Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: MINI FORCE

My kid’s day care was supposed to have a Father’s Day party today, but I’m kind of pissed at my kid’s day care right now– more on that later, maybe– and so instead I picked him up early and we’ve been having a Daddy/Kenny day at home.  Which means lots of toys (there are Transformers everywhere) and lots of binging terrible Korean animated shows on Netflix.  This is probably the fastest any show has gone from “I’ve never heard of this” to “I must do a CCPR post on this immediately,” by the way.

Meet the Mini Force:

They’re little talking animals.  The pink one is a girl, which I’m sure you’ll all find tremendously surprising.  The red one is a bird, although he doesn’t seem to fly.  Other than the red one, I have no idea what kind of animals they are.  Maybe they’re all cats, other than the bird?  The blue one might be a skunk?  I have no damn clue.  Anyway, they talk.  And they live with a girl named Susie, who in animated kids’ show fashion appears to have no parents or adult influences.  Susie knows they talk and can talk back to them.  They look just like Octonauts.

Here’s how every show goes: each episode starts with a bunch of woodland animals being inconvenienced in some way, most of the time by a purple Shredder-looking dude named Pascal or some robot he’s created.  Sometimes Shredder’s boss is around; he’s dressed like some sort of Spandex-wearing supervillain and I don’t know his name.

The degree of the inconvenience varies.  Sometimes it’s special pop that makes the animals fall asleep.  Sometimes it’s a snake monster that turns them to stone.  The stakes tend to vary.

At any rate, after the animals are inconvenienced, we cut to the four Mini Force dudes at home with Susie.  They have some sort of interpersonal problem that will not be resolved and are then summoned via some sort of blinky device that one of them carries.  Where to?  Not clear at all; they run away and then are suddenly inside some sort of giant complex.  I’m not sure if Susie knows about this part of their lives; she probably wonders where they go all the time.  They meet with a hologram of a cat.  I don’t know what the cat’s name is– they just call him Commander– but he has a mustache and wears sunglasses and a Kangol.  I don’t get it.

If Pascal isn’t the villain, then the robot causing all the trouble will have -mon at the end of its name.  Every time.

Then they become Power Rangers.  I’m not kidding:

Like, the theme music even refers to them as the “Super Rangers Mini Force,” although there’s no credits for Saban anywhere and I’m pretty sure this is just a knockoff and not an official thing.  But anyway.  The very next scene after the transformation, they’ve teleported to wherever the bad guy is– no time for exposition here!– and then there’s a fight. The fights are those Power Rangers-style fights where there’s always time for lots of talking in between people shooting at one another and your weapons have to be summoned by saying very long phrases out loud.

They lose the fight, and one of them is generally incapacitated somehow.  There is a lot of grunting.  Seriously, the dialogue in this show is maybe 60% grunts.  It’s amazing.

After they lose, they summon their “Force Cars.”  Why they didn’t just drive to the fucking fight in the Force Cars isn’t clear.  I assume everyone just sits around while the Force Cars drive out to wherever they are.  The Force Cars are, no shit, Transformers:

Somewhere in here, the villain gets super large, also Power Rangers style.  And not all the time, but sometimes, the Force Cars have to– wait for it– join together to make a single, much larger Force Car.  At which point the show becomes Voltron.  And then they win, and the show ends abruptly, most of the time with no indication of whether the inconvenienced animals at the beginning of the show were ever made better or not.  Maybe they’re still asleep or made from stone or whatever; who knows?

It is impressive to have ripped off that many well-known properties so blatantly and still not have been sued into nonexistence.

Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: ZIG & SHARKO

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So.  ZIG & SHARKO.  See if you can figure out the premise of the show from that top image there; it ain’t complicated.  Getting a strong Wile E. Coyote vibe?  Yeah, that’s not too far off.

