Friday, November 27, 2015

Teen Titans Go!: "Black Friday"

Premiered November 19, 2015.

Raven: Black Friday is the one holiday everyone can agree on, because everyone loves a bargain!
Robin: Standing in long lines so you can buy things for 70% off is the ultimate act of love!

At Thanksgiving dinner, the Teen Titans scarf down their food at a breakneck pace.  When Starfire (Hynden Walch) asks why they can't slow down and appreciate the feast, Robin (Scott Menville) announces that they need to move on to the next "holiday": Black Friday!

Much to the dismay of her teammates, Starfire refuses to participate in the consumerist insanity.

Starfire conflates Scrooge McDuck with Ebenezer Scrooge.
She decides to take a nap, but is awakened by ghosts of Black Friday Past, Present and Future, who want to show her the true "reason for the season."

Starfire admires the Ghost of Black Friday Past's "dress."  
Will Starfire find the Black Friday spirit?   Will the other Titans get all the bargain prices on consumer electronics they hope for?  

RigbyMel says:

This short cartoon is hyperkinetic and very funny.   It uses "Christmas Carol" type spirits and tropes in a witty and subversive way.

Cyborg (Khary Payton) and Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) as the Ghosts of Black Friday Present.   Note the "ghostly" background!
I also really like the look of the Teen Titans Go! series in general with its stylized drawings with a bit of anime flavor thrown in.

Although I am personally on Starfire's side of the Black Friday argument, I certainly appreciate the silly denouement of her visits from the Black Friday Spirits.

Starfire is Not Amused.
This short is well worth watching and might even make you think a little bit before engaging in consumerist throwdowns.

RigbyMel's rating:

4 Black Friday sale tags

J.A. Morris says:

I agree with just about everything my co-blogger said about "Black Friday," but I think I liked it even a little more than she did.  It features some good (if unsubtle) social commentary about today's culture of consumerism and how it relates to the meaning of Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, in addition to being a Dickens parody, this episode features some piano jazz on the soundtrack that sounds a lot like Vince Guaraldi's tunes from A Charlie Brown Christmas.  At one point, Beast Boy extols the "virtues" of Black Friday.  This reminded me a bit of Linus' recitation of the Nativity story.  Of course Beast Boy's message is "spend money!"

The Teen Titans chase down the villain Jinx in search of bargains.

"Black Friday" also contains lots of "blink and you'll miss them" cameo appearances of other DC Comics superheroes.  During the consumer stampede, Starfire (literally) bumps into Kid Flash...

...Batgirl, and many others.

This episode premiered last week, but it's already available for streaming on Amazon.
Teen Titans Go! also airs on Cartoon Network multiple times every week, so check your TV listings.

Raven (Tara Strong) appears as the Ghost of Black Friday Future.

There isn't a lot of "Black Friday" programming out there, but this Teen Titans Go! episode is highly recommended.  I generally stay home and avoid malls on the day after Thanksgiving.  On future Black Fridays, I plan to add watching this episode to my non-shopping activities.

J.A. Morris' rating:

4 Black Friday Sale tags!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't

Premiered November 21, 1972.

On Thanksgiving Day, a squirrel tells his son the story of Jeremy Squirrel and the first Thanksgiving.

British settlers arrive in Plymouth, MA in 1620.  The first year is a difficult one, many settlers die. But with help from the resident Native Americans, the colony manages to make it through that first year and the settlers and the natives plan a big harvest feast.

On the morning of the first Thanksgiving, a boy named Johnny Cooke goes out to play "hunter" in the forest.

He's hunting for a turkey when he encounters an Indian boy named Little Bear.  They quarrel over which one is the better hunter.  Jeremy Squirrel arrives and tells the boys they should be friends rather than rivals.  Johnny and Little Bear agree and shake hands.

Peacemaking squirrel. 
The day of the Thanksgiving feast arrives and everyone is working hard to prepare the food.  Little Bear and Johnny go to play in the woods.  Jeremy realizes they'll get lost and he chases after them.

Their parents grow worried.  A search party of pilgrims and Indians sets out to find the boys.  Johnny and Little Bear try to find their way home in the dark, but go in the wrong direction. Luckily, Jeremy finds them and leads them on the correct path.  He gets some of his animal friends to accompany the boys on their journey homeward.

Everything seems to be okay until the boys encounter a wolf!  It chases Johnny and Little Bear with deadly intentions.

Will the boys be saved?  Or will the wolf turn the boys into his Thanksgiving Dinner?

J.A. Morris says:

This is special aired in syndication in the 1970s and 1980s.  But I only recall seeing it once, so I don't bring a lot of nostalgia to this review.   

The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't isn't a great special, but it's okay if you're seeking light holiday entertainment aimed at kids.

The voice acting credits don't really tell you who voiced which character, but this special features some of the greatest voice actors of all time.  It's always nice to hear the voice work of June Foray, Don Messick and Hal Smith.  I'm pretty sure we hear the voice of Thurl Ravenscroft (most famous for singing "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and Tony the Tiger). Some of the background music here is easily recognizable from other Hanna-Barbera productions.  The "chase music"  heard near the end was used in countless episodes of Scooby Doo and it's used well here.

Goofy wolf.
But The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't has problems.  Jeremy and the other animals are cute and likeable, but the human characters aren't particularly interesting.  The wolf that threatens the boys is more goofy looking than scary.

The special also relies too much on recycled animation.  I expect to see some of that in old cartoons, but it's ridiculous in this case.  Sometimes we see the exact same scene a few seconds after we've just seen it.  The special's theme song is catchy, but  it's overused.  We get to hear it three times during the special's 25-minute running time.

The Settlers and the Indians search for the boys.
On a positive note, American Indians aren't portrayed in an ugly stereotypical manner, which is often the case in depictions of the first Thanksgiving.  It's also worth noting that the character Johnny Cooke is based on a real person and his father Francis was among those who signed the Mayflower Compact.

This special is available on dvd.  You can find it as a supplement on Casper's Halloween Special.  In recent years, it's been shown on Cartoon Network and it's sister channel Boomerang, so check your local listings.

The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't is okay, worth watching at least once.  Fans of the aforementioned voice actors will want to check out this special. 

J.A. Morris's rating:

2 and a half pumpkin pies.

RigbyMel says:

This animated special has its heart in the right place, but just doesn't gel for me. As J.A. Morris says above, there is a lot of recycled animation used.  A LOT!  This wouldn't be as big of a deal if the story was better.    There is plenty of drama in the real interactions between early British settlers and the Native Americans -- even if some of it wouldn't make for warm and fuzzy family viewing.

The talking squirrel angle, which is intended to be cute and appeal to the child audience this special is aimed at, feels tacked on instead.  It's also inconsistent.   Why can Jeremy the squirrel be understood by the two boys, but not by the adults looking for them?

Why aren't Johnny and Little Bear more surprised by the talking squirrel?    Why on earth should we care about the silly framing device with modern squirrel and human families that have no interaction to speak of?   It just doesn't quite work for me!  I have no problem with talking animals in cartoons generally, but this just feels unnecessary.

Then there is the song ... which is grating in the extreme,  yet the lyrics are oddly unmemorable.  It's mildly annoying the first time they use it in this special, but the annoyance factor ratchets up as it is repeated.  I think we hear it 3 or maybe even 4 times!

I don't remember ever seeing this special before and I wouldn't recommend seeing it unless you are a huge fan of the voice actors.

RigbyMel's rating:

1 and a half pumpkin pies

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Bob Newhart Show: "Over The River And Through The Woods"

Premiered November 22nd, 1975

Jerry:This is the worst Thanksgiving I ever had.
Bob:I knew it was gonna be bad, but I didn't know it was gonna be this bad this early.

It's autumn in Chicago and Thanksgiving is approaching.

Psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley (Bob Newhart) and his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) are planning to spend Thanksgiving with Emily's family in Seattle.

Elliot Carlin stepping into Bob's office. 
One of Bob's patients, Elliot Carlin is worried about Thanksgiving.  Carlin hates the holidays.  He's still depressed that no one knocked on his door on Halloween and he's dreading Thanksgiving.  With Carlin in such despair, Bob thinks he should stay in Chicago to help his patient.  It also doesn't hurt that he's not terribly enthusiastic about going to see Emily's family in Seattle.

