Wednesday, May 8, 2013

5-Piece Cartoon Dinner (05/08/2013): Apollo Gauntlet, Bob's Burgers, American Dad, Animation Domination High-Def and Dogsnack

The Ewok wants to watch. Don't forget to bring the Vaseline, Wicket.
"Maganda!," thought the Ewok. (Photo source: American Dad Wikia)
Every Wednesday in "5-Piece Cartoon Dinner," I dine on five of the week's most noteworthy animated shows. The episodes are reviewed in the order of when they first aired.

YouTube comments sections are often moronic forums where almost everyone either simply repeats dialogue from the video above without much regard for correct spelling or hurls racial slurs at each other or at some black or Asian person in the video. Only occasionally will some of these sections take a pause from the trolling or Chappelle's Show frat-boy-viewer-style parroting of catchphrases to raise a good point, like when several posters in the section below "Hey Guys, It's Me," the latest Apollo Gauntlet installment, noted that it feels like the show skipped an episode that would have explained how Apollo tracked down the fortress of Corporal Vile, the villain who most likely sent a robot to capture the Princess.

Despite the disjointed feel of "Hey Guys, It's Me," series creator/voice actor Myles Langlois gets in a couple of amusing moments here, like Apollo's comparison of the henchmen's movements to "tai chi for dummies" and Dr. Benign's awkward retraction of his understandable perception that Prince Belenus, who sees Apollo as his competition for the Princess' hand in marriage, and the Princess are brother and sister. If the Prince is indeed related to her and is totally Jaime Lannistering for her affections, then ewwww.


Bob's Burgers is usually the highlight of the Fox "Animation Domination" lineup, but this week, it's been bested by American Dad's special 150th episode. I initially found "Carpe Museum," which centers on Bob's first time to chaperone the kids' museum field trip, to be underwhelming (especially in comparison to "Boyz 4 Now"), despite the way that Linda's protest chants sound exactly like the Tom Tom Club's "Wordy Rappinghood" ("Boys are from Mars, girls are from Venus!/I've got a yum-yum, you've got a penis!") or the enjoyable interaction between Bob, Louise (who accidentally slips out that she wants to inherit the restaurant from Bob) and asthmatic Rudolph Steiblitz (Brian Huskey), a.k.a. Regular-Sized Rudy. On second viewing, I like "Carpe Museum" a little more and better appreciated how the episode, during its subplot of Tina's attempts to get everyone else to notice that her field trip partner Henry (Jim Gaffigan) is dorkier than her, nails the arrogance of nerdy school kids who think the graphic novel or fanfic they're going to write will change the world ("Maybe you just don't understand it?... There's 17 installments, and you really need to read them in order, which you haven't, so I doubt it.").

I also better appreciated how well "Carpe Museum" uses most of the secondary characters, from Teddy, whose clinginess to the restaurant never gets old, to inseparable twin brothers Andy (Laura Silverman) and Ollie (Sarah Silverman), who, at one point, both turn to a weirded-out Bob for help when they need to blow their noses (on Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, H. Jon Benjamin was continually pining for an uninterested Laura Silverman, while on Bob's Burgers, he'd rather not be near her and reluctantly has to help her blow her nose). Ollie blows his nose on Bob's vest, which is a moment I'm all too familiar with because I've seen little kids blow their noses on other people's clothes, and when I was a kid, I was frequently attacked by a much younger kid who liked to leave his snot on other people's shirts. That kid grew up to become Owen Kline in the school locker scene in The Squid and the Whale.

Other memorable quotes:
* Bob: "So how did you survive eight years of being stuck with Mr. Frond?" Linda, TV's most entertaining functioning alcoholic who's not an Archer: "Wine Thermos."

* Louise to Pocket-Sized Rudy: "Jeez, Rudy, quit sneaking up on people. Wear a bell."

* Louise: "Hey, Mr. Frond! Why did the chicken cross the road?... So he would be in a different school district where there's a different guidance counselor!" Bob: "Louise... don't say that... here."

* The flirtatious, Margaret Dumont-voiced museum director (Brooke Dillman): "Your skin should be its own exhibit." The equally captivated Mr. Frond (David Herman): "Well, your hair should be sent to an Asian wig factory."


I'd hate to find out what the alien pizza toppings are at this mall's Sbarro.
(Photo source: American Dad Wikia)
"Lost in Space," American Dad's epic-looking 150th episode and the first to not feature either Stan or Francine, proves that the show is the best of the Fuzzy Door cartoons at handling pathos, in addition to being the company's funniest and strangest show. The episode pulls off the once-thought-to-be-impossible feat of making me give a shit about Jeff (Jeff Fischer), Hayley's dim-witted and not-very-interesting stoner husband. He's the focus of "Lost in Space," which checks up on Jeff's life as a space slave, after Roger, who's been having too much fun scamming the people of Earth with his various schemes, sent Jeff away by shoving him into the alien mothership that was supposed to take Roger back to the birth planet he no longer considers home.

Anybody who's ever dreaded shopping mall work will enjoy how the aliens' idea of slave labor is not to have Jeff push a giant wheel of pain but to have him work the counter at a Shawarma Hut in an alien shopping mall within the ship. The next time we see the Rura Penthe prison planet in one of Bad Robot's Star Trek movies, there ought to be a shot of a prisoner groaning in agony because the Orange Julius blender he's been put in charge of has started to break down.