There is a mermaid.  Her name is Marina.  There is a shark named Sharko.  There is a… hell, I have no idea what Zig is supposed to be.  Some sort of canine variant?  A hyena?  A Tasmanian devil?  I dunno, but he lives on a volcanic island in the middle of nowhere, and the volcanic island is host to basically every animal that exists when the show calls for it, including– in the episode currently airing on my TV right now, a cheetah (or maybe a leopard?) which is an animal also not generally expected on volcanic islands.

Anyway, Zig wants to eat Marina.  Sharko is Marina’s protector and doesn’t want him to.  Marina is either extraordinarily bubbleheaded or actually special needs in some way and doesn’t generally notice the competition for her bloody death that takes place around her in every episode.

The hermit crab is named Bernie, and he is generally irrelevant.

The show is French, but that doesn’t really matter as there is never any actual speech, just lots of grunting and giggles and random noises.  Much like the aforementioned Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons, here’s the plot of every episode: Zig wants to eat Marina.  He concocts some complicated plan to do so.  Sharko stops him, generally administering a vicious beating along the way.  But it’s way more creepy than RR/WEC ever got, because Marina looks human— well, mostly– and plus she dresses like a mermaid, and is therefore half naked all the time, with bouncy girl parts and such, and… yeah, it makes it weird.  Generally harmless, but definitely a bit weird.

Oh, and then there’s that one super racist episode.  In one episode, shark hunters find Sharko.  They’re Chinese.  They wanna make shark fin soup out of him.  When they see him, they look like this:

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And this happens:

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This show aired in 2011, and not, say, 1943.  I had to take pictures of the TV screen, because I couldn’t find any screencaps online.  How in the fuck?  This is some 1870’s-level Yellow Peril shit right here, with a nice dose of “they all look the same” mixed in for good measure.  The six fishermen in the red literally all move and act exactly the same for the entire episode, and the only noises they make are creepy giggling.

Maybe lose this episode, Netflix.  I doubt anyone will notice.

Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: SARAH & DUCK

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Sarah & Duck has been on constantly at my house for… oh, ten years?  Fifteen?  A hundred and twelve?  How old am I?  What year is this?  What century?  Did we elect a plant President yet?  A real long damn time.

Sarah & Duck’s theme song plays four times an episode, since each episode is broken into two little mini-episodes and we get the theme song played at the beginning and the end of each, meaning that in the middle you get to hear it two times in a row.  Picture these words chanted in a charming middle-aged British accent over gentle guitar music:

Sarah and duck.  (quack!)
Sarah and duck.  (quack!)
Sarah and duck.  (quack!)
Sarahandduck.  (quack.)

Quack isn’t actually a word; that’d be Duck quacking.  The only difference is the cadence; the fourth Sarah and duck is faster than the other three.

So, yeah.  Sarah & Duck.  Here they are.  Try to guess which one is which:

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The artwork might remind you of South Park.  I doubt that’s intentional, as it would be impossible for any animated program to be farther from South Park in tone and execution as Sarah & Duck.  Sarah is a girl.  Duck is a duck.  They’re both very, very, very British.  There’s also a nameless, disembodied narrator, who not only narrates but talks to both of the characters.  They talk back.  He’s very British too, and says things like well done and have a go and Tuesday and Bobber-clobber, which is probably an ethnic slur, all the time.

Sarah appears to have no parents, but she lives in a nice house with Duck, who has his own bedroom.  Adults are occasionally present as side characters, and then there’s the narrator, but he doesn’t have a body so he doesn’t really count.  Other things talk, but not all of them.  Duck only quacks.  This is Plate Girl:

Picture Shows: Plate Girl squeaks her plate to speak to the lost plates.
Picture Shows: Plate Girl squeaks her plate to speak to the lost plates.

