Hey! Did you know that The Hub has TV programs that aren’t My Little Pony? It’s true! The brand new network is actually trying to cater to a large variety of demographics by exploring all sorts of ideas! And I watched them! Was it worth venturing outside the MLP-sphere to engage in the network’s other shows? Read on and find out! Ratings are based on a percentage of MLP enjoyability.
Strawberry Shortcake: I suppose this was going to be the secondary, young-female-aimed show that was geared to compliment My Little Pony, but Cartoon Brew and the internet thought otherwise. Still, on it’s own, Strawberry Shortcake is flat, stuck in its limited CGI animation and first-grade sensibility to do anything even kinda interesting. This episode involved Orange (all of the characters are named after fruit) being obsessed with re-creating a resort setting at home, since the resort they planned to attend was closed. It’s somewhat amusing to think that Orange was losing her collective shit trying to match a pitch-perfect makeshift resort in their own backyard, but it wasn’t nearly as crazy as one would hope, and Strawberry gave her a typical “we’re friends, so whatever we make will be fine” speech, which calmed her down. They sung and stuff and all was well.
MLP Percentage: 8%. The main issue seems to be that this show should be two 11-minute segments instead of one full 22-minute episode. There isn’t enough “stuff” for that length of time. Rainbow Dash’s and Pinkie Pie’s voice actors are present, so you can kinda imagine those two ponies clopping around as well. But there’s no “there” there, and I suppose young girls would be coloring or playing Barbie’s while this show played in the background.
The Twisted Whiskers Show: The first animated show aired on The Hub, The Twisted Whiskers Show is a bizarre attempt to re-capture the random-compilation shorts era of the 90s, but with new, cheap CGI content. The results are mixed. It’s practically impossible to adequately create the squash-and-stretch timing and pacing of hand-drawn classics, so the voiceless, wacky shorts suffer greatly. The 30-second visual gag-teasers were forgettable, and a short involved a dog protecting his master’s garden from a genetically-altered rabbit had no hope pushing past its graphical and comical stiffness (also, it didn’t make sense most of the time). However, one short, involved a talking, sophisticated cat who gets locked out of his master’s house, was crazy enough to be enjoyable. Focusing on smaller character quirks seems to work better for the CGI, and it was interesting to see the contrast of knowledge the cat had about his home inside vs. the world outside. Not great, but strangely appealing – if creator Bill Kopp knew any better he’d focus on making odder shorts instead of trying to capture the charm of the classics.
MLP Percentage: 38% This rating is kinda off, due to how the show is segmented, but to clear it up: it’s one semi-enjoyable short with 3 other mediocre ones.
The Super Hero Squad Show: This show is goofy, and it’s hard to imagine young boys actually admitting to their friends that they watch this. The character models are disconcerting; they’re adults masquerading as kids, creating this kinda dwarf-midget effect. The plot of this particular episode was problematic, which involved Silver Surfer redirecting a lasershot fired by Dr. Doom, which inadvertently hit their airship. Everyone blamed Silver Surfer directly and quite dickishly, but NO ONE knew that the redirected shot would hit their ship prior to the occurrence. It wasn’t his fault, but everyone bullied him like it was (man, don’t we have a campaign against this behavior? It gets better, Silver!), and he ran away to find a place to fit in. Then plot happened, he got caught, then… well, stuff, but it ended with no redemption of either the Silver Surfer (which wasn’t needed) or the other heroes (which was). It has a clever comic book/geek sensibility with some fun references here and there, but it’s has a very “man, I can’t believe I’m watching this” vibe.
MLP Percentage: 39% While I would need another episode to confirm, this show seems to have trouble in defining it’s core themes and lessons for children. There’s a reason why rote-learning-experiences are reused so often in kids shows; trying to break that mold actually seems to create more problems then not. MLP has the same issues at times (“Over a Barrel”, anyone?).
Transformers Prime: This is one of the shows The Hub probably expected the boys to flock to. The CGI here is a little tighter, and the close up shots of the various Autobots are surprisingly detailed, with light reflections, dings and scratches, and variations of paint colors. I was immediately turned off by the random inclusion of three human kids, though. There’s no reason for them; in fact, they actually create MORE problems by their own inclusion in the plot, which consisted of the Autobots transporting a dangerous weapon across the country. This episode seemed to involve introducing a new enemy outside the Decepticons, called MECH, which is kinda cool and actually justified why humans* should be involved in a show involving fighting robots. The action was pretty flat though, but I think that has to do with the straight-forward plot and less with the animation.
MLP Percentage: 56% I actually realized by watching this that I have, and always had, little interest in the fighting robot scene. There’s really nothing too it other than watching metal clang and explode. Don’t get me wrong, I love shit exploding and fighting as the next guy, but watching robots do it is kinda monotonous and silly. If Transformers Prime involved more human* conflicts, there maybe a deeper show in the works.
*ADULT humans. Those kids need to die.
GI Joe: Renegades: I’m aware a lot of people hate this show by the change of its premise: The Joes should not be outlaws, but awesome AMERICAN soldiers. Still, looking past all that, this is a fairly ambitious if bogged-down piece of entertainment. I happened to catch a 2-parter which created an origin for the ninja Snake-Eyes, and developed a backstory for a new anti-Joe squad. I kinda enjoyed the increase in overall stakes, and the animation worked, in a sub-par-Avatar-but-still-passable kind of way. The story kinda huffed and puffed its way through, and it was hilarious how everyone kept asking Snake-Eyes questions despite the fact he COULDN’T TALK BECAUSE HIS THROAT WAS CUT. It mistakes a gross misunderstanding as a complex conflict, and while it’ll create some interesting villains in the long run, it reeks of “we’ll be laughing about this later!” goofiness.
MLP Percentage: 60% All the characters were cookie cutter but this was the first cartoon I’ve seen where Duke, the leader, acted like a real leader. He didn’t just spout commands and save the day. He reacted to the constant and changing situations of the mission and his crew. The last time I’ve seen this was in Whedon’s Firefly with Malcolm Reynolds. It’s in good company.
Dan Vs: This show seems completely anathema to The Hub’s overall direction. This show is also what Allen Gregory should have been like. Dan, the main character, is a paranoid psychopath, who, upon getting annoyed with something, immediately wages an unholy war against it. It’s a funny premise, although it’s tricky to pull a 22-minute length comic bit against a concept, especially when you already beginning at level 10 in terms of reaction. (Ex: In “Dan Vs. Dancing,” it begins with him trying to blow up a dance studio. How do you get bigger than that? By kidnapping him and tossing him in a ghost town filled with dance-talented zombies!) But Dan is relentless in a sub-Master Shake kinda way, and the secondary characters are soft/crazy enough to “stick” with Dan despite his insanity – which is always hard to maintain in the realm of “why would anyone hang out with this guy.” There also seems to be some attempt to continuity, as the last episode simply ended with his cat missing. I would think they’ll be coming back to explain that.
MLP Percentage: 76% It’s a pretty crazy show, goofy enough to work fairly well, although it seems scatterbrained at times.
Pound Puppies: It takes a while – and I mean a WHILE – to stomach the awful Flash animation style, but if you can get past that, and the pretty basic premise, there’s actually a really charming show here. What makes this reboot work so well is that it doesn’t skirt the “orphan” angle here. The various canines that emerge from the Pound Puppies HQ are simply eager to be loved and accepted by their new owners, and that love isn’t always reciprocated. The dogs are innocent, and mostly are made worse by their owners, which is true in real life. One episode included a dog who believed his value as a pet was only in winning dog shows; another consisted of a dog who cheered on a newcomer pet despite the real fact he’d be replaced by her. It’s surprisingly deep for something that shouldn’t be, and on occasion has even more depth that MLP at times. (Yeah, I said it.)
MLP Percentage: 94% If you ever lost a pet due to a tough decision or because of higher authority decreeing it, it’ll hit close to home. It’s also somewhat amusing (in a cute, classic way), and I actually will add this to my MLP weekly watch. Speaking of which…
SURPRISE REVIEW: MLP, Season 2: I’m actually really surprised people are enjoying this season in any way, despite the fact that it’s slowly becoming the pandering, shallow show that season 1 did such a good job to avoid. “Secret of My Excess” and “The Return of Harmony” were charming and inspired, but all the characters, who were more than their stereotypes, are becoming their stereotypes, to the point that they’re putting people’s lives in danger; Twilight’s insanity in “Lesson Zero,” Pinkie’s lack of responsibility in “Baby Cakes,” Applejack’s pride in “The Last Roundup,” and Rainbow Dash’s eccentricities in “May the Best Pet Win” AND “Mysterious Mare Do Well.” Rarity didn’t threaten any lives, but she’s definitely went from caring-with-high-tastes to arrogant drama queen. And Fluttershy… well, not for nothing, but she was fairly one-note in the first season. I kinda figured there wouldn’t be too many episodes starring her in this season.
MLP Percentage (based against season 1): 42%. Sorry, I’m not feeling this season at all save for one or two episodes. Conflicts should come from ponies coming into conflict with each other or legitimate forces, not childish personal issues based on life lessons – that’s what the annoying Cutie Mark Crusaders are for.