My Favourite Christmas TV Specials

Via: IGN

OK, yes, I mentioned some yesterday, but those were live-action specials, not the animated kind.

When it comes to animation, there is invariably the holiday special because, well, kids don’t notice, but adults (and networks) do. They are inevitably set around Christmas time of the year and may involve either an escapade based around the presents or one based around Santa.

Sadly a lot of them are somewhat formulaic although when it comes to the whole concept, there’s not a lot of ways you can deviate from the expected.

The Simpsons gives us a great Christmas story in the ‘Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire’ which also happened to be the premiere episode way back in 1989. Instead of the usual kids-and-Santa focused antics, it very much laid out the fact that Homer had to struggle his way through Christmas, including taking a job as a department store Santa. This was certainly a deviation from the norm and is worth of a lot of praise for exploring a fact that is rather glossed-over in this country.

On a side note, there is the other Matt Groening Christmas film, Olive, the Other Reindeer which although very much simpler in form than The Simpsons, also contains little nuggets of adult humour. It’s also worth checking out if you happen to find it on TV over the holidays.

As for my favourite Christmas special, well, that one would be Futurama. “Xmas Story” is rife with all the usual quirks that Futurama has become known for. Being set in the year 3000, Santa is actually a robot who’s sensors have been set to high and thus everyone is judged to be ‘naughty’ and is killed on sight.

The episode does go off in a whole load of silly directions with the concept (including Fry indulging in a bit of Harold Lloyd-esque clinging to a giant clock) but in the end, it epitomises the whole idea of Christmas bringing people together and being thankful for what you’ve got.

Well, looking a that list, it’s fair to say that it is pretty much completely dominated by Matt Groening. He has a monopoly on my favourite Christmas shows! Well, no he doesn’t, there are dozens of specials aimed specifically at kids but I cannot recall them all at this point of the morning. Perhaps next year I can list off my favourite cartoon Christmas specials instead.

A Comparison Between The Jetsons and Futurama

Via: Cinemafique and Ten.com

I am obliged to acknowledge my girlfriend Alicia for the inspiration for this post.

Here we have two of my favourite cartoons that happen to deal with living in the future. One was created in the 1960s and is set in 2062, the other ostensibly the late 1990s and thereafter and is set in the year 3000. Both shows make light of the fact that technological advances have not necessarily made life easier for the human population.

The nature of each shows conception and production play an important role in understanding why each show is the way it is. The Jetsons, created by Hanna-Barbera is clearly the polar opposite of The Flintstones. One is set in the future, the other in the past. However that is where the similarities end. The Flintstones played on the fact that even though they are set in the Stone Age, the characters enjoy all the modern conveniences a real person would. The Jetsons on the other hand is much more a flight of fancy towards the world of tomorrow.

Futurama, while also aimed at prime-time audiences, does not share the same utopian view. In New New York, the culture is rather like the one of today. There is plenty of chaos, but there is also plenty of enjoyment to be had from living in the future. Whereas The Jetsons limited themselves to robots, Futurama goes a step further with aliens.

Granted, the two shows aimed for completely different audiences, and as a result, the humour tends to be quite different. The Jetsons centres very much on the nuclear family, with a hard-working husband bearing the brunt of any comedic escapades that occur. Futurama centres instead on a lazy bachelor and his cohort of work chums who happen to be just as lazy and/or self-centred as himself.

Each show has its own comedic traits so it’s not really fair to directly compare jokes, although both shows make heavy use of the unexpected results from using technology, either through George Jetson getting hauled around by the robot who dresses him or Fry who has a hard time adjusting to the fact that the Moon has been turned into a place with a theme park on it.

Both shows represent the era in which they were created quite well. The Jetson is full of Googie architecture that epitomized the optimism of the future. This was back when we were all supposed to be living on the Moon by the year 2000 and robots and/or automation would take care of our every convenience.

Futurama rounds on these beliefs a little bit, but that is more because we have been told the same thing over and over again since the 50s and we still haven’t sent a person back to the Moon. While we are somewhat awed by the advances of technology in Futurama, we are much more affected by the laughs we get when said technology goes awry, or indeed when it does something completely unexpected.