I want it noted for the record that I didn’t know that picture had a caption until uploading it, and I’m keeping it there, because that’s the kind of show this is. Plate Girl has a plate with her all the time. The plate doesn’t talk.  There was an episode where she lost it in the fog, and she was very sad, and eventually Sarah figured out that she accidentally set it on top of a giant tortoise who happened to be walking by when Plate Girl set her plate down so that she could open the gate into Sarah’s “garden,” which is British for “front yard.”  I have not seen this “lost plates” episode yet, somehow.

This is Scarf Lady, who seems mis-named:

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You will note that Scarf Lady’s handbag has a face, and talks, and generally seems to not actually like Scarf Lady very much, which I would think would be a more salient characteristic than her everpresent scarf.  But no, she’s not Talking Handbag Lady.  She’s also not Keeps a Cthulhoid Sentient Pile of Immobile Yarn Captive in Her Horrifying Knitting Abbatoir Lady, but she does that too:

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Oh, and there are talking shallots in Sarah’s garden.  By which I mean an American garden-garden, not a British lawn-garden.  The shallots are the only thing growing in the garden, and the British pronunciation of “shallots” is different enough from American pronunciation that it took forever for me to figure out what he was saying.  They talk too:

imagesAnyway, Sarah has adventures, and they’re whimsical and British– did I mention this show was British?– and fun, and occasionally slightly entertaining, and the way she has to sound out long words can be really cute at times, and the show’s harmless and sweet and actually not very annoying at all.

Until the Pink Episode.  Which starts off typically, but then goes off the rails completely for a moment, in a way that will have you questioning your own sanity and the show’s entire premise.  Watch this to the 1:49 mark and then pause it:

You see what I mean here?  The weird look on Duck’s face, the creepy bells, the sudden horrified silence of the narrator as the show implies that Sarah is about to  carve her own heart out to make sure she’s as pink on the inside as she is on the outside?  It’s the most WTF moment of any kids’ TV show I’ve ever seen.

The show is, uh, not normally like that.  But that’s what got it reviewed.  Because it ain’t a kids’ show until somebody’s threatening to disembowel themselves, right?

Two thumbs up, but one of them is severed.

Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: DINO SQUAD

vlcsnap-2011-08-29-23h37m58s59Oh, Dino Squad.  How much do I hate thee?   I hate thee a whole damn lot.  In general, I am very much pro-dinosaur and pro-dinosaur programming, but this show is edging closer and closer to the “Oh, sorry, Netflix is broken” level of I can’t watch this shit anymore right now.  It’s getting the kid interested in dinosaurs, and he’s learning a few things, but it’s making me insane, and it’s all about me and we can’t have that.

We will start with the theme song:

You didn’t click that, so here are the lyrics:

I’m in
I’m in
I’m in
in the dino squad
on a beautiful beach not far away
I went to visit for a day
got covered with some gooey ooze
that changed my DNA
Now I’m trying to act normal
Keep my cool
While other kids play after school
I turn into a prehistoric hero
I’m in
I’m in
I’m in
in the Dino Squad!

Okay.

I understand that complaining about suspension of disbelief and scientific inaccuracy in a kids’ show is a mug’s game.  I’m a superhero guy.  There are expensive superhero statues in the room with me and action figures on my desk.  My disbelief is suspended from the firmament itself most of the time, but this show still breaks the hell out of it.  So let me just lay this show out for you, and you tell me exactly when it gets to be too much.  Here is what Dino Squad is about:

  • A bunch of kids (high school students, old enough to drive motorcycles) go to the beach and get covered in ooze.  They discover it has given them the ability to turn into dinosaurs.  So far, I’m OK!  This is basically Daredevil’s origin, right?  Spider-Man got bitten by a radioactive spider.  Gooey ooze.  I’m good.
  • They meet this old lady, whose name I can never remember, and she tells them they can turn into dinosaurs.  She’s in this picture:

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So, all right, still okay.

