Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season Flargle, Episode Ten: "Bad Tidings"

Hmph.  Okay.  Here we have an episode where DW has to team up with this other shush agent, a Russian bear-person named Grizzlikof--SHUSH's version of Illya Kuryakin.  He's appeared before, but I never got any very strong impression of him.  They need to stop Steelbeak and co from using the threat of their tidal-wave-making machine thing to extort a bunch of dollars from people.  Right.

So…giving DW a foil like this is kind of a cool idea in theory, but I must say, I kind of hated this episode.  The idea is that Grizzlikof is all by-the-books and stuff!  And Darkwing's all spontaneous and stuff!  What'll happen when these guys have to work--record scratch--as a team???  In fact, what'll happen will be that it will be super-annoying as DW fucks everything up and tries to get out of doing any work and is generally quite unpleasant about the whole thing and the learn-to-work-together business is very forced and predictable and insincere, and Steelbeak's efforts to sow dissension between them are pretty dumb.  Also, the way it lurches from a desert island setting to the moon is jarring.

Seriously, man, the writing is leaden and I've never liked DW less.  Here's a bit that's a good example of a failing the show sometimes has--this refusal to trust the audience enough not to laboriously spell out jokes: "I'd hate to be marooned on a desert island with him.  Oh yeah…I AM marooned on a desert island with him!"  The entire second sentence there is totally unnecessary.  A pregnant pause after the first one, and you're done, or at most, leave it at "oh yeah…"  Kids aren't dumb!  Well, okay, they kind of are.  But they're not that dumb!

Hmph.  Maybe I'm just in a bad mood, but fuck this episode.

Stray Observation

-Well, at least when they divide the island in two, it makes me think of this classic bit: "My side of the woods abounds in natural scenic splendor!  Your side wallows in decay and filth!"

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quack Pack, Episode Three: "I.O.U. a U.F.O."

Shit, man, I watched this episode last night, and I'm only now bringing myself to write about it, which maybe should tell you something about the level of enthusiasm I feel.  Actually, though, it's not that bad, all things considered; for whatever reason, I guess I was marginally--but only marginally!--less irked by HDL than I was in the previous two.  Dewey has this child-like fixation on photographing UFOs, which is kind of endearing and really limns what's wrong with the characters in general: they trade almost exclusively in this self-conscious, detached irony, of the "of course we don't actually care about anything; that would be just hopelessly uncool" model that's a big reason why I don't watch South Park anymore even though it can be really funny.  I just can't stand that bullshit.  But when the character's caught in a moment of sincerity, you realize, wow, if the writers weren't so committed to pitching them in this way, they could actually be, you know, likable and stuff, and then we'd have a goddamn show.  But noooo…

(Well, yeah, I'm generalizing here based on all of three episodes, but your comments have not given me much cause for optimism.)

Yeah, so the idea is that that Daisy, along with Donald and HDL, are off to some southwestern locale so she can do a story about supposed UFO sightings.  She, along with everyone but Dewey, is skeptical, but then little alien thingies appear and some kinda dull hijinx occur.  In the end, it turns out that this rancher guy was just using a special projector thing to create the appearance of extraterrestrials.  Turns out there's no such thing as aliens until the expected twist at the very end when there actually is.

Man, when I say it like that, it sounds like an awfully damned thin plot, doesn't it?  Well, it kind of is.  But you know, whatever; as far as these things go (which isn't all that far, but what the hey), this episode was more or less tolerable.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirty-Two: "Toys Czar Us"

The idea here is that Quackerjack is stealing toys from toy stores to restock them with his own, more evil-type playthings.  Meanwhile, Gosalyn is getting in hot water for being too much of a cut-up after she causes damage playing baseball in school, so Drake earnestly gets down to the business of being a "good," stifling parent, which leads to ambivalences about facing Quackerjack and being a crime-fighter in general.  To Gosalyn's dismay, obviously.  Drake dragoons Gosalyn, Honker, Tank, and some extras to appear in a school play, "The Cookie-Crumb Faerie."  Their reactions to this are quite good: Gosalyn, predictably, doesn't want to be any damn faerie; Tank is upset because "your dad cut my napalm scene!" (?!?), and Honker is just happy that he gets to play a rock.  But then Quackerjack lures them away to his underground "ultimate toy utopia," and day-saving must occur.

