosion-style shockwave that sweeps through the park and knocks the toupees off the heads of the Hair to the Throne bandmates.
Too bad John Henry didn't have any six-foot-tall bluejays, raccoons or albino Yetis as his friends because they would have totally had his back when he was trying to beat that steel-driving machine.
|"Coca-Cola tastes like donkey piss, bitch!," says Pops. (Photo source: Regular Show Wiki)|
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.
|(Photo source: Regular Show Wiki)|
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).
|(Photo source: Regular Show Wiki)|
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."
|(Photo source: Regular Show Wiki)|