Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hypocrisy Alert! Why I love the new Looney Tunes Show (because it's great!).

I know, I know... I've spent the last month making various criticisms and rants about the deluge of reboots and remakes and rebirths of old properties arguably to cash in on nostalgia,  Hell, last week, I called for the box office failure of The Amazing Spider-Man, a film I haven't seen and may enjoy, purely because of my displeasure in how it was created.  So, call me a hypocrite, but I must speak the truth.  Cartoon Network has just finished their first 13-episode run of the new Looney Tunes show.  It is indeed a reboot of sorts, an attempt by Warner Bros. to reintroduce the classic characters to younger audiences and keep the brand alive.  It is arguably a clear-as-day example of just the kind of brand recycling that I often complain about, a naked attempt to get our kids hooked on the properties of yesteryear instead of giving them icons of their own.  And yet, by god, I absolutely love it.  As a standalone television show, it is an unmitigated triumph on every plausible level.

What separates this new version from the 1940s-1960s merry melodies of old is the format and the very nature of the humor.  The core of this show is a sitcom starring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, who are living together in a suburban house within a suburban neighborhood.  Like Seinfeld, the show really isn't about anything per-se.  Bugs Bunny is independently wealthy (he invented a carrot chopper and made a fortune off of it), while Daffy Duck is the free-loading roommate.  Each week, they of course get into some kind of fix or have to resolve some minor or major issue.  The core of the show is that Daffy Duck is an absolutely irredeemable jack-ass, plain and simple.  The entire show is arguably written at an adult level (story lines include class reunions, double-dating, bowling leagues, etc) and pitched to adult sensibilities.  To that effect, Daffy Duck is arguably one of the most openly loathsome and least sympathetic characters one is likely to see on a sitcom not airing on HBO or Showtime.  The show is appropriate for children in terms of actual content (no swearing, graphic violence, sex, etc, etc),  but the end result is something akin to a TV-PG variation on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Most surprising, aside from the general quality afoot, is the reliance on verbal humor over physical comedy.  The Looney Tunes of old were quick-witted and had plenty of snappy dialogue, but much of their comedy was inherently rooted in physical chaos, be it an explosion or a collision or a prat fall.  This time around, the pace is almost leisurely, and the comedy comes from a verbal wit and a character-driven narrative.  The show deftly interweaves the classic supporting characters, with extended cameos from Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Speedy Gonzales (who owns a pizzeria... nice touch), and Porky Pig (voiced by Bob Bergen, as required by law).  The show also takes Lola Bunny, a stock love interest for Bugs created for Space Jam back in 1996 and turned her into a weirdly sympathetic stalker with a somewhat unhealthy thing for Bugs, which he sometimes indulges (Kristen Wiig provides the voice for this 'new' character).  The narratives are inter-cut with quick shorts, be it stand-alone musical numbers (entitled Merry Melodies, natch) or CGI-animated Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote match-ups, giving viewers a little of everything in every episode.

Without going into joke-spilling details, the show is an absolute joy, laugh-out-loud funny and often quite smart about its characters.  The best episode so far was the recent "Eligible Bachelors", which actually spun a stunningly suspenseful (and somewhat violent) action sequence out of a World War II-era flashback detailing Granny's actions as a spy during the war, along with how she met Tweety Bird ("Did you die?  You died, didn't you!" Daffy blurted out after every cliffhanging moment).  But the episode also contained several laugh-out moments involving Bugs and Lola heading to Paris, which actually provided a somewhat sweet cap on their ongoing quasi-relationship. Whether as a Looney Tunes introduction for your kids (without having to explain... 'attitudes of the day'), a love-letter for long time fans, or just a terrifically written laugh-out loud sitcom, The Looney Tunes Show is a reboot that ennobles the concept.

The show just finished its first season but will surely be airing repeats on the Cartoon Network until whenever new episodes return (26 were produced thus far).  There is little actual continuity from episode-to-episode, so you can jump in whenever you want.  And, if you're a fan of the Merry Melodies gang or just a fan of quality cartoons or smart and funny sitcoms, The Looney Tunes Show gets my highest recommendation.  How good is it?  It's so good that the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote shorts are my least favorite segment of each show.  And that, indeed, is all (folks)!

Scott Mendelson

1 comment:

Heather said...

Looney Tunes is my most favourite thing ever. I am so checking this out!


Related Posts with Thumbnails