Jeff pushes for his freedom by submitting himself to a test presided by Emperor Zing (Michael McKean). The test is to see if Jeff's love for Hayley is genuine, and if he passes it, the aliens must return him to Hayley. If he fails, he won't be freed, and Jeff will have to be subjected to what all the other male slaves on the ship (including an Andorian from Star Trek) have experienced: a "smoothening." In other words, his dick will be snipped off and kept in a fish tank. Sinbad (voiced by none other than Sinbad himself), Jeff's Shawarma Hut co-worker, as well as the only other human slave, unbuttons his pants to show the results of the smoothening, and the sight gag reminds me of the controversial intro NBC deleted from the series premiere of The Richard Pryor Show.

I'm not big on hippie bands--"Wait a minute, what about your De La Soul drawing that you use as your Twitter wallpaper?," you might ask, and then I'll say, "Yo, De La's not a hippie band, you possibly Republican dumb fuck who hasn't listened to a rap record since Young MC's 'Bust a Move'"--but I like the original score that Wax Fang provided for this episode. The smaller-scale and sometimes dreamy-sounding cues the band wrote and performed are a huge departure from the orchestral sounds of regular composer Joel McNeely and are quite effective in establishing the alien feel of both the ship and the episode (along with the imaginative character designs for the ship's various alien species).

Wax Fang's offbeat 2007 ballad "Majestic" fuels the highlight of "Lost in Space": the visually stunning, Defending Your Life-esque sequence where a singing alien official called the Summoner gets the Majestic, the giant creature in a pit that probes the test subjects' minds and displays their memories, to plug its tentacles into Jeff's mind, and the Majestic shows the other aliens Jeff's worst and laziest moments as a boyfriend and husband to Hayley (like when a mugger held him and Hayley up at gunpoint, and he left Hayley alone with the mugger). A frequent gag on these Fuzzy Door shows is to have a teenage or adult character erupt into tears and run away from the room while regressing into a four-year-old (a gag that's reprised here with a drunk alien who fails to pick up a female bartender). But when Jeff tears up from watching on the Summoner's big screen how much of a dick he was to Hayley, "Lost in Space" doesn't play his sadness and regret for laughs, and the Wax Fang song builds up pathos more effectively than the strained, All in the Family-style attempts to be serious during another similarly risky and equally quasi-dramatic 150th episode of a Fuzzy Door cartoon, Family Guy's "Brian & Stewie."

Of course, the test is rigged every time by Zing, who's been ordering the Majestic to project only the slaves' least flattering moments and not their better moments. The emperor is so bitter from being two-timed by his own true love--who turns out to have been Roger, which explains why he switched places with Jeff at the last second back on Earth--that he's been taking it out on his slaves and "waging a war against love." Sending Jeff away to a slave ship and having him fight Zing and his minions to get back home to Hayley both force Jeff to step up as a grown-up. The change in scenery does wonders for this previously inconsequential and one-joke character, although he still doesn't think through some of his actions (I chuckled over Jeff forgetting to tie his rope to an anchor before plunging into the pit to reason with the Majestic on his own).

But the MVP of "Lost in Space" is Sinbad, who's been poking fun at his own stalled acting career ever since his guest appearance with singer Rob Thomas on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and continues to do so here--to genuinely funny results--in this episode, which posits that the former Different World star disappeared from the Hollywood radar because these aliens captured him. So if Katt Williams' 15 headline-making, store employee-abusing minutes should someday be over and he suddenly drops out of the public eye, he probably wound up manning the counter at Zing's Shawarma Hut.

Memorable quotes:
* Sinbad, regarding the shape-shifting alien bartender voiced by frequent American Dad guest star Paget Brewster: "She's hornier than Kadeem Hardison. I'm talking when his glasses were flipped up."

* Jeff to the shape-shifter, who's taken the form of Hayley: "You look like her, but you're not her. I mean, I didn't learn to read for you or stop eating my scabs for you or start to pee sitting down so I wouldn't wake you up!"

* Sinbad's last words (in corporeal form): "Jeff, when you get to Earth, do me this one last solid... Clear my... Internet browser history."


For most of its running time, "Pug Lord," the latest Animation Domination High-Def short, is hilarious only if you're either a 14-year-old, a grown person who thinks the tough-talking pug from outer space is the funniest thing about the Men in Black movies (it isn't) or a gangster genre fan who worships Scarface (Carlito's Way is better). The short doesn't really take off until it reveals that the doggie drug lord is actually an undercover cat who's tired of his drug lord cover, by far the most amusing part of "Pug Lord."

The only other noteworthy bit about "Pug Lord" is the pug character design created by pug-obsessed British cartoonist Gemma Correll. The following cartoon by Correll would make for an even funnier animated short than "Pug Lord."

The pug would rather sniff Vida Guerra's ass. Or Kim Kardashian's ass. Or both.


This week, the Rug Burn Channel's Dogsnack, the continuing saga of a gassy man and his farts' tendency to either injure him and his dog or kill them both, doesn't get interesting until it switches to live-action. The hands of Dogsnack creators Lynn Wang (is that her voicing the dog earlier in "Fruit Snack"?) and Ed Skudder start to perform fart and vomit gags with fruits (the fake outtake of Skudder taking his anger out on the fruits after a scene goes wrong is a nice closing gag). It's a very Mr. Bill-like moment.

Speaking of Mr. Bill, I kind of miss seeing the accident-prone castrato turn up in advertising. I learned from his (and Mr. Bill creator Walter Williams') official site that he appeared in a dream sequence on Medium a few years ago, with Patricia Arquette playing the part of Mr. Hands. Mr. Bill should have really done his homework and should have been made aware of how a badly bloodied Arquette took down James Gandolfini with a corkscrew, a toilet lid, a porcelain bust of Elvis, a makeshift flamethrower and a shotgun in True Romance before agreeing to share the screen with her.

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