It is perhaps not really fair to compare two shows that are so vastly different in nature. They are aimed at different audiences, were created at two completely different points in American history and culture and represent two extremely different views of the future.

The Jetsons is also set much closer to the present (currently 52 years away) whereas we still have a whole millennium to go before we get to that time period. That is part of the reason why Matt Groening and David X. Cohen set it that far into the future. Their reasoning was that we have no idea what life will be like after 1,000 years and that makes it all the more believable and expands the opportunities for ideas and laughs.

Personally, I think Futurama is the closer one to the real future, what with all its snarky humour, and yet the Jetsons remains one of my favourites, if only because it is at this point, a throwback to what people expected the future to be like and also because the humour is more akin to The Flintstones. Both shows are entertaining predictions of life in the future that in their own respects, are right.

A Scary Dream I Had the Other Night

Via: Stuff We Like.com

Not the kind of blood-curdling, shivers down the spine stuff you understand, Hallowe’en is over for another year after all, but scary nonetheless. In it, I was in a film, a rather peculiar film in that it was a lice-action/CGI hybrid version of that classic Disney cartoon, DuckTales.

Yes, you read that correctly. How it came about, I do not know, although I sure hope it is not a premonition of some kind that is a window into the future. As an animation fellow, that would be unthinkable, a crime against humanity even!

Well, since then, I’ve been pondering the whole thing on and off and I’ve come to the conclusion that such a feature may well be within the realm of possibility for the foreseeable future for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Uncle Scrooge is one of Disney’s most successful characters (he’s had his own comic since the 50s after all). I could probably still recall the many, many comics I read as a kid at the kitchen table as I ate my breakfast and supper. The original stories by Carl Barks and the more recent stuff by Don Rosa continue to attract fans the world over. So it is safe to say that the character is far from being hung out to dry.

Secondly, such a film would not be the first time that Disney has capitalized on the character or universe. The TV series DuckTales was, for the most part, the adaptation for animation of some of Barks original stories. The series was massively popular and gave rise to a sequel in the form of Darkwing Duck.

What set DuckTales apart from other shows was the cinematic quality of the animation. So much so, that when a theatrical film was released (The Treasure of the Lost Lamp) the difference in quality was imperceptible to my untrained (at the time) eyes.

That film, apparently didn’t fare too well at the box office, which was a shame but not entirely unexpected. If I had to suspect a reason it’s that not too many adults watched the show, and thus were not as familiar with it as they could have been. By comparison, SpongeBob Squarepants had a pretty large adult following (including both parents and trendy college students) by the time a theatrical film was released. This ensured that it had a significantly larger potential audience than if it were just kids and their parents.

So, why would now (i.e. within the next few years) be a good time for a new film?

Weeeeeell, anybody who watched the original show is probably in their mid to late-20s with the cut-off being 30 years old, for the most part. With that in mid, they’re probably starting to get married and having a few kids. As humans, we’re suckers for nostalgia, why else would they play classic rock and 80s synth-pop on the radio?

There’s a good chance that since all the original viewers have grown up and now have kids of their own, they will be hungry for some link to their youth. A DuckTales film would be perfect and with the recent rash of live-action/CGI movies, it would fit the glove quite nicely for such a production.

I write all this in a somewhat sarcastic manner as I believe such a movie would be most likely horrendous. Why on earth I dreamt it in the first place is beyond me and while I would like to see some new animation from the Duck universe, a live-action/CGI film is certainly not on my list of possible ideas.

The Wall Street Journal on The War Between Disney and Nickelodeon Over Pre-Schoolers

Thanks to Cathal Gaffney for tweeting this interesting article from the Wall Street Journal. You might want to grab a cup of tea (or coffee) before you read it. I’ll wait.

Back? OK, good.

The point of the article is that Disney and Nickelodeon differ on how they think pre-school children should be programmed for. Nick believes firmly in educational programmes whereas Disney is soon to switch to more story-based shows. The article makes it out like the two are locked in an epic battle for eyeballs that have absolutely zero purchasing power. Although that is not telling the full story, is it?

