"Stroker and Hoop" Needs Puppets, And More Talking Car
I remember when the first promos for the pilot episode of Stroker & Hoop aired. Since the actual animation wasn’t finished yet, the guys and gals at Williams Street decided to make some early promos using paper puppets to simulate the actual plots. Now the actual show has arrived with its actual animation, and it’s time to see if it lives up to its bizarre genesis.
I miss the puppets.
Stroker & Hoop is the story of two self-employed detectives who have to work hard just to earn some respect, much less actual money. In the episode “The 5 Diamonds aka A Hard Act to Follow,” Stroker attends his son’s birthday party only to find David Copperfield using his foul magic to kidnap an innocent child. Turns out there’s an explanation, as the child is the fabled sixth member of the hot new music group known as The 5 Diamonds (Neil Diamond, Mike Diamond, Lou Diamond Philips, Dustin Diamond, and a bizarre talking diamond), and was kidnapped by the Precious Metals (Copperfield, Whoopi Goldberg, Goldie Hawn, and a talking buffalo nickel). Meanwhile, Hoop’s girlfriend, Vanessa, is tired of hiding from Hoop’s mom (think Brodie and Shannon Doherty’s character in Mallrats) and dumps the guy. And there’s torture using a toy buzzer, a giant monster rampaging through downtown LA (or wherever this story takes place), and Stroker wandering around town in his underwear.
After that, there’s “Tinfoiled Again aka Star-Crossed Livers,” which has Stroker and Hoop fall victim to the most heinous of crimes: their appendixes are been stolen by two hot twins. While they’re on the case, Stroker crosses Ron Howard, forcing the Hollywood director to use his mind control powers to pull pranks on our heroes, making Stroker beat up an umpire naked and Hoop take a dump in a local buffet. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the hot twins from before kidnap Stroker in order to eat him. Only Hoop can save the day, but can he defeat the legendary Ron Howard?
Unfortunately it sounds a lot funnier than it is.
There’s an anime special called MiniPato, which is based off the Patlabor anime, that features “Digital Paper Puppet Animation.” The technique involved computer-animated paper puppets. The puppets were so ridiculously detailed it took the already-funny special to a whole new level. These two episodes make me wish Stroker and Hoop had been done in Digital Paper Puppet Animation.
Though these two episodes are at least funnier than 12 Oz. Mouse, they’re nowhere near as awesome as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, or early Sealab 2021. Stroker is the better of the duo, as his situations usually often elicit at least a chuckle. However, these moments happen far too rarely, and the jokes are spread out too far to be worth a hearty laugh. The vast majority of his gags fall lethargically flat, as if something was missing. Maybe if they got rid of Hoop things would be better.
Speaking of Hoop, why is he in this show? I’m assuming the joke is that he’s supposed to be your basic “super-nerd” parody seeing with the geeky glasses, the freckles, and the crackly voice, but it just doesn’t work. While the scene where Hoop is involved in a drive-by shooting elicits some chuckles, that’s about it. Whereas Stroker’s misses aren’t painful, Hoop’s misses hit hard. It’s as though the writers couldn’t get more than one or two jokes out of him, so they just run with the ones they have hoping for a Harvey Birdman effect, but that doesn’t happen. Thankfully, Hoop doesn’t get nearly as much screen time as Stroker, which keeps the show from being entirely unwatchable.
But there’s got to be something good, isn’t there? Why yes, there is, and its name is C.A.R.R. Stroker’s ride, a parody of the famous K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider, is easily the best thing about the show, and anytime it was in the scene, I was actually laughing. Not as hard as when Shake does something stupid on Aqua Teen, but much more than either of the series’ stars. The way it interacts with everyone, the way it tries to be a hero and a wiseass, and just its mere presence increases the show’s enjoyability factor greatly. The series should star C.A.R.R. with Stroker as the sidekick and Hoop gone forever. Unfortunately, though C.A.R.R. has a big role in the show, it’s still a supporting character.
Though this show is on the higher end of the frame rate spectrum for Adult Swim, the animation is still not all that great. The actual motion is decent (it’s better than 12 Oz. Mouse and Tom Goes to the Mayor at least), but the character designs are just awful. They’re like rejected designs from Dr. Katz mixed in with rejected designs from Ed, Edd, & Eddy, with some typical Klasky-Csupo sprinkled on top. Stroker himself is the best-looking human on the show, and he’s still fugly. Even the “hot” ladies are barely better-looking than the old whore from Aqua Teen. Seriously, whatever happened to the GOOD character designers? You know, the ones that created Carl from ATHF and Dad from The Brak Show? I miss them.
Voice-wise, we get some fitting voices. Jon Glaser gives Stroker your typical deadbeat-dad/detective voice, and it works well enough. Speed Levitch (which I’m going to assume is an alias and hope to God it’s not his real name) gives Hoop a decent-enough wimpy voice to not annoy the audience, while Paul Christie turns in a stellar performance as C.A.R.R., which adds to the vehicle’s awesomeness. Guest stars such as Kath Soucie, Scott Bullock, and James Arnold Taylor give respectable performances, though it is weird to see Kath Soucie voicing a character who’s not a young boy. Music is typical Bond rip-off stuff, though the opening title sequence gets special mention due to coolness. I’m willing to bet this high-budget-looking opening cost more than 20 Space Ghost episodes put together.
C.A.R.R. and the cool opening at least offer the chance of future improvement for Stroker & Hoop, though it doesn’t look like the next Venture Brothers. It won’t make you laugh out loud like some of the classic Adult Swim shows, and it could have used some Digital Paper Puppet Animation, but again, at least it’s better than 12 Oz. Mouse.
Stroker and Hoop premieres on Adult Swim Sept. 4.
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