"CatDog Season 2 Part 1" and "Team Umizoomi: UmiGames" – The Unbearable Lightness of Being
I wish I had a better opinion of CatDog after sitting through the Season 2 Part 1 set, but the most I can add to my last review is that the show is beginning to create plots and scenarios as outlandish as its premise. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the show gets much funnier this season. It remains a show that looks like a heck of a lot of fun to work on, but the copious amounts of energy that went into it failed to produce very many laughs. To be fair, this set did manage to make me laugh a few times, but rarely and irregularly.
The second season of CatDog, like the first, relies on the odd couple dynamic in its bizarre title character, who’s an over-eager but stupid dog on one end and a snobbish, erudite cat on the other. Each half-hour is divided into at least two segments; this season, some episodes add a much shorter third segment which is sometimes the funniest of the three since they never really try to sustain a story and opt for pure comedy instead. Probably the funniest segment on the entire set comes on disc 2 with “Dopes on Slopes,” which is a few minutes of nothing but CatDog careening into things (and Rancid Rabbit, eventually) on a ski slope. Some of the premises this season are far more outlandish than before: “Fishing for Trouble” sends Cat on an extended journey down Dog’s gullet in search of a pet fish, while “Hail the Great Meow Woof” dumps the pair on an uncharted tropical island where they experience first the adulation and then the anger of the natives. Unfortunately, just having weirder premises doesn’t make many of these episodes funnier, with my most common reaction continuing to be a baffled puzzlement instead of laughter.
There are also times where the energy just doesn’t seem to be applied in a focused or effective manner. As one example, Rancid Rabbit finds himself in the way of a charging crowd in one of the last segments on this disc, “Showdown at Hole 18,” but the opportunity for comedic mayhem goes unexploited since he just gets lightly jostled but is left standing as they pass him by. The look of confusion on his face matched mine: what self-respecting comedy cartoon would flub such a golden setup for humorous violence? It’s another instance where copious energy yields few laughs.
Like the last season, CatDog Season 2 Part 1 packs 10 episodes across two discs. The video is full frame and shows a bit of grain, while the stereo sound is solid but unremarkable. There are a good number of chapter breaks between each episode, and I appreciate that the DVD menu lets you jump to a specific segment within an episode, even in the three-part episodes. There are no extras on the disc, not even trailers for other Nick DVDs from Shout!
Every good parenting book tells you not to use your TV as a digital babysitter, and that if you’re going to allow your child to watch, you should watch with them and discuss what you see. My biggest objection to a good number of pre-schooler shows on Nickelodeon is that they make it nearly impossible to follow this advice, producing shows that few supervising adults will want to watch without something more interesting (or a good, stiff drink) nearby.
I don’t find Team Umizoomi any exception, as it leaves me with few impressions other than disappointment there is precious little math in a show that bills itself as a math-themed. The latest DVD, “UmiGames” is anchored by a scaled-up episode where the show’s leads Milly, Geo, and Bot compete in a mini-pentathlon of sports events for a prize; three more episodes follow. Apparently, shape and pattern recognition are deemed “math” skills these days, since it seems that those are the dominating, problem-solving challenges that the trio present to its pint-sized audience. Team Umizoomi prominently features the same faux-interactivity common to many Nickelodeon pre-schooler shows, though I find it less irritating or mindless than what you get in an average episode of Dora or Diego. Like many of Nickelodeon’s pre-schooler releases, there are no bonus features on the DVD and no chapter stops to let you skip the title sequence, which isn’t bad but runs rather long and definitely wears by the fourth time you’ve seen it.