Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.
It's a good week to be The Awesomes. Hulu announced that it's renewing Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker's animated superhero sitcom for a third season, and this week's Awesomes episode, "Tim Goes to School," solidly penned by Late Night with Seth Meyers head writer Alex Baze (who's been killing it on Twitter, whether he's ripping on Republicans or paying tribute to the late Don Pardo), isn't too shabby either. The episode deals with both the formation of the PRICKS (People Really Into Crime & Killing Sprees), a team of supervillains assembled by Malocchio Jr. to take down the Awesomes, and Awesomes leader Prock's realization that the raising of a child without his parents--in this case, Tim, whose ex-mercenary parents are currently under the protective custody of a hero protection program--is a responsibility he needs to be better at.
A new government act that requires both underage superheroes to receive an education and adult superheroes to finish theirs if they dropped out ends up forcing Tim--as well as school dropouts Muscleman and Frantic--to attend middle school, where Tim learns that handling bullies is easy, especially when you can transform into a 500-pound sumo wrestler with amazing strength. Instead of the bullies being the ones at school who are bothering Tim--they wind up becoming his friends after they see him transform into Sumo due to their surprisingly non-race-related verbal taunts pissing him off--it's Prock and the rest of the team who are bothering him with their overprotectiveness. Prock, Impresario, Gadget Gal and Concierge have disguised themselves as faculty to make sure Tim gets through school okay, and Tim's discomfort with having them around escalates into one of those Hulk-vs.-the-other-Avengers-type battles that have become such a staple of the Avengers comics that the Joss Whedon movie version staged such a confrontation aboard the Helicarrier.
Neither white viewers of The Awesomes nor Asian Americans who don't watch The Awesomes because they've been alienated by the comedy shows from Awesomes co-producer Broadway Video (due to SNL's propensity for yellowface and brownface, its lack of Asian American cast members and the particularly rocky year of race-related humor SNL experienced last season) may pay much attention to how The Awesomes writes Bobby Lee's character, but I like the way the show handles Tim and gives him the same type of anger management issues that Arthur Chu discusses in his Daily Beast essay "Model Minority Rage: Why the Hulk Should Be an Asian Guy." It helps that Tim's Asianness (he's half-Korean, half-Japanese) isn't used as a punchline like on Drawn Together or Family Guy. Sure, Gadget Gal, who's basically filter-less Estelle Getty from The Golden Girls in a rejuvenated body, says frequently racist things to Tim, like when she delivers a one-liner about walloping an uncontrollable Sumo right in the "won tons" during "Tim Goes to School" (won tons are Chinese, you old bitch), but The Awesomes frowns upon her racist views instead of adopting them like Drawn Together or Family Guy would.
It also helps that, Gadget Gal's xenophobia aside, the Awesomes team members are likable and the kinds of characters I don't mind spending an animated half-hour with. In his Dissolve piece on why Star Trek V didn't work at all, whether as a sci-fi actioner, as a Star Trek story or as a movie about the letter V, Noel Murray said that the '60s Star Trek has great replay value partly because its cast of characters is pleasant to be around. "The crew of the Enterprise has a believable camaraderie, cut with just enough friction to bring some dimensionality to their relationships," Murray wrote. Even though the Awesomes are animated characters--and even though the voice actors don't appear to have recorded their dialogue at the same time in the same studio, an approach that hasn't hurt Archer, a show where the actors are scattered in different parts of the country and are recorded separately--that same kind of camaraderie shines through in Awesomes episodes like "Tim Goes to School." Plus I like seeing SNL and MADtv alums together on the same show and getting along well: Lee, Ike Barinholtz and Josh Meyers, Seth Meyers' brother--and Barinholtz's one-time makeout scene partner--came from MADtv, as did current SNL regular Taran Killam, who voices Frantic. There used to be an intense rivalry between the East Coast SNL and the West Coast MADtv, but the two camps appear to have buried the hatchet--or maybe amongst the Meyers brothers, Lee and Barinholtz, there wasn't even a hatchet to begin with.
Like Jason Ritter on Gravity Falls, Lee is a couple of octaves too low to be voicing an 11-year-old, but he's good at bringing out the vulnerability of Tim, just like Ritter does with 12-year-old Dipper. Casting them to voice boys is better than getting women to voice them. As good as Regina King was as Huey and Riley on The Boondocks, I still couldn't shake the awareness that a lady was doing their voices. I don't think I'd be as invested in Tim's anger management issues in "Tim Goes to School" if Tim sounded like June Foray as Rocky the Flying Squirrel.
* The biggest payoff of the formation of the PRICKS is not fisticuffs, but another appearance by Maya Rudolph as Malocchio Jr.'s doting mom Lady Malocchio, who shows up at inopportune times to make Malocchio Jr. look far from imposing. I've been wondering why Rudolph's amusing voice as Lady Malocchio sounds so familiar. It turns out that Lady Malocchio's voice is basically the voice Rudolph came up with for her obscure SNL character Glenda Goodwin, an attorney obsessed with Bigfoot. "Aired one or two times, I think, but was [co-creator] Mike Shoemaker and my favorite voice of all her voices. When we asked Maya to play the part, the first thing she said was 'Lemme guess, Glenda Goodwin?' She was right," said Meyers to Entertainment Weekly.
* Now that Prock has a girlfriend (Amy Poehler's lawyer character Jaclyn Stone), everyone's been throwing themselves at Prock, from a hot teacher at Tim's middle school (Cecily Strong, who replaced Meyers on Weekend Update) to Muscleman's sister Abby. The Bento Box animators did a good job with Muscleman's expression as he realizes that the shirtless pic of a bodybuilder that he glimpses on Prock's phone is not a pic of himself.
* "Tim Goes to School" doesn't contain any Zack Morris Time-Outs from Prock. I don't miss them.