Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Those 90s Shows

You know what "Tiny Toon Adventures", "Animaniacs", "Pinky and the Brain" and "Freakazoid!" all had in common? They were all not very funny most of the time.

They were all shows where I fell in love at first sight with each, the concepts were all very clever. Hipper, younger versions of Looney Tunes, a megalomaniacal mouse, a wacky superhero with a teenage computer nerd alter-ego, and some whatsits being random, they were all shows that had a lot of potential, and you could see that Stephen Spielberg had a touch in adding the little extra twist to make them initially stand out.

But where the conceptcreated so much hope and shone with potential, the execution of each show seemed to fall flat more often than not.

Take "Tiny Toon Adventures" as an example, though a lot of what I'll say applies to the rest. They never allowed themselves to simply do something funny or make a joke without being totally self-aware that they were "doing the pie in the face bit" or going through the motions of parodying Goldilocks and the Three Bears or some other fairy tale. While the idea that they lived in the land of cartoon clichés was a cool concept, and did make you think about how the Looney Tunes creators cartoons would have come up with the original cartoons, it also put Tiny Toon Adventures into a box where they would go for the exploding cigar joke that's already been done, make a knowing reference to the fact that they weren't being terribly original, and move on to Babs doing a straight Joan Rivers impersonation for no reason. This had the effect of putting the range of possible events and twists into a box where easy references were the path of least resistance over having to come up with a new gag or joke.

Checking off a list of pop culture touchstones is not the same thing as being funny.
The writers also seemed to have the habit of writing over the audience's heads, but not in a way that adults found some subtle reference incredibly funny while it slipped by a child viewer's attention unnoticed, rather they tended to use the audience's lack of sophistication as an excuse for lack of depth in their satire.

Subtlety was never the order of the day with this show, even when they did reference something that your average viewer wouldn't be familiar with, like a skit where a character chases after a kite that has a life of its own similar to The Red Balloon, the heavy and unflinching style shift told you that they were doing something that you don't recognize, but maybe should, so you'd better keep your mouth shut about saying it's not that funny lest someone accuse you of not being smart enough to 'get it'. This is a crime of lazy writing committed by many a show written for adults, to be sure, but it seems a little more unfair when dealing with such a young audience.

As for the other shows, "Pinky and the Brain" was too repetitive, "Animaniacs" took what I just said about Tiny Toons and magnified it tenfold, being painfully self aware and never letting the fourth wall back up for a second, and "Freakazoid!" tried to tell me that Ed Azner playing a character that looked like Ed Azner was somehow a joke in itself. No. It's not.

Granted, each of these shows had their moments, and if they ever get around to releasing "Freakazoid!" on DVD I'll definitely buy it, but I really must confess that my memories of the show were more of my excitement at first seeing them and imagining what they could do with these brand new cartoon shows than for how they each turned out.

By al - 9:55 PM |

millionth comment:

My favourite Tiny Toon Adventures skits were the two They Might Be Giants covers.
There might have been more than two, I dont remember.
Those were sweet as hell.

Particle Man

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
i loved pinky & the brain, however, there was a reason why i was less enthused to see it as time wore on.
Out of all the shows we only watched Tiny Toon Adventures. We loved them and we still have several of the shows on VHS.

I see what you're saying.
say what you will...I still have a soft spot for the Animaniacs episode when they spoofed "Les Mis"...maybe it wouldn't be so funny now but at the time I thought their "Les Miseranimals" was brilliant.
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