The Hub’s Littlest Pet Shop has been on a slow upward swing in quality, recovering from a disappointing series premiere to become a solid show, if not one that makes a very deep impression. By all rights, it should be working the same way that the Hub’s more popular shows like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Pound Puppies do, easily overcoming predictable scripts through charm and terrific comic timing. Littlest Pet Shop has both those qualities, but not in the same quantities as those other two shows. The season 3 premiere is definitely one of the show’s better episodes, but still tended to elicit smiles and chuckles rather than the belly laughs that the other shows can evoke.
“Sleeper” is a fairly typical episode of Littlest Pet Shop, in both good and bad ways. The bulk of the show is about Vinnie and Sunil’s efforts to entertain a newcomer to the pet day care center: Mr. VonFuzzlebut, a slightly hyperactive raccoon who turns out to be a real handful for totally different reasons than the one you expect. That twist was a pleasant surprise, especially when it gets kicked off by a truly funny animated pratfall, and is the kind of thing that I wish the show would do more often. The rest of the episode is the show’s take on a vintage B-movie from the 80’s (which I won’t name for fear of telegraphing too many of the surprises), and isn’t quite as amusing. It’s cute and amusing enough, though. The B-plot of the episode deals with Fisher Biskit, the father of the mean-girl Biskit Twins and head of the Largest Ever Pet Shop, and his bewilderment at how the Littlest Pet Shop’s recent success seems to have been at his expense. The subplot gets short shrift and isn’t terribly funny by the end. All of the above sum up my feelings for Littlest Pet Shop in a nutshell: one or two notably entertaining moments, followed by a lot of conventional and somewhat forgettable material. “Sleeper” does better than most of the first season episodes of the show, but is only a minor improvement from much of season 2.
Concurrent with the season 3 premiere is the release of the fourth Littlest Pet Shop DVD, Strike a Pose! The first episode (“So You Skink You Can Dance?”) is a remnant from season 1, but the remaining 4 are from season 2. My impression of these episodes is almost completely unchanged from the last volume, finding them still a bit too predictable and not quite funny enough to really vault out of the “slightly above average” zone.
It doesn’t help that some of the episodes already feel a bit dated, since they’re very specifically topical. “So You Skink You Can Dance?” is an extended riff on Dancing with the Stars. “What, Meme Worry?” centers on photos and videos going viral on the Internet. Even “Alligators and Handbags” seems to be a somewhat late riff on The Devil Wears Prada, although one might argue that the terrorizing boss that Blythe must confront is just a spin on that comedic trope, and the fashion aspects are just a happy accident. I’d be more forgiving if these episodes were funnier or had something sharper to say with their pop culture references, but like other episodes of the show, the best that Littlest Pet Shop can manage is a generic pleasantness. For the record, the remaining episodes are “Commercial Success” (Blythe and her friends try to make a commercial for Littlest Pet Shop; the truly entertaining bits are the stream of errant visitors at the start and the way the voice actors trade places near the end) and “The Big Feathered Parade” (Blythe’s designs are stolen by a sneaky, flamboyant designer).
While there isn’t much continuity between episodes of Littlest Pet Shop, I’m puzzled by the DVD release strategy. Earlier releases seemed to be following season 1, more or less, with the last volume wrapping up with the big season 1 finale, which sent Blythe off to fashion camp. However, Strike a Pose! doesn’t pick up from the logical starting point of the season 2 premiere (which centered on mutual separation anxiety between Blythe and the pets). Strike a Pose! picks up as though nothing had happened, though Blythe’s time at summer camp gets mentioned in “Alligators and Handbags.” It’s not the first time that a Hasbro show has gotten an oddly arbitrary treatment on DVD, although it’s nowhere near as bad as the treatment Kaijudo got. Like earlier discs, Strike a Pose! has fine audio and video, and a sole bonus feature of a sing-along karaoke music video (for the “Two Times as Cute” number from the “What, Meme Worry?” episode).
I don’t think the show’s fans will be disappointed by the season 3 premiere, and the only source of disappointment for the Strike a Pose! DVD is the way it skips around the second season. However, I’m not sure that either will do very much to convince non-fans that there’s been enough of a sea change to warrant another look.
Littlest Pet Shop season 3 premieres on the Hub Network on Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 9:30 AM (ET)/ 6:30 AM (PT). Visit the official website for more information. Littlest Pet Shop: Strike a Pose arrives on store shelves on June 3, 2014.