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TZ Reviews: "The Strip," Bare of Quality

Last night, The First Network For Men (which hoped to be Spike TV by now, but is forced to use the name TNN) launched its new animation block.

A minor complaint before this review starts; the last segment of all shows had this slightly digital, “pixelated” picture quality. It’s noticeable enough to detract from enjoyment. This is a network problem, it seems, as the last segment of the TNN Movie preceding this had this same exact problem. Hopefully it will not persist.

So, as a collection of shows, is it good? There is one show that has glimmers of cleverness mixed within stretches of boredom; one show that tries to be funny but ends up being more or less a showcase for T&A; and one that may be the worst animated program to premiere in the United States in the last ten years.

REN AND STIMPY ADULT PARTY CARTOON
Let’s get this out of the way first. This is easily the worst animated series to come along in quite awhile. In fact, I can’t think of anything worse than this. Baby Looney Tunes? Innocent and saccharine, but it’s a preschool show. Rugrats Go Wild? I haven’t personally seen it, but at least it has a plot, unlike this.

The episode’s “plot,” if you can call it that, centers on Ren and Stimpy moving from their residence in a hobo’s mouth to their new residence—as Ren calls it, “living the high life”– in a bar spittoon. First off, the basic plot makes no sense… hobo’s mouth? Spittoon? These locations are supposed to be funny? They scream “we’re being adult just because we can!!” instead of providing any comedic value.

It gets worse from there. The Hobo’s Mouth scenes take much longer than they should, and they present the first basic problem of the show. It’s a strung-together succession of body humor jokes. Actually, it’s too much to even call them “jokes.” In one scene, the uvula in the hobo’s mouth penetrates Ren’s butt. Instead of doing something even with that basic, if tasteless idea, the animators chose to just repeat that visual several times, getting successively worse with each penetration. It was almost as if the makers were shouting, “HE’S GETTING IT UP THE REAR! LAUGH!!! LAUGH, DAMN YOU!!!”

It continues in this vein. Nearly every joke involves a bodily function of some sort, and each is presented in the same “WE’RE SHOWING SOMETHING GROSS!!!! IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY!!!” way. No subtlety, no modicum of humor.

This brings up another problem. This episode was 30 minutes, but seemed to go on for hours. The pacing was glacially slow, the jokes were not funny, and as stated before, there was no plot or coherency.

Voice acting wise, John K is also off on his voice of Ren. Suddenly he sounds vaguely Indian, although his performance is okay. The new voice actor for Stimpy, however, was horrible. All of Billy West’s charming stupidity has gone… now Stimpy is just a clueless, annoying idiot. Music is still the canned library music that the original used, and the theme is actually the exact same as used on the original show, only with a new title card. It could have been nice if they had at least composed a new title sequence.

Is it as bad as everyone is making it out to be? No, it’s worse. It is one of the worst animated series ever created. It is honestly a pain to watch and I was overjoyed when it went to break and when the credits began to roll.

You have better things to do in thirty minutes than give it up to watch this crap. Stay away. Stay far, far away from this steaming pile, and just laugh as the self-proclaimed “master of animation”, John Kricfalusi, stands revealed without clothing.

GARY THE RAT
…ahem.

Anyway, the show that follows is called Gary the Rat and is about a corporate attorney with no soul who suddenly has turned into a rat and is living his life exactly the same way he was before.

Is it a great series? No, it’s just average. The animation is overly stiff, a given since it was done in Flash, and still needs a bit of work. However, it works to the show’s advantage; this is the most intelligent, high-minded show of the block. It pales when compared to Futurama and Williams Street’s devious creations for Adult Swim, but it did provide a few laughs.

Not to say that it didn’t have its problems. The plot could have been better explained; I was a little lost until the second courtroom segment. The bar scene and the diner scene were a little too long and got on my nerves, and the landlord and evil neighbor plot really didn’t do anything for me. But there were a few parts that had me laughing out loud, such as the cheese delivery boy eating poisoned cheese and passing out, and Gary’s over-the-top performances in the courtroom.

Kelsey Grammer saves this show from mediocrity. Already proven to be a capable voice actor from his performances as Sideshow Bob, Grammer gives an equally devious performance as Gary, draining any compassion and care out of the character and infusing it with a more subtle evil than his Sideshow Bob. It’s not surprising that many of the highlights of this show involve his performance. The rest of the voice actors did an all right job, but Grammer clearly is the standout.

For an animated legal drama, is this the best? No, go with Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law instead. That has voice performances on par with Grammer’s, better animation, and more laughs in fifteen minutes than Gary the Rat managed for an entire half-hour. But by itself, it’s nothing special — nothing too great, but it’s watchable. It is the highlight of the entire block.

STAN LEE’S STRIPPERELLA
Oh, dear.

This is not a good series by any stretch of the imagination. However, it outscores “Ren and Stimpy” because it tries to be funny, even if it falls flat most of the time, and because it actually has a coherent plot that can be followed. But that’s about all the show has going for it.

Let’s start with the bad, first: Pamela Anderson’s voice acting as Erotica Jones/Stripperella is like nails on a chalkboard. She cannot act or emote; is it any wonder she is primarily known for her physical endowments? There was no sense of true “personality” coming from her character, either. She was completely one-dimensional and seemed more like a cardboard cut-out than an actual, fully developed character.

Thankfully, the other voice acting was surprisingly competent. Mark Hamill has a large role here as Dr. Cesarian, the evil plastic surgeon who vows the destruction of all models. His self-told origin was one of the few highlights of the episode; it was so over the top (think of every possible vengeful motivation that a person can have for hating models) it was enjoyable. The show attempted satire, but fell flat.

More depressingly, huge chunks of airtime were devoted to the erotic dancers dancing around, with close-up shots of their bodies. These do nothing to advance the plot, and only bring the action to a halt. It’s also pretty pointless, considering that these are not flesh and blood characters but cel drawings.

As a collection of programming, “The Strip” is something you should go out of your way to miss. At its best, it is average and slightly forgettable; at its worst, it is reprehensible garbage that is not fit for the airwaves.

On a scale of 1 to 10, give The Strip a 3. Adult Swim has nothing to fear.

Discuss the first week of TNN’s new animation block here .

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