Quackerjack's motivations here are totally incoherent: first it seems as though he just wants to get his destructive toys into the hands of kids to fuck them up; then, it appears that he wants kids to have them just so everyone will recognize their superior awesomeness--but then he wants the kids to pay for them, suggesting a more pragmatic profit motive.  To be clear, I like this a lot: I can't really tell how intentional it is on the writers' part, but it's an appropriate characterization of the show's most insane villain.  Who knows what fires burn in his head?  Also, when Gosalyn and the Muddlefoot kids escape only to be recaptured, he's all set to execute them as punishment via toy soldiers with guns, cementing his "most psychopathic" status.  I think this is his best episode yet.

I also like the Drake/Gosalyn conflict, which doesn't go overboard into parody and is surprisingly balanced, with both of them ultimately admitting that the other might have a point re Gosalyn's behavior.  And at the end, when she gives in and agrees to play the dumb ol' faerie, Drake removes her prop crown and puts her baseball cap on her head, which is a really great capper.

Bottom line: excellent episode.  Best in a while, for sure.

Stray Observations

-Still, I don't know what the deal is with the teacher menacingly brandishing a paddle and then offering Drake cheese and crackers--is this meant to be some sort of one-woman good-cop/bad-cop routine?

"So, would you say the pesky perpetrator pilfered your plentiful stock of profitable playthings?"
"No--I'd just say I got robbed."

-"The incredibly dreary Mr. History Doll--he'll simply bore you to death!"

-"We'll be blown to bits!"  "No, honey--we'll probably be smothered before that happens."

-I was disturbed to learn that the actress who plays Tank died at the very age that I am right now.  Io fu giĆ  quel che voi sete: e quel chi son voi ancor sarete.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Quack Pack, Episode Two: "Island of the Not so Nice"

Uh, well, okay, here's this again.  The idea here is that HDL--after a really irritating intro about how exaggeratedly teenage and bored they are--get a great idea to take Daisy's pet echidna iguana, Knuckles, for a walk so as to, uh, give them an opening to talk to a girl they like but are too shy/awkward to approach under ordinary circumstances.  I suppose something like this is good inasmuch as, in theory, it makes them seem a bit more human, but they do it in a predictably douchey way that reduces one's sympathy.  Bah.

Meanwhile, Daisy, as a reporter, is taking a ride on this new automatic plane, and for some reason she's allowed to bring Donald with her.  Certainly, these parts are the best part of the episode, and not JUST because not featuring teenage HDL kinda makes them so by default.  Daisy is indeed a very palatable character--certainly more so than she is in the great majority of comics--and Donald is…well, Donald.  Point being, I like them both.  And there's some amusing business here with the automated flight attendant and automated pilot.

Anyway, the iguana gets lost, and in chasing it, HDL end up on an island ruled by a mad scientist who wants to use his special ray thingie to reduce all lifeforms to a prehistoric state (which, when you think about it, makes little sense, given how divergent evolution is--there isn't just one single ancestor for any given plant or animal).  And eventually Knuckles gets turned big'n'prehistoric and heads back to Duckburg to, like terrorize it and stuff, until he's stopped in a singularly dumb plot twist--see, the ray was powered by peanut butter, so obviously it can be reversed by means of jelly.  I know it's kinda meant to be dumb to an extent, but the dumbness overflows the boundaries of what was intended.

Also, there is a joke about enormous-prehistoric-pigeon shit.

