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.

On the Transcendent Joy of Parenting

cb92ef0cef493f0a4f5530c506dbc8373aaea16bc8426a590859ca5e1a94ab1e_1.gifWoke up this morning to discover that Reddit had discovered the goddamn Snowpiercer post again, to the tune of 600 pageviews before I woke up and just shy of 2000 right now.  Went to work and Sold Hot Furn, as the phrase goes– and that’s really a thing people have suggested we do around where I work, believe it or not– and then grabbed the boy and swung by my parents’ place.  Mom had minor surgery yesterday and I wanted to check in on her.  She’s fine.  Dinner happened.  All was good.

Oh, and I spent a hundred and seventy dollars on a pillow, which is a thing that is possible and which I did and there will be a review of this pillow in the near future.

So.  Yeah.  Post-dinner, the boy and I headed home, and then I was confronted, in rapid succession, with:

  • The Crisis of I Left My Snuggly at Grandma’s, Yes, I Need It Now, We Need to Go Back
  • The Crisis of Why is McDonald’s Taking So Damn Long, Daddy, and the Reminder that I Could have Eaten at Grandma’s Like You Did is Not Assuaging Me Any
  • The Crisis of Two Skinned Knees in the Driveway
  • The Crisis of Why Isn’t There Any Pie Left, Yes, I Know I Have McDonald’s, But Now I Want Pie Because My Knees are Skinned
  • The Crisis of These Appropriately Sized Band-Aids do not Feature Pictures of the Proper Cartoon Characters; I Want Four Smaller Ones Instead
  • The Crisis of What Does “Suck It Up, Buttercup” Mean, Daddy?
  • The Crisis of The Dog is Too Close to My Chicken Nuggets
  • The Crisis of Daddy’s iPad is Out of Battery Power
  • The Crisis of Why Isn’t Mommy Home to Deal With These Crises, Daddy, Your Relative Lack of Sympathy to Many of My Problems has been Noted.

Another eleven thousand steps today, by the way, and today was my half-day.

On hills, and the dying thereupon

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I watched The Force Awakens with my son for the first time a few weeks ago.  Since then we’ve watched it once or twice more and a curious pattern has arisen: every time, and I mean every God Damned time, Kylo Ren appears on screen, the boy asks who he is.

“Kylo Ren,” I say.

“Oh,” he says, then he waits until his next scene and asks again.  If he wasn’t four I’d be certain he was trolling me.  This has, lately, extended to toys as well; we were in Target the other day and he picked up a Ren figure and asked me who it was.

I generally walk into school with him at Hogwarts and escort him to his classroom; it’s not entirely necessary but he enjoys it and there’s no good reason not to do it.  After he drops off his stuff at his cubby there’s a plastic box he’s supposed to put his lunch and snack into and take with him to the classroom.  The kids have all decorated theirs with stickers, and I think the teachers use cubby-stickers for minor rewards.  He always shows me when he has a new sticker.  And the other day there was a Kylo Ren sticker on his mailbox.

“Look!” he says.  “It’s Skylo Ren!”

Kylo Ren,” I say.

“No,” he says.  “That’s Skylo Ren.”

I swear, you could hear my teeth grinding from the moon for a brief moment.

“It’s Kylo,” I said.  “It’s been Kylo every single time you’ve asked for weeks.  Which one of us can read, again?”

“Mrs. McGonagall says it’s Skylo,” he says, as if that settles the issue.  I think Mrs. McGonagall is the gym teacher, maybe?

“Mrs. McGonagall is wrong,” I say.  “His name is Kylo Ren.  K-Y-L-O.”

“Skylo,” he says.  He’s getting loud and insistent.  I drop it, until the next time I am with him in a store and see a Kylo Ren toy, at which point I force him to spell the name to me and, after doing so, he asks who the toy is.

I give up.


They have been studying birds in class, for what seems like weeks, and the boy has acquired a legitimately impressive store of facts about ornithology.  We are putting him to bed, and I walk into his bedroom as my wife is giving him a hug and he, in his way, is explaining to her that cowbirds put their eggs in the nests of other birds because they are lazy.

My wife is a biologist. I actually see her eyes twitch.

“Who told you that?” she says.

“Mrs. Dumbledore,” he says.  Mrs. Dumbledore is actually his teacher.

“That’s not quite true,” she says.  “It’s actually an evolutionary strategy–”

He interrupts.  “Lazy!”

There is another twitch.

I watch my wife be dragged unwillingly down a road where she actually uses the phrase brood parasitism in a conversation with a four-year-old.  There is a large smile on my face, and eventually the boy wins again.  Okay.  Fine.  Skylo Ren.  Lazy cowbirds.

We give up.