The Ducks will never die...
If you’re a TV executive, you’re only thinking one thing on your way to work in the morning, and it’s not “I want to bring intelligent and challenging programming to the masses.” It’s: “I really don’t want to get fired today.” So you start thinking of ways you can be not-fired. That’s the goal. How can I be not-fired today? You decide you need to pitch a hit to your boss. Something that’s going to make the network millions of dollars and guarantee your not-fired status for at least a little while.
You begin to make insultingly simple generalizations about your network’s “demos”: College-age guys love smokin’ hot chicks, pounding beers and throwin’ around the ole pigskin. Maybe we should make Blue Mountain State? You know what moms like? The View. So how about we just make that show again, except it’s got Ozzy Osbourne’s asshole wife or something. That’ll get me not-fired for sure.
But even if those ideas aren’t coming into an executive's head, I guarantee you that this one, periodically, is: “You know what people love? Movies. You know what else people love? Animated TV shows. You know what ELSE people should love? Animated TV shows based on movies.”
And you know what? It’s not the worst idea in the world (that distinction belongs to Bulletball). Because a successful movie has already done most of the work for you: it’s established an audience, it’s fleshed out the characters/setting fairly well and it’s established an audience. It also has a built-in, established audience, which is nice. You know what else is cool about it? It’s animated. Wait, no. It’s because it already has an established audience.
One quick note: I focused mostly on 90's cartoons. The 80's were stupid, let's move on.
Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series
I was obsessed with three things as a kid: hockey, TV and that chick from My Girl. So the Mighty Ducks animated series was just one Anna Chlumsky away from completing the Piepho Trifecta. Not perfect, but I was still very excited about it. Here’s what I remember thinking as I watched the first episode:
Yeah! A hockey cartoon on Saturday morning! Alright! Wait the- the hockey player’s are anthropomorphic ducks? Whatever, that’s kind of cool, I guess. Okay, hockey cartoon! Yeah! W-wait. Why are they fighting aliens? Well, aliens are cool. Okay, hockey scene! NO! They’re fighting crime between periods? Are you serious? THOSE GUNS JUST SHOOT PUCKS! Jesus! Why is just one of the ducks French? Whatever, just shut up and try to enjoy this show for what it is. Hey! Is their agent voiced by Jim Belushi? Screw this.
Yes, I really did use the word “anthropomorphic” as a nine year old. But only because my brother was a talking sleeping bag. We went to a lot of doctors.
Clerks: The Animated Series
Ahhhh: sweet, sweet this show. This short-lived masterpiece can pretty much be summed up as a gigantic “F*** you” to everyone. Maybe that’s why it was only on the air for two episodes?
Here is just one of the many reasons why this show died after only two episodes on the air (try to stay with me): the second episode ever produced was “The Clipshow Wherein Dante and Randal are Locked in the Freezer and Remember Some of the Great Moments in Their Lives". The second episode. Was a clip show. Yes. In said clip show, all flashbacks are culled from either the first Episode One or from earlier in that very same episode. The only problem? ABC aired Episode Four at the beginning of the season, so any references to Episode One made absolutely no sense because it hadn’t even aired yet.
Another reason this show died so quickly? The clip above. HOE-LEE God, what a beautiful minute and a half that is. And it only took The Simpsons about ten years and a British graffiti artists to make a similar reference.
Bob & Doug
(Go to 2:58 mark for trailer)
Based on Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis’s characters from SCTV and “Strange Brew”, Bob & Doug aired on Canada’s “Global” network in the Spring of 2009 with decent ratings. It wasn’t renewed and then it died. However, Dave Thomas came this close (italics mean “pretty close”, in this case) to striking a deal to air this show on FOX Sunday nights. Instead, FOX decided to go with Mitch Hurwitz’s Sit Down, Shut Up. Obviously, those idiots they made the right choice.
Alright, full disclosure: I was a writer for this show, and I’m still pretty f**ing bitter it didn’t get on FOX. You may also notice I was a writer for another failed animated show as well. If I fill out one more on my punch card, I think I get to write for The Cleveland Show or something.
The biggest “press” this show ever got was due to the absence of Rick Moranis, who took no real part in the show. The character of “Bob” was taken over by none other than Mr. David Alan Coulier, AKA “The Cooler”. While Moranis’s presence was definitely missed, Coulier did a pretty solid job, actually.
I have no idea where to find this show now. I don’t even have any of the DVD’s. Maybe they’ll get released someday, but the trailer above is pretty much all I have left to remind me of a really fun, lucky time I had.
Mr. Bean: The Animated Series
Alright, I guess technically this was a live-action TV show and then a movie and then an animated series. Or...something like that. The point is that this show was stupid. The original Mr. Bean was pretty much a cartoon already. You had some British guy with an outrageous, inhuman face getting himself into wacky, visual gags with little to no dialogue.
So what does our TV executive friend say? “Hey, this cartoon-like character would make a great cartoon character! I am SO not-fired!” So they went ahead and made a cartoon about some British guy with an outrageous, inhuman face getting himself into wacky, visual gags with little to no dialogue. Brilliant! Also, they actually hired Rowan Atkinson to make all of the tiny little grunts and sounds that the character in the cartoon makes. Because surely no other voice actor is capable of reproducing those sounds with the level of depth and understanding that Rowan Atkinson can.
Also, is it just me, or was Mr. Bean’s life endlessly depressing? I remember one episode (of the original) where he doesn’t get any Christmas cards, so he just sends some to himself. Jesus Christ.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures
My favorite thing about this show, which ran for two seasons from September 1990 to November 1991, as that the cast from the movie actually did the voices for the first season. God, if you think Keanu is sad now, he must’ve been close to cutting himself while he was in the recording booth laying down tracks for a Saturday morning cartoon.
I’ll also never understand George Carlin’s involvement in any of this (he, too, provided his beautiful voice for Season 1). The man is a comedy legend and he’s playing a time-travelling scientist from the future who guides two teenagers from the 80’s on a journey through world history? At least do something original.
To be fair, even I would have adapted this movie into a cartoon show. It makes too much sense. Two rockin’ surfer dudes travelling through time to learn about history? Yes, yes, and yes. Anything educational that can also be veiled as “cool” is like a pitcher that also knows how to hit. It’s so rare that when one comes along, everyone jumps in on the cluster f*** to get the rights before it inevitably disappoints you.
Men in Black: The Series
Of all the shows featured on here, this one easily had the longest shelf life; running from 1997 to 2001. As much as I hate to admit it, it kind of makes sense. MIB was a huge movie at the time, and if a TV executive didn’t pitch this, he would’ve been SO fired.
Still, after watching the intro above, I gotta say: this show was dark as hell. This was like one of those “grown-up kids” cartoons that you weren’t able to watch until you turned 12, and then by that point you discovered the pleasures of combining Baywatch with baby oil. You know where I’m going with this.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that this show’s four-year run was especially impressive considering their target demo’s propensity for masturbating.
Dumb and Dumber: The Animated Series
Dumb and Dumber was one of THREE Jim Carrey movies to get adapted into a cartoon in the 90’s, the other two being Ace Ventura and The Mask. While all three were horrible failures, I decided to go with Dumb and Dumber because it is so horrifically bad that its sh*tiness can NOT go unnoticed.
Let’s talk about the intro for a sec. It’s starts off with Harry and Lloyd on stage performing some kind of Hula number. Okay, fine. Then Blond Jessica Rabbit walks by and Chinese Opium Den music starts playing. That’s...okay. Then the guys start trying to impress her by changing into different outfits. I...don't like this. Finally at the end, it’s revealed that THE BEAUTIFUL WOMAN WAS ACTUALLY A BEAVER.
This show was so bad.