The key to this show, I suppose, is trying your damnedest to just endure HDL as best you can--which is fucking hard, because it's not just their language; it's also their awful facial expressions: seriously, if that smug, heavy-lidded, shit-eating smirk they do isn't enough to drive you into a killing frenzy, nothing is.  I just think about how good this show could have been if they had maintained the current versions of Donald and Daisy and went back to the Ducktales iterations of HDL.  Probably woulda lasted longer than thirty-nine episodes, too.  A real missed opportunity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Thirty-One: "Adopt-A-Con"

I'm pretty indifferent to Tuskernini as a villain, but this is an okay episode because of a sort of Abrahams-Zucker-&-Zucker-ish use of intentionally dumb/silly throwaway jokes--like in the beginning, where Tuskernini's on trial and being represented by his penguin sidekicks, who keep using props to pantomime what he should plead and then the judge goes "Enough of these charades!"  Or when DW goes "I smell a rat!" in relation to Tuskernini's presumed plotting, and Gosalyn pulls out a rat and goes "aw, can't I keep him, dad?"

So anyway, the idea is that Drake inadvertently signs up for this "Adopt-A-Con" program in which people take in convicts to reform them.  Guess who he gets stuck with (it's really easy to forget here that not everyone knows DW's identity, since they both act and look more or less identically.  But, of course, Tuskernini has no idea).

Anyway, big surprise, Tuskernini is still up to no good, and he's robbing banks via tunnels dug from Drake's house.  He likes to do his crimes dressed up, comically, as other villains, leading to an historic moment in which a lame costume actually fails to fool someone: "You're not Megavolt!  You're Tuskernini--in a really bad Megavolt disguise."

Then, there's a conclusion where Drake, LP, and Gosalyn trick him into thinking they want him to rob a mint and getting him to come in on it, and there's a really indescribably weird bit where Drake has to quickly shift from being tied up in the building to being outside with the cops as DW, which involves him crawling over vast trackless desert wastes and swimming through crocodile-filled rivers.

It's a fun episode, and that's certainly down to the writing.  This could easily have been really mediocre and boring, but the writer here went the extra mile.  Well done.

Stray Observation

-Okay okay, so nobody knows that Drake and DW are one.  Fine.  But…while I would have to go back and rewatch previous Tuskernini appearances be sure, I'm pretty much <i>certain</i> he knows that LP works with DW, and probably Gosalyn too.  And this really wouldn't tip him off that this robbery is a set-up?

Quack Pack, Episode One: "The Really Mighty Ducks"

Surprise!  Since DW episodes are, let's face it, a bit samey, I thought it might be fun (or at least different) to alternate between episodes of that and this. 

Now, I feel like I have a reputation as being excessively harsh on comics/cartoons I don't like in general and on Ducktales in particular.  Of course, this is nothing but vicious calumny, but I will allow that I have been known to state my opinions perhaps more vehemently than some.  So when people who are generally a bit more circumspect than I am have no problem more or less calling Quack Pack complete garbage, it's hard to see how any good is going to come of me watching it--especially given that I more or less vomit in sheer rage at the very thought of HDL portrayed as disaffected teenagers.

So…I don't know.  I feel that, given this blog's charter, I have some sort of duty to check it out nonetheless, but we'll have to see.  If I can't find any redeeming features here, there may be no point in me watching the entire run, abbreviated though it is: if it's uniformly shit, repeating that over and over might well get old fast.

Let's first talk about the opening, shall we?  I really like the first seven or eight seconds about it, as Donald is setting up a projector to watch some of his old-school cartoons.  And then…HDL come onto the scene with bigger screens and loud music to watch their own, more X-TREME!!! cartoons.  The message here is obvious: this AIN'T YOUR DADDY'S DISNEY SHOW!  Which message I find distasteful enough; it would, however, perhaps be a bit more coherent if the music were something other than sixties-garage-rock-sounding stuff, which is sorta kinda exactly the sort of theme song you'd expect Your Daddy's Disney Show to have.