Of course not. it’s made quite clear that parents are the real ones being courted. Yes, there are the Jesuit ideals at work (get them young and they’re customers for life) but the networks seem to be pandering to parent’s wants even more. As is pointed out, there has been a shift in what parents desire for their kids. A decade ago, they wanted them to be well educated, now they want them to be happy.

What I think is that as parents, they should be spending more time with their kids! Why? Well, the programming may have a lot of educational content, but as pointed out in the article, the top advertisers during said programmes are the fast food and toy companies. Now there is nothing wrong with that, per se, however knowing how much TV kids in the US seem to watch, it can’t be a good thing.

Something that I admit kind of floored me was that 40% of Nick Jr’s viewers watch between 8-11p.m. What the #$%^(*&? When I was that age, I was lucky to stay up past 8, let alone up to 11!

I am not trying to disparage the idea of educational, pre-school TV shows, I did after all, watch Sesame Street religiously for years until I went to school.However, I also watched plenty of Postman Pat and Thomas the Tank Engine too. The point is that I enjoyed a good mix of programming, it wasn’t skewed heavily in either direction.

On the other side of the fence are the networks, who will come up with the relevant facts to prove that their content is beneficial, such as this from the article.

“Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” a new series launching in February, follows a group of kids who get into adventures with Captain Hook. Even though Hook is a bad guy, Jake still invites him to play at the end of the episodes, an important social lesson, Disney says.

Yeah right. From my own recollection, kids on the playground will heed their peers when it comes to including and excluding other kids from play. I did it and I was on the receiving end of it too and all the time I don’t recall using what I saw on the TV as a guide as to my behaviour.

Well, I take that back. once I told another kid to “get lost” as in an Oscar the Grouch way and man, did I get hauled up to the teachers desk, from where I had to make a very, very public apology to the entire class. I learned my lesson after that experience!

What worries me most is that the whole point and benefits of pre-school programming will be lost in the scramble to win parent’s affections and dollars. Responsibility for a child’s upbringing should rest with the parents. Networks are in the unenviable position of having to balance the need for high-quality programming with the need for earnings from advertisers. So far they’ve done relatively well. Should a war break out, we all know who will suffer the most.

The Mythical Banned Episode

Via: The Golem Universe

During a quick perusal of my favourite bookmarks this morning before I began typing this, I read a remarkable post over on Fred Seibert’s Blog concerning a “banned” episode of the hit show Dexter’s Laboratory. Apparently even Fred didn’t know about it, so he called up the one and only Genndy Tartakovsky (someday maybe I too will have a famous person in my phonebook [sigh]).

As it turns out, it does exist and wasn’t broadcast because of the amount of (bleeped) swearing. Now what the swear words were, I do not know. I doubt they were the really serious kind although they probably weren’t suitable for a an audience of children.

Which leads us to the whole mystery of so-called banned episodes of shows. Why would an episode be “banned”? Why would the creators even be allowed to make the episode in the first place, if there is even a slight chance that it wouldn’t make it to air?

It’s hard to tell. Sometimes a script will appear OK but once it is finished, it might seem worse. A more likely culprit is that the people directly supervising the show are fine with it but once someone higher up sees it, they might use their superior executive powers to veto its broadcast.

Some people wonder how a company can afford to lock-up these episodes, especially considering that animation is not the cheapest form of production. The reality is that one episode does not a series make and the company will often take the hit because if the episode were broadcast, it could face untold fines from the FCC. Remember the whole Janet Jackson SuperBowl™ incident? Yeah, we all had a good laugh at that in Europe; the lawsuits are still ongoing over here. That pretty much speaks for itself.

The rumour-mill also seems to have this ability of elevate such episodes to near mythological status among fans. Titbits of information here and there is often interpolated to mean that it is the most awesome episode ever in a holy grail kind of way. Of course once these episodes eventually make their way onto the airways or internets, they are of no better quality than the ones that were broadcast.

The interesting thing is that when people call a show or episode “banned” today, they really mean that it simply wasn’t broadcast by the network. This is not the same as being banned. In the past (and especially for those poor folks in a non-free country) a banned piece of property or information meant that you were not supposed to have it under any circumstances and you were likely facing some jail time if you were caught.

Ditto for many old cartoons considered “banned” today. A few examples come to mind in the form of Coal Black and De Seben Swarfs, which is due for potential release next year, Song of the South, which is not really considered “banned” but is widely known to be a regrettable reminder of the past for the Walt Disney Co. Contemporary examples include the aforementioned Dexter episode as well as numerous South Parks and Family Guys.

Another aspect to consider is that all of these were withdrawn by their respective studios/parent corporations. None were deemed by the government to be offensive (although during the war years, the government did air concerns about the vulgarity of some of the shorts emanating from Hollywood and Termite Terrace).

In the grand scheme of things, “banned” episodes of TV shows are rareity, although they are far more prevalent in the US as a result of the diversity of the population and the relatively strict nature of broadcast regulations. Sometimes they really are worth trying to see, but it is good to remember that they are often over-rated and have often hidden away for good reason. Having said that, I kind of would like to see Dexter cursing now 🙂

Why Laugh Tracks Are Unnecessary in Cartoons

Via: Connexions

So last night I sat down to listen to a CD called Bugs Bunny at the Symphony. Which, as you might expect contains various orchestral music from Bugs’ Looney Tunes shorts in much the same style as Bugs Bunny on Broadway. All I can say is that it’s great to hear the scores being played by an orchestra, especially with all the modern digital mastering an all that.

As I was listening to the music (which I was also simultaneously playing in my head), everything started to fall apart when I realised there was a laugh track included. Now, its my understanding that the CD is supposed to be a live recording of Bugs Bunny on Broadway and as a result, audience reactions are included because, well, the audience reacts to the shorts as you would expect them to. What bothers me is that, well, its a CD! I can’t see anything and its really difficult to laugh when your only cue is the music.

I recommend you check out the CD if you like the music of the old shorts (and who doesn’t), which is nothing short of sheer brilliance.

But enough of that, today’s topic is about laugh tracks and why cartoons in general don’t need them. two things first though: being European and therefore cultured (I kid, I kid) I must say that the whole idea of a laugh track is rather ugly. I once watched Everybody Loves Raymond and I could’ve sworn the laugh track came from a different show as I didn’t hear a single joke the entire episode.

Secondly, there is the good kind of laugh track, which is one where the reactions are those of a real audience who is watching the show. As far as I know, this type is rare in the US but is commonly used by the BBC for their sitcoms. It’s a much superior version in my mind and produces much more realistic results.

So why is it that you don’t really see cartoons with a laugh track (any more)? Well for one, cartoons are inherently more visual than live-action shows. Sure, there are some wordy puns and one-liners, but for the most part, we get a laugh from seeing characters get hit over the head. That signal replaces the need for an audio prompt.

Cartoons, especially those aimed at a younger audience, employ this to great effect and have done so for many years. Although the humour in those does tend to be a little bit more direct so that even kids can understand what’s going on.

Shows for older folks have also escaped mainly as a result of creator’s insistence (The Simpsons) or just because it was felt to be unnecessary. Live-action shows include a laugh track because they were (originally) broadcast live in front of a studio audience. Animation has never had that luxury (as pointed out to Homer, live cartoons place a terrible strain on the animator’s wrists).

My theory that because we know animation cannot be conducted “live” we therefore don’t expect to have a studio audience participating in the broadcast. An exception was The Cleveland Show’s recent “live” broadcast, although in that instance, it is clear that the show’s setting has been changed in order to be reminiscent of the old prime-time shows of yore.

The Flintstones is a lone exception as it does contain a laugh track (although from my own viewing experience, only some episodes/seasons do). I’m sure the reason it is included is so that the show felt more in-line with the live-action shows it attempted to copy and back in the 60s, that meant including a laugh track. As you may have noticed, this makes the show seem somewhat more dated than it should be.

I like to believe that the main reason cartoons and animation don’t usually have laugh tracks is that they contain a higher standard of comedy than their live-action counterparts. The lead-in time for animation means that everything must be planned out in advance, writing an animated show requires a different set of skills, the ability to drop an anvil on a charcter and have him walk away and the ability to design your show to fit your needs al combine to collectively result in an altogether different and higher brand of comedy. One that can safely and reliably dispense with the need to tell its audience when they heard a joke.

Is It Really the End of Creator-Driven Cartoon Shows?

Via: The Terror Drome

Amid over at Cartoon Brew has written an excellent and well thought out editorial on the decline of creator-driven shows. He pretty much hits the nail of the head when he says that the glory days are over, with the current crop of shows on The Hub as well as the upcoming Nickelodeon show based on the Sketchers shoe line ushering in a new era of corporate assembly line properties. While I believe that this is certainly true, there are a few important things to consider that I suppose are too long for a regular old comment.

Firstly, The Hub is a brand new channel, competing in a market where the competition is fierce (albeit friendly enough for the live-action shows). The Cartoon Network has struggled as of late, relying instead on a desperate (?) push into live-action shows that is highly unlikely to edge them into the number two spot.

In the face of all this, The Hub is attempting to establish itself as yet another competitor. Based on the old ratings for Discovery Kids, it has a hell of a hill to climb if it is to reach any kind of meaningful market share. With that in mind, the overarching influence of its toyetic line of shows should not be overestimated.

Secondly, although the new shows in question are established, they have been somewhat irrelevant for at least the last decade or so. As a result, they way as well be starting from scratch in terms of audience.

Will kids even care what these shows provide? My guess is probably not. Anyone who grew up on 80s cartoon fare seems to have a rose-tinted view of them nowadays, but when you actually sit down and watch the likes of the Snorks, He-Man, etc, etc. and compare them to what we have now, they can’t hold a candle to the likes of SpongeBob Squarepants.

Which brings me to another point. The yellow sponge has been so successful for two reasons: the show is creator-driven and Nickelodeon was very careful and clever in how they marketed the show (including cashing in with a theatrical film at the peak of popularity). These two things acted as a kind of synergy and together have ensured that the show has stayed in the minds of the public for over a decade. Nickelodeon is surely aware of this and their continued production of creator-driven shows (such as T.U.F.F. Puppy and Fanbuy & ChumChum) should serve as a reminder that such shows are still being made.

I do not see all of this as an end of the creator-driven era however. Talented animators will continue to emerge from schools and obscurity. Creator-driven content wil continue to be made either for TV or otherwise. Amid is right in pointing out that there will continue to be fragmentation of the viewership as a result of the internet. This does not, however, preclude that people will stop wanting to watch animated TV shows.

Someone will come along and figure out how to make money doing it. I can understand the natural anxiety about the disappearance of traditionally animated shows in favour of flash, but I think that is being overly pessimistic. Hollywood didn’t disappear as a result of television (although it took them a heck of a long time to figure out why people actually go to the cinema) and television is unlikely to disappear as a result of the internet, at least in the short term.

Amid’s article is refreshingly honest in its sincerity and the comments on the post are surprisingly full of hope for the future. Far from the end, I believe we are entering a new and exciting chapter in the story of short-form animated entertainment. The beginning way be tough, but we will all warm to they story once we’ve all settled into it.

Why You Should Listen to This Podcast With Voice-Actor Scott McNeil

Via: Wikipedia

First of all, who is Scott McNeill? Well, if you think he looks Australian, then you are correct, he was born there, much the same as my good chum Mr. Elliot Cowan. Certain folks out there will be familiar with his work in Tranformers (as Bumblebee) whereas others may know him from the literally hundreds of anime shows that he has done over the years. I discovered him through his work as the paranoid emo alien Stork on the Nerd Corps. series, Storm Hawks.

Scott’s an incredibly talented, genuinely funny guy who is a real character in his own right. He’s a veteran of the industry and has this podcast is chock full of insightful., witty anecdotes from his time in the Vancouver scene. He also makes some excellent, decent points on the use of celebrity voice actors and he throws in a few horror stories for good measure.

The podcast contains plenty of discussion about the nature of the animation industry in Vancouver and how it differs from that of it’s California neighbour. Scott also has plenty of tales of how he managed to get his break in the industry and how he manages to keep a full schedule in an industry where unemployment lurks after every project.

It’s also great to hear from such a down-to-earth character talk candidly about life in an industry where some of the heaviest hitters rarely seem to get a similar chance for discussion.

The podcast was originally part of the A3U (Ages 3 and Up) series that has sadly vanished from the interwebs hence the lack of a link back to the source. It’s just over an hour long but I can guarantee you there is hardly a boring minute in the entire thing.

Click here to download the mp3 instead.

There’s Much More to Animated TV Than The Big Guns

The Octonauts (Chorion & Brown Bag Films) via: The BBC

As a subscriber to Animation Magazine, I read a fair amount of news and reviews from the realm of animation. In the course of the 12 months of the year, I receive two issues that I particularly enjoy. The first is the one before the Academy Awards brimming with ads “for your consideration”, which I duly consider just not in the capacity the studios are thinking. The second is the one directly before/after the MIPTV conference in France where hundreds of TV shows are bought and sold to networks all around the world.

What stands out for me is that the issue is a reminder that there are many, many studios and production companies around the world involved in animation. Sometimes we, here in the US (myself included) see to concentrate only on the big three (Nickelodeon, Disney and Cartoon Network) when it comes to animated TV shows.

The latest issue is packed with ads from companies all over the world, with an increasing number coming from the likes of South Korea, China and India. Many more come from the UK, Ireland (I saw Brown Bag Films mentioned) and France. Some of the studios are part of a production team with another company or rights holder whereas others are pushing their own wares in the hope of getting picked up.

The mix is still skewed towards creator-driven stuff, but this being a commercial market, there are plenty of toy-based shows as well. Of course, this segment of the animation industry has been the same for years as independent players are more likely to rely on merchandising to recoup their costs.

As I scan over many of the ads, there are often more than I few that I wouldn’t mind seeing, or at least having a more detailed look at. Many show promise, but there are only a few that will make it through to production and/or broadcast.

I don’t really have much of a point for this post, except that the multitude of ads placed by companies from around the world are a sure reminder that animation on a worldwide scale is still extremely healthy. There is a plentiful supply of shows and the people to sell them, always an encouraging sign. 🙂

Why Do They Turn Movies Into TV Shows and Not The Other Way Around?

I originally wasn’t going to pass much comment on the practice, at least not now, but recent days have brought multiple stories to my attention that deal with the subject. Namely the fact that FOX has picked up the Napoleon Dynamite series I mentioned a while back and Cartoon Network (?) has picked up the How to Train Your Dragon series that has been mooted since the film became a hit.

For the record, I’m not a huge fan of the practice. If done right, it has the potential to be great, however as we all know, films are made on a different level than TV shows and it’s extremely rare to find commonality between the two.

It seems that people are willing to put up huge sums for a feature film but can be notoriously tight when it comes to TV. The reasons may extend all the way back to when William Hanna and Joe Barbera were forced to cut every conceivable corner in order to get their animation on the tube. Things are much better nowadays but on a per minute basis, features far outstrip shows in terms of cost.

Disney is perhaps the finest artisan of the craft as they have turned their feature films into series fairly frequently in the past. The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules and Lilo and Stitch are just a few off the top of my head.

All of these TV shows had the original film to give them a legup when it came to their TV debut and I suppose that’s the core of the issue. While you need a huge amount of publicity to get a feature film launched, it generally only faces direct competition from other films. TV shows on the other hand, must compete with all the other TV shows on all the other channels out there for attention. Granted, things are slightly simpler for children’s programming, but it seems that the chance of hitting the jackpot with a TV show is much harder than a feature film.

Another aspect is viewer expectation. TV shows generally develop their characters over time, whereas a film needs to do it fairly quickly. For some reason, people seem have rather different expectations of how a character should appear in a film if they have already appeared on TV. It doesn’t help matters that there may be a completely different set of writers behind the film who may not have been involved in the production of the TV show. I want to put his down to simply the amount of time we, as the viewer, can tolerate certain characters. Sure, someone like Billy may be funny for 22 minutes, but could you watch him for an hour and a half? That might be a tough one.