  • The lady tells them that she is, herself, a dinosaur.  She is, in fact, a velociraptor!  A velociraptor who somehow avoided dying in the Chicxulub impact and “evolved” to be able to turn into a human being.  You literally see the two velociraptors diving into a cave during the meteor strike.
  • This is not how evolution works.
  • Velociraptors were the size of turkeys and had feathers.  If you saw one today, you’d think “Ooh, what a weird-looking bird!”.  Cassowaries are considerably scarier-looking.
  • Velociraptors died out ten million years before the Chicxulub impact.
  • This means that she was already somehow ten million years old before that explosion, and therefore the oldest living thing on Earth, exceeded possibly only by the other immortal velociraptor, and is therefore…
  • …currently 75 million years old.

But that’s Science Luther talking.  Shut up, Science Luther!  It’s a kid’s show!  Okay. Like I said, eventually that line gets crossed.  Maybe this is what does it:

  • The other velociraptor is also still around, and is therefore also 75 million years old.  He calls himself… wait for it… Victor Veloci.
  • Victor Veloci’s evil plan is to occasionally turn rodents and fish into dinosaurs, but only a couple at a time.  He’s insanely incompetent for a 75 million year old immortal dino-person.  The two of them should literally rule the planet by now.
  • You turn Victor Veloci’s dino-rodents or whatever back into regular rodents via a two-step process:  1) shooting them with a sprayer that causes the “dino DNA” to be sweated out of their skin, and 2) then– I am not joking– sucking the dino DNA up with a vacuum cleaner.  This makes them better.

Has the suspension of disbelief gotten harder yet?  Still need more?  Okay.  Here’s the kicker, then.  This is Victor Veloci’s hair:

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And, lest you think “Oh, he’s just long-haired, what’s the big deal?” let me show you another picture of Victor Veloci:

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No, he only has long hair on one side.  And that is an honest-to-God red streak dyed into his hair.  His haircut, somehow, is the most ridiculous thing about the show.

Note also his minions, who are dressed like COBRA applicants who got rejected for dressing too ridiculously.

So, yeah.  The show is about how this 75-million year old supervillain is routinely outwitted by a bunch of teenagers who can turn into dinosaurs.  Note that Veloci himself can regain his velociraptor form at any time.  (So can the old lady, presumably, although I don’t know if I’ve seen an episode where she does.)  

And those teenagers?  They’re… weird.  Especially this one:

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Now, again, these kids are in late high school, because they’re driving, but this one particularly– he turns into a pteranodon– keeps getting storylines that imply he is nine.  This particular image is from an episode where he’s having problems with bullies.  The bully’s name is McFinn, which is somehow much more ridiculous than it should be; it sounds really dumb anytime anyone says “McFinn” on the show, especially when they imply that this “McFinn” person is scary or tough.  He’s just not.  Plus, dude, you’re a dinosaur.  Drop him off a cliff.  There’s one right there by that lighthouse y’all are based in for some reason.

Now, I know, high school kids do have problems with bullies, and I’m not trying to minimize that.  But the way they handle it is weirdly infantilizing, especially since they really do try to treat pteranodude like he’s a lot younger than the rest of them.  He also gets an episode where Victor Veloci pretends to be a pretty girl in an MMORPG (75 million years old, people) and tries to get him to “break Internet safety rules” and tell her where he is so that Veloci can… do… something.  I dunno.  Underpants gnomes, profit.  The high school students have technology sophisticated enough to detect two mutated dinosaurs three states over and this dude is trynna catfish over Xbox Live.  I don’t get it.  And mohawk dude is the only one who gets these storylines.

(Oh, and remember that “play after school” line from the theme song?  Is that what high school kids do after school?  They play?)

Here’s the transformation video.  It plays six times an episode.  If your kid watches this show, expect him to spend a lot of time yelling “65 million years back!” and “going into dino mode” when you need him to put on his shoes:

One (1) point is awarded to the show because the big black kid, who would be a football player on any other program, is actually the computer nerd.  Other than that, I hate this show.

Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: CURIOUS GEORGE

pds_16993268_curious-georgeThe boy has been diversifying his television viewing habits lately, there’s no doubt about that; we’ve moved away from talking crayons and melodramatic censors and onto a few different programs, several of which probably deserve their own entry here.  But Curious George is absolutely his current favorite.

Now, for the most part, I don’t mind this show at all.  I was a big fan of the Curious George books when I was a kid, although at the time there were only a few of them, and the show itself is not really that bad.  Eminent blues/zydeco musician Dr. John provides the intro music; William H. Macy did the voice-over for the first season; there’s some quality stuff going on here, and if you ignore the core ridiculousness of the show it’s pretty easy to get along with.

But man, that core ridiculousness.  The show never gets into the fact that the Man with the Yellow Hat is a poacher who stole George from the wilderness.  Two of the main characters are scientists and they still insist on calling George a monkey when he is clearly an ape; he’s an orangutan, by the way– lots of people want him to be a chimpanzee; chimps are black and George is brown.  He’s an orang.  Deal.  The fact that most of the characters are cool with an ape being around and the fact that the city the Man lives in has no health department of any kind are also just sort of taken as given.  Also, sooner or later George is gonna hit sexual maturity, rip the Man’s face off, and masturbate with it.  That doesn’t come up often either.  As kids’ TV shows go, I can deal.

And then there’s Bill.  Bill is the one thing keeping this show from Sesame Street territory where I’m just as happy to watch the show all damn day as the boy is.  The Man’s job is unclear; it involves sciences somehow, but sometimes involves just impressing actual scientists with his ridiculous, childish drawings, and twice they’ve tried to send him into space.  At any rate, whatever he does, he has enough money that he has an expensive-looking high-rise condo in the city and a country house as well.  The country house, judging from the accents of everyone around and the amount of snow it gets, is in Minnesota, although they drive there from the city all the time and the city is clearly not in Minnesota and appears to contain Central Park.  But whatever, right?  Kids’ show.

When George goes to the country with the Man, he gets to hang out with Bill.  This is Bill:

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Bill fucking sucks.  I’ll get to why in a second, but let’s start with what’s interesting about Bill and to some extent the show in general:  Bill was white during the first season.  He’s now… that.  The show is really good about diverse casting, really; side characters are almost always people of color, especially in the city, and a number of the main ones, including Bill himself, are as well.

Right, though.  Bill.  Bill’s a bigot.  And he’s a bigot in an especially annoying way; he’s the biggest know-it-all on the show.  There is nothing in the universe that Bill doesn’t know more about than you do, and nothing that he won’t take half an hour to tediously explain, always arrogantly and frequently incorrectly, although the show doesn’t seem to recognize that he’s wrong a lot.

Bill is the only motherfucker on the show who doesn’t know George is a monkey.  Let that sink in for a second.  This know-it-all genius asshole doesn’t realize that that’s a monkey.

Well, okay, ape.  Still.

What does Bill think George is?  A “city kid.”

What’s a “city kid?”  An uneducated moron, apparently.  There is nothing– nothing— about George that Bill won’t immediately attribute to George being a “city kid,” and I think this is something that started out being intended as a cute affectation but after 630 hours of listening to him it’s actually a serious problem with the character.  He’s a huge fucking bigot.

George wants to sail a boat.  City kids don’t know anything about boats!

George participates in a corn maze.  Let me incorrectly talk about “maize” for ten minutes; city kids don’t know anything about vegetables.

George wants to enter his worm in a worm race.  City kids are too stupid for that!

The phrase “city kid” or “silly city kid” is literally probably 10-15% of Bill’s dialogue, which is a lot more than it sounds.  They won’t let him get through a scene without a “city kid” reference.  Now imagine someone substituting literally any other description of humanity in for “city kid”– “woman,” or “black person,” or “Latino,” or fucking anything— and you should see how goddamn awful the character is.

I like Curious George a lot.  But God do I hate Bill.