"Ren and Stimpy" Season 5 and Some More of 4: Put This Dog and Cat to Sleep
Back when it first debuted, many people criticized Ren and Stimpy for its vulgar humor and gross-out gags. And many of those same people blamed it on John K., the creator. Little did they know that the most disgusting jokes would arise during the Games Animation era, which started in Season 3 after John K. left. Unlike the John K. episodes, which utilized context for nearly every gag and carefully treaded the line of taste, many of the Games episodes crossed that line and ran for miles. They were gross for the sake of being gross, and many cartoons suffered as a result. What an unfortunate double standard.
Which brings us to Ren and Stimpy: Season 5 and Some More of 4, which is, for the most part, a disappointment. Despite a few gems on here, it’s clear that the R&S crew had run out of creativity and ideas by this point.
- Double Header: Ren and Stimpy get in an accident with a bus and, during the surgery, are melded together on one body. They then join a group of circus freaks. The episode has good art direction, but is undermined by some truly revolting gags (ex: the salesman with a conjoined fetus twin on his belly). It gets a point back for the funny fart joke at the end, however.
- The Scotsman in Space: The only Games episode that continues the space adventures of Ren and Stimpy, this time the two take on Haggis McHaggis, who is floating in space looking for his lost sheep. A pale imitation of any Spumco space episode, and the facial expressions were really sloppy.
- Pixie King: To help Stimpy go to the bathroom, Ren tells a story where the duo are pixies in training. Pixie Ren finds out that if you collect eye crusts off the giant oaf, you become King of the Pixies. So guess what he does. Despite a disgusting ending, with Ren crapping out eggs as his royal duty, this one’s got some good material and timing on some of the gags, like Stimpy shouting in glee despite Ren’s warnings when he announces they’re rich.
- Aloha Hoek: Ren and Stimpy, awash on an island shore, find home in a rotting whale carcass. But Stimpy is kicked out and takes refuge with a Marlon Brando-style islander. Ren tries to escape the island on a fly. Bizarre sight gags by animation studio Mr. Big help this outing; watch the scene where Ren is ornary in the whale carcass for a great example of this, or Ren’s desperation when the fly slowly descends into the ocean. Not perfect by any means, however, especially since the twist ending negates any reason for the episode to exist.
- Insomniac Ren: Stimpy tries to make Ren get to sleep. A solid episode with nearly every gag working, and lots of creative facial expressions. Plus, the ending line, “Ssssh! Ren’s taking a coma!” is guffaw-worthy.
- My Shiny Friend: Stimpy overdoses on TV. A decent outing, with Ren getting angrier and angrier and finally demolishing the boob tube. But because the episode spends so much time leading up to the destruction, the ending is completely rushed and odd, obliterating any potential emotion involved.
- Cheese Rush Days: Ren and Stimpy go on a quest for blue cheese in the mountains. This one can’t decide whether it wants to be a “R&S get kidnapped” plot or a mission to mine for cheese, and it shows. It was around this episode that, as a kid, I knew Ren and Stimpy was going downhill.
- Wiener Barons: Ren and Stimpy sneak into Canada to make it big in the wiener business. And they do, until their stock plummets. This episode is rather boring to watch. In fact, it’s so forgettable that you forget most of it after you watch it. Nice Noah’s Ark ending, though.
- Galoot Wranglers: Ren and Stimpy raise some lummox-style humans. Total rubbish. I don’t know who it was on the R&S staff that thought that taking humans and putting them in animal roles was funny, but it isn’t. And they need to stop using Wilbur Cobb as a crutch.
- Ren Needs Help!: Ren is sentenced to a mental hospital, where he breaks out fellow patients Muddy Mudskipper, the fire chief, and Mr. Yak. We don’t feel for Ren’s plight at all, because right off the bat, he’s acting as stereotyped Ren: Yelling and psychotic for no apparent reason. As a result, his climax in the finale leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, this entire episode seems like a forced attempt to get every character to yell at the top of their lungs. The only positive is the storyboarding by Chris Reccardi.
- Ol’ Blue Nose: With a slap on the nose, Stimpy becomes a singing sensation like Sinatra. Watch this one for the great song parodies, because the plot is middle-of-the-road material. Nice role reversal with famous (and spoiled) Stimpy taking advantage of Ren, though.
- Stupid Sidekick Union: Stimpy goes on strike, and Ren seeks replacements for the show, all of which are terrible. Not great, though the auditions are interesting, especially when Ren is frightened of slapping the Stimpy-replacing baboon. Also, Stimpy’s human nose underneath the familiar blue one is a cut-up.