Bob wins a tiny turkey in a raffle. 
When Emily hears about this, she says Bob can do what he likes for Thanksgiving, but she still is going to Seattle without Bob.  Realizing he'll be alone at Thanksgiving,  Dr. Hartley invites his patient Mr. Carlin, and his colleague Dr. Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz) (who has no family) to his house for the holiday. Jerry is excited about watching football on Thanksgiving, because his Alma Mater William & Mary is playing in a televised game.

Bob unsuccessfully attempts to flip a pancake. 
The holiday morning arrives, Bob misses Emily, who always made pancakes for him on Thanksgivings of the past.

Jerry in his W&M sweater,  jug in hand. 
Jerry arrives with a jug filled with vodka and cider (but mostly vodka).  William & Mary is losing their game badly so he takes a drink every time the other team scores.  Mr. Carlin shows up in his usual pessimistic mood.  He has brought a bottle of scotch to go with Jerry's booze.  Bob's neighbor Howard (Bill Daly) shows up as well.  Howard was supposed to spend the holiday with his son, but plans have changed and he is also left alone on Thanksgiving.

The gang watches football.  Carlin comments that this is the worst party he's ever been to.
All four of them are lonely and depressed.  Everyone decides to drown their sorrows in alcohol. They have a tiny turkey, but no one is sure of how to cook it.

Bob drunkenly attempts to order some takeout. 
Will they still manage to have a good Thanksgiving feast?

J.A. Morris says:

It's hard to this episode justice.  The plot of "Over The River And Through The Woods" is basically "Bob Hartley & friends get drunk on Thanksgiving,"  but  there's more to it than that.

Jack Riley is absolutely brilliant here as Elliot Carlin .  He stays in "deadpan" mode throughout the episode while everyone around him is howling drunk with laughter.  Riley's delivery (or lack thereof!) is especially great when he tries to tell knock-knock jokes.

Bob and Emily are usually the level-headed characters surrounded by quirky oddballs.  But this episode shows that after a few shots of alcohol, Dr. Hartley is just as goofy as Howard and Jerry.  It shows that without Emily, Bob is adrift, and she's the real brains of the marriage.

Like most Thanksgiving episodes (including an earlier Thanksgiving episode of this series), food preparation comes into play.  It often involves arguments over how to make the food, but in this case, no one knows how to cook a turkey.  The most important "turkey" moment involves one of this episode's many knock-knock jokes, which I won't spoil.

At its heart, "Over The River And Through The Woods" is another Thanksgiving episode where lonely people find common ground with others and create a "family" of sorts for the holiday.

As an added "bonus," the characters wear 1975 fashions that haven't aged very well.  The clothes increase the comedic value of this episode.  Bob's leisure suit is especially ridiculous.

Gotta love those plaid pants!

This episode is available for viewing on dvd.  You'll find it on The Bob Newhart Show:The Complete Fourth Season.

"Over The River And Through The Woods" is one of the best episodes of The Bob Newhart Show.   It's also one of the greatest Thanksgiving episodes in the history of television.  On a personal note, I quote this episode year-round.  Highly recommended!

J.A. Morris' rating:

4 pumpkin pies!

RigbyMel says:

This is a silly, funny episode of a great show.

I enjoy the drunken hijinks of the cast but question whether they actually would have been televising a football game featuring William & Mary (MY alma mater) on TV in Chicago in 1975.  (W&M is a small school, and football is not their forte.)

Jerry explains how bad the holidays were at the orphanage when he was a kid. 
I also think the deconstruction of knock knock jokes, which is a running gag through much of the episode, is pretty on the nose.

Male bonding over booze.
As J.A. Morris says, we visit the trope of lonely people forming a surrogate family for the holidays in this episode, but with a twist -- of vodka and cider and scotch -- which certainly makes it interesting even if the silliness gets the better of it in spots.

I don't have as strong a liking for this episode as my co-blogger, but it is most definitely worth watching.

RigbyMel's rating:

3 pumpkin pies.