On to the show itself.  The idea is that HDL refuse to clean their room, to Donald's irritation.  They go to see Von Drake to find a way to do it easily, but get sidetracked by his superhero-making machine.  Naturally, they just have to turn into superheroes themselves--one is smart, one is strong, one is fast--after which they form some sorta special squad thing to right injustices and things.  But then Donald turns into a supervillain and goes after them.

Now, the thing is, there's actually a fair bit to like here.  Von Drake, for instance!  Not exactly as well-characterized as he was in "The Golden Fleecing," but still, I'll take it.  I also quite like the portrayal of old-school Donald.  As for things specific to this episode, the conflict between uncle and nephews reaches amusingly enormous proportions, culminating in Donald using Saturn's rings as a slingshot to blast planets and things at HDL and destroying the entire universe until Von Drake fixes things by moving time backwards (it's not yet clear whether or not the entire show's gonna have so cavalier an attitude towards realism).  There's also a funny thing where the stentorian narrator keeps actually appearing on-screen and annoying the characters.  Yes, it is absolutely the case that the writing is excessively impressed by how clever it thinks it is when it really isn't, but, you know…nothing unforgivable.

Thing is, though, this is all obviated to a substantial degree by how absolutely, vomitously awful the nephews are.  I suppose the idea was that the Disney shows would grow up with the viewers, so that ten-year-olds would be able to identify with them in Ducktales and those same ten-year-olds, now sixteenish, would be able to in Quack Pack.  But their supercilious, too-cool-for-school, way-less-clever-than-they-think-they-are characterization (if we're supposed to differentiate among them to a greater degree than we were in Ducktales, it's not apparent from this first episode) is just unforgivably shit.  Their horrible douchiness makes me think of Ferris Bueller or John Connor in Terminator 2.  Granted!  Granted granted granted!  This is just the first episode.  They may later on demonstrate redeeming qualities that make me hate them less than I do those guys.  But it's gonna be hard.  And that fucking sucks, because, as I noted, there are things here that are/have the potential to be extremely worthwhile and really don't deserve to be buried underneath a mountain of suckitude.  But here is Louie, sotto voce, when it transpires that Von Drake's machine won't work because it's unplugged, in a brainlessly snide tone: "And there's [sic--also, suck] people who question his genius!"  How does that inspire anything in the viewer other than a hearty fuck you?

Stray Observations

-"Fear not, super siblings: I will subdue the brute with my magnificent mammoth muscles!"  "You let him borrow your thesaurus again, didn't ya?"  Seriously, what words in there are meant to be difficult/exotic?  "Siblings?"  "Subdue?"  "Mammoth?"  If you can't do this half-assed pseudo-clever bullshit competently even in its own terms…

-Huey can't think of a good superhero name, so he just goes as "The Really Incredibly Fast Guy."  Granted, thirteen-year-old me would probably have found this facile shit hilarious, but please don't pander to that asshole, show: he had a terrible sense of humor!  No good can come of that!

-People say that Daisy is the best aspect of the show.  She only briefly appears here, so it's difficult to judge.  She's a reporter, but when she realizes that no one's watching because all the TVs have been stolen…she decides to fulfill her lifelong dream of playing bagpipes?  Guh?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Eight: "All's Fahrenheit in Love and War"

There's a big ol' blizzard in St. Canard, and DW wants to go on vacation, but what's this?  Banks getting robbed!  Turns out the responsible parties are these "fireflies" that melt their way into vaults, melt gold mullion into liquid, and take it out.  There's a scene that I actually found sort of distressing when they're heating up the room and DW and LP are desperately trying to escape the heat.  I mean, I know that, given this show's epistemology, there's no real danger, but I couldn't help thinking how horrific that would be in real life.