- Superstitious Stimpy: It turns out Ren is the unluckiest being on Earth, and Stimpy tries to cure him with unorthodox good luck charms. The lighting in this one is excellent, and thus the mood is nailed from the start. Sight gags also work, along with such purposely bad continuity like Ren’s birthmark and webbed toes.
- Travelogue: Ren and Stimpy go to a foreign country and engage in their bizarre customs. The gross-out gags were off the charts in this one, and few of them are funny because they’re of the “kids like potty humor, so we’ll come up with vomit-inducing situations and they’ll lap it up!” variety.
- Space Dogged: Soviet astronauts Ren and Stimpy try to beat American pigs in the space race. Starts reasonably well, with the black and white training video, but quickly dissolves into mediocrity, with plenty of “-ski” suffixes thrown in for bad measure. Great ending, though, with the Russians landing on American soil and an Army commander, not wanting to risk his job, passes Ren and Stimpy off as the American heroes.
- Feud For Sale: That loud, fast-talking salesman from “To Salve or Not to Salve” (among many other episodes) cons the two hillbillies from “Out West” into out-classing each other. Yep, it’s an episode without the title characters. If you can stomach that, and, if you don’t find the salesman incredibly annoying, this is a decent time-waster. It goes on longer than it needs to with the thin premise, though.
- Hair of the Cat: Ren is allergic to Stimpy’s fur. Just 11 minutes of Ren suffering from Stimpy’s ignorance. Aside from some clever material here and there, like Ren’s eyes stuck shut with matter, it’s relatively unpleasant and is a perfect example of the “Idiot Plot”.
- City Hicks: Dust-croppers Ren and Stimpy head for the city to make it big. The reversal of normal logic gets old after about two minutes, and then we’re left with a bunch of filler material. Aside from the segment where Ren and Stimpy are name-changing immigration officers, it’s a miss.
- Stimpy’s Pet: Stimpy adopts a circus midget who is alternatingly cute (to Stimpy) and ornary (to Ren). Haven’t we seen this type of plot before in, uh, EVERY OTHER CARTOON EVER MADE? Dumb and old hat, though Phil Hartman as the clown adds some nice voice acting.
- Ren’s Brain: Another Spumco episode that Games finished, this one involves scientist Stimpy removing Ren’s brain, which comes alive and goes to work by itself. When the brain gets home to find a lobotomized Ren having fun with Stimpy, he goes bezerk. Whereas most Spumco episodes that were finished by Games are well-done, this one is just perplexing and underwhelming. Ren getting along with Stimpy is a nice touch, but other than that, and some good fight scene music, this one’s weird for the sake of being weird, but it forgot to also be funny.
- Bellhops: Ren strives to get a picture of the recluse in a hotel. Like “Teenage Stimpy”, this is one lining in a dark cloud during the fifth season. OK, so the repeated jokes with the fat lady are stupid and juvenile, but the plot with a shifty man offering five bucks to take a picture of a head (yes, the recluse is nothing but a human head) is great, especially the finale with Stimpy protecting the head from Ren’s ever-present camera. And it has a great line from Ren, commenting about the head’s many world accomplishments: “Sounds like a loser.”
- Dog Tags: Stimpy easily gets into Ren’s Dog Lodge meeting, but Ren is rejected because the bouncers don’t believe he’s really a dog. There are some great gags with Ren’s constant attempts to get into the club, like hotwiring a car, marrying a billionaire, and cleaning himself in public, but when you think about it, the plot makes no sense; if Ren’s been attending this lodge meeting every day for years, why would they all of a sudden not recognize him?
- I Was a Teenage Stimpy: Stimpy undergoes puberty. One of the few good Season 5 episodes, this one has great direction, sight gags, and a tight pace that crams in as many pubescence jokes as possible. Over-sensitivity, excessive talking on the phone, pimples, growth spurts, delinquent friends from school, even a sly masturbation joke, you name it, this episode has it. “Teenage” is a winner.
- Who’s Stupid Now?: Ren and Stimpy trade places on the show, which shows Ren how Stimpy feels. This episode isn’t particularly funny, but director Michael Kim keeps the premise watchable. It helps that Ren gains empathy, which makes him a more human character than his usual one-dimension personality in most Games episodes.
- School Mates: Ren’s old college friend comes by, and the two hit it off at first by chasing Stimpy, but when it’s revealed that Ren was a nerd in college, the friend hits it off with Stimpy and Ren is ostracized. Very so-so.
- Dinner Party: Ren narrates an evening where he hosts a party with Stimpy. He gives etiquette tips. Yet more Travelogue-style gross for the sake of being gross, this one fares slightly better because of Stimpy inviting the worst of the worst to the party (visiting prisons and back alleys and such), and the revelation that they’re having the party in another couple’s house. But who thought the joke about giving someone a sweaty, manly handshake was funny?!
- Pen Pals: Ren and Stimpy desperately try to break into prison after seeing a commercial that paints jail as a plush condo. Like “City Hicks”, this is a one-joke premise stretched to full length, though some of the methods of trying to gain access are fun, and the stuffy policeman is a cool character. Great “comeuppance” ending, too.
- Big Flakes: Ren and Stimpy are stranded in a log cabin, which is engulfed by snow. This episode’s biggest weakness is it doesn’t really have an ending to speak of; it just runs out of steam and abruptly ends. Despite a few winner gags, like Stimpy shooing away the pizza guy, it’s forgettable.
- Terminal Stimpy: Stimpy is worried about losing the last of his nine lives. This is a really interesting episode, because of the multiple cutaways that are more at home in Family Guy. The five steps of grievance are a nice touch, too; in particular, the “bargaining” step offers some clever wordplay. Still fairly hollow, however, and the joke about Muddy Mudskipper’s multiple final requests before dying is overplayed.
- Reverend Jack Cheese: A preacher tells the good news about meat products. If you don’t know that this is a satire of what it was like to work under John K., this episode makes no sense; it’s just a bunch of stuff that happens. And the artwork was really slipshod in this outing.
- A Scooter For Yaksmas: Ren doesn’t get the hint about buying Stimpy a scooter for Yaksmas, so Stimpy runs downtown and accidentally steals one. What follows is a quest for Stimpy to outrun the police and realize that Ren did get the hint, but Saint Wizzleteats just forgot to deliver his scooter. Far less melodramatic than “Son of Stimpy”, although it doesn’t have the same emotional pull as a result. Still, it fairs fairly well, especially Stimpy’s repressed expressions when he doesn’t get his gift. The extended Yaksmas song feels a bit too kiddish for this show, however. And they needed two shorts tagged on the end to make up for its minimal running time.
- Sammy and Me: Stimpy aspires for famous lounge singer Sammy Mantis to bite his head off. The animation in this one was pretty choppy, and the story was appalling. So let me get this straight… people complained that the John K. R&S was in poor taste, yet we have an episode where two characters get their heads eaten in a gruesome manner? Right, that makes a lot of sense. Completely without laughs; even the celebrity puns are stale.
- The Last Temptation of Ren: Ren temporarily dies and, at purgatory, learns the evils of his ways. He’s sent back to Earth to change, despite Stimpy’s difficulty in making it possible. Though a step above “Sammy”, and containing some good analogies when Ren gets explained the meaning of purgatory, it’s still a very routine outing and a bland way to end the series.
Audio/Video: Video quality remains the same as the last two sets. Some episodes fare better than others, due to the source material. It was unfortunate that frequently the visuals were blurry and, once in a while, contained hairs on the edge of a film. And one episode, “Space Dogged”, even looked like it had the rounded edges of television screens on the bottom and top left of the screen during certain scenes! Overall, the video is average. Sound isn’t anything special either, with a generic stereo track. Luckily, the bass is often highlighted and sounds good. Just watch Phil Hartman’s character in “Stimpy’s Pet” for an example of this.
Extras: Like the middle set, the only extra included is a set of commentaries. True, the set contains a whopping 13 commentaries, which is far more than the previous sets, but they are seriously lacking. You can tell the crew is running out of things to say, and most consist of blasting the episodes and saying little about the production process. Even John K., who provided a lot of interesting insight in the previous set, ends up repeating himself and is quieter than usual. In a way, it’s understandable since the majority of episodes on here are terrible and don’t deserve any insights. And yes, all the participants admit this is the case, but it doesn’t really excuse it. Overall, a disappointment.
Cuts: Ugh! There’s no reason for the continued edits on this volume, especially after Spumco became aware of the problem after Seasons 1 and 2! Thanks to this blunder, we get cuts from “Galoot Wranglers,” “Ren Needs Help!” “Travelogue,” “Feud For Sale,” “Who’s Stupid Now?” “Bellhops,” “Pen Pals,” “Big Flakes,” “Sammy and Me,” and “The Last Temptation of Ren,” if not more. In addition, some episodes are sped up. Again, a disappointment.
Overall: This is a step down from the start of the Games episodes, aside from a few exceptions. Unless you absolutely have to have every Nick Ren and Stimpy episode ever made, don’t bother with this set. It has below average commentaries that don’t tell you much, edits, and aside from a few winners like “Aloha Hoek,” “Insomniac Ren,” “I Was a Teenage Stimpy,” and “Superstitious Stimpy,” the rest aren’t up to par.
See also Speedy Boris’s review of the less-awful Ren & Stimpy Seasons 3 and 4 set.