Having said all that, it is possible and it can be repeated, provided that the right factors are in place.

The best example ever is SpongeBob Squarepants, who ruled the airwaves long before is appearance on the silver screen. How did he manage this? His success is partly the result of being an intensely complex yet likeable character but also the result of a production process that rewarded creativity and the creator. It also helped that the overall parent company of Nickelodeon also owned the film studio Paramount Pictures.

There is a stark contrast to The PowerPuff Girls Movie. The characters are equally complex and likeable and I feel that Craig McCracken created a genuinely decent show on a par with Ren & Stimpy. It’s journey to the big screen was much more tortuous than the yellow square and the particular parent conglomerate of the studio is notorious for the infighting within its divisions. Long story short, the film did not get the attention it so badly deserved from either the studio of the public.

In the end, it ll comes down to attention. Box office films get tons of free publicity as a result of their premieres, screenings and so forth. TV shows seem to whimper into existence without much fanfare beyond the channel itself, relying instead on fans of the show to sing the praises. Entertainment folks love attention and from what I can tell, fans count for zilch in Hollywood.

I firmly believe that a good TV show can be a great success at the box office and that it is a practice that is not done often enough. Regardless, I would much rather see creator-driven shows than shows based off movies on my TV.

 

Why Cleveland Brown Himself is the Only Great Thing About The Cleveland Show

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We all know that the Animation Domination block on FOX has been on somewhat of a slide in recent years. The glory days with the Holy Trinity of The Simpsons, Family Guy and Futurama have long since passed and sadly attempts to improve the variety of the block (such as with Sit Down, Shut Up) have not ended well. Nowadays, we have The Simpsons and an hour and a half of Seth McFarlane for company on Sunday nights.

Last season it was the turn of Cleveland Brown, a side character in Family Guy, to strut his stuff in his own spin-off show. There was rampant speculation at the time on whether or not he was worthy of such an accolade. Yes, it’s true that on Family Guy, he plays a deathly boring character whose only reason for existing was to be the butt of jokes (as if he needed any worse luck when it came to bathtubs). However, with his own show, Cleveland has been forced to add a bit of depth to his character, although he does so at the expense of everyone else in show.

The key to any good show is the interaction between the characters. In most shows, said characters normally have personalities distinct enough that they bounce back and forth off each other. A great example is The Inrcredibles, where the family members constantly clash with each other as their different powers take flight.

In The Cleveland Show, you have the typical “nuclear” family; husband, wife & kids. So far so much the same as Seth’s other two shows. You have Cleveland’s biological son, a simpleton who never has much to say, his adopoted daughter who seems to exhibit some of the worst traits of being a teenager and his adopted son, who acts like a much brasher version of Stewie from Family Guy. Donna would seem to be a good match for Cleveland in terms of character, but she has yet to have near as much airtime has him.

As for Cleveland’s buddies, let’s just say they all have one defining trait and we’ll leave it at that.

Which leaves us with Cleveland himself. What has changed about him in his transition from side-characters to main protagonist? Well for one, he has a lot more screen time, so he has a heck of a lot more talking to do. Besides that, he is still somewhat hard to pin down. He’s a devoted husband and father, but he is not averse to getting them into obscure situations that involve, say, a shootout.

He displays a higher level of intelligence than previously, although that may be the result of actually being more involved with the show. He is an optimist at heart, always looking for the good in folks, although that does not preclude him from having negative opinions which he does dispense when it suits him.

As the centre of the show, he naturally gets involved in a lot more activities than his family, and he has some genuine funny moments. The fact that he even displays a lighter side (perhaps even a colourful one) is a significant indicator that he is the most developed character on the show.

Cleveland Brown is, however, not a decent enough reason on his own to watch The Cleveland Show. The girlfriend and I gave up at the second ad break last Sunday, simply because the effort required to stay up didn’t justify the awesomeness that is sleep. If you, however,  enjoy a show with only one half-decent character, The Cleveland Show will do the job.