Anyway, turns out these bugs are being controlled by one Isis Vanderchill, a large woman who looks sort of like a duck version of Ursula from The Little Mermaid.  It seems she used to be "the ice Queen of St. Canard," but she had experimental surgery to freeze her face to keep it from aging, but it went wrong and, uh, froze her blood, so now she's always cold.  Which is why she apparently lives in, well, Hell, deep beneath the ground.  She takes a shine to DW, and there's some sorta-sexist stuff where she makes him go out with her, but then it is revealed that she's controlling the bugs, and Shit Gets Real.  It transpires that the ultimate goal is to coat all of St. Canard with gold, on the basis that this will "reflect enough heat to keep [her] warm all year long."  I ain't one a them there fancy-pants scientists, but I am nonetheless fairly certain that gold does not work that way.

Basically making time, really.  I feel like Vanderchill needs to be more flamboyant--or more something, at any rate--to be memorable.  But as it stands, like this episode, she really isn't.  Instead of watching it, why not read Alfred Bester's short story "Fondly Fahrenheit?"  It does some interesting things with perspective and is ultimately quite chilling (ho ho).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Seven: "Smarter than a Speeding Bullet"

As DW and LP are looking to foil Steelbeak's theft of rubber duckies, an alien capsule crashes down in the middle of the fracas.  Inside is Comet Guy, a generic-looking musclebound alien superhero from the planet Mertz (sp?).  I like the name "Comet Guy" because it sounds like a superhero name that a six-year-old would come up with.  Perhaps this is intentional, inasmuch as he has the intellect of a little kid.  Apparently, he's no great shakes as a superhero, so he needs a champion from another planet--like DW!--to train him.  Oh, and he has one weakness: when he hears the sound of a bell, he has to dance uncontrollably, wearing various different dancing costumes, until he hears a whistle.  Hokay.  This is an excuse for the writers to play dress-up with him, more or less; some of his get-ups and accompanying dances are pretty funny, but this is a conceit that could get old very fast if it manifests again in later appearances of the character.

Anyway, DW gets fed up with CG's incompetence and refuses to continue the training.  I thought there would be some sorta conflict with DW getting jealous of the fact that CG has actual superpowers, like flight and ice-vision, but that never really comes up.  Probably a good thing, ultimately; it's a bit predictable (then again, I suppose DW might have some too--that teleporting thing he does doesn't seem to have any realistic explanation).  Steelbeak decides that HE can pretend to be a superhero-training-guy ("Steelbeak Cluck") and get CG to work for him, helping out with FOWL's diabolic scheme to create a giant, remote-controlled, bouncy rubber ball of destruction (the "FOWL ball").  Various things occur and CG's back with the good guys, and they're able to use the dancing thing to their advantage to win, which is pretty clever.

I like Comet Guy, in spite of my previous caveat about the uncontrollable-dancing gimmick.  My favorite part is the bit where he hammers three eggmen in a row into the ground (""You can't make an omelet without pounding the living daylights out of a few eggs!").  I gather he only reappears once, but more woulda been better, I say.  Certainly, he would've made a better Justice Duck than that flippin' dinosaur whose name I forget and refuse to look up.

Stray Observations

-OF COURSE there's a giant pencil sharpener at the pencil factory!  What would you expect?

-"Launchpad--tell him I'm me!"  "Gee, I dunno DW--they ALL look like you!"

"'Gasp!'  I've been duped!"

-I wonder if they ever meant to unveil those shadowy FOWL High Command people at any point.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Six: "Cleanliness Is Next to Badliness"

 Not quite sure why, but I do find the word "badliness" to be intrinsically funny.

Weird opening where Steelbeak is explaining to this woman (a HUMAN woman) sitting on his lap why he hasn't been seeing her lately ('cause he's busy with evil-executive stuff, apparently).  Meanwhile, she just sits there stock-still so you think she's some kinda doll.  And then when FOWL contacts him, he quickly drops her through a trapdoor.  I feel like there's a lotta weird psychosexual stuff here just waiting to be unpacked.

Anyway, the shadowy FOWL leaders want him to rob some banks because they're running low on cash.  Steelbeak, