Expert Witness Comment for the Week

Suppose I’ll have to grab this “Bob’s Burgers” thing, as much of a longshot as it seemed. After all, it was 20 years ago this year I had similar surrender to “the Simpsons” on CD.

And I do have to note that it was “The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse,” two years before the Simpsons, that finally picked up that a main thing missing from latter-day cartoons was zippy, unforgettable music themes.

(Incidentally, I’m with Bob on the value of the cartoon itself — really has its moments, approve of overall intentions, but can’t remember a time I actively sought it out.)

Dawn Breaks Over Marblehead: Doom Patrol and Teen Titans

I mentioned the Doom Patrol years ago, but ignorantly didn’t understand how Beast Boy ended up in the Teen Titans. Then this week I saw a Teen Titans episode where they were battling an updated version of The Brain, the leader of the Doom Patrol’s archenemies, the Brotherhood of Evil. Waaaait a minute! How could I have dipped into Teen Titans for years (and enjoyed what I saw for the most part) and not realized they were an obvious reboot of the Doom Patrol! D’OH!! I mean, the Robotman/Cyborg parallels should have hit hard as a smack from an iron fist. The only character that’s halfway a stretch (so to speak) is Elasti-Girl = Starfire … and I now see there’s even been comic-book crossovers that I missed entirely (along with virtually all mainstream comic books since the ’90s). So everything makes sense now and there is a “later” Doom Patrol that I like. Whuddaya no.

R.I.P.: Joe Harris, Who Made Underdog an Over DAWG

Another animation super-pro who had a long career and life. I don’t even begrudge him a phrase that probably helped ruin the health of who knows how many. And hey,  — [revision alert] one of my favorite kids jokes is under investigation since the original version I heard had nothing to do with rabbis, which would have meant nothing to me. {EDIT EDIT: The person I contacted who was around with me when we giggled at the joke said my memory was simply faulty — we were told that a rabbi was “a Jewish priest” and that’s what mean next to nothing. It does flatten the joke of course, but just the kicks are for Trids part was haw-haw enough. WHEW Over-explanation over.}

But Underdog stands out as having the exact dash of MAD satire to it. And one of the very best show themes in the history of cartoon TV:

Beware, there’s an odd number of bogus versions out there … this is like all variants.

(Notice how many buildings prominently display TV antennas. I now keep track of the three or four rusting, hi-tech roof antiques I know in our neighborhood. The past isn’t gone until it’s gone, right?)

Killer Jokes

I’m up and down on Emily Nussbaum (to put it mildly), but she nails crucial points here.

I have a Cartman magnet on the fridge and I loved “South Park” for the first few years. But I haven’t watched it in a long, long time and see no reason to start. Nussbaum identifies the deep-seated problems with the show: first, it’s too damn sexist (ever since Mary Kay Bergman offed herself in 1999, all the female characters have been props), but more important, it only frees the mind and soul up to a point. Like a lot of libertarian knuckleheadedness, it assumes it will never actually have to run things — Hillary will win, of course. But things don’t always go that way and Parker and Stone are all too likely to end up producing hate cartoons at gunpoint.

Is the Absurd Always Funny? That’s Absurd!

I’m getting a sense that there’s a rash of new animations that throw repeating characters (with too-flexible personalities) into bizarre, absurd, surreal situations that they try to play for laffs. The earliest example I noticed was “Pig Goat Banana Cricket”


But I’ve noticed at least a couple others since. Not funny enough for me, mostly. Stronger comedy is driven by character, not zany, what-the-hell’s-next situations.

PS: Aha! I see one of the co-creators is Johnny Ryan who was unavoidable in comics-world around here 20 years ago because he was supposed to be so indie and cutting edge. What a disappointment. A completely mechanical and flattened re-tread of Underground Outrage. Oh, well — at least the animated MAD was better than anybody had a right to expect. File this next to the Fritz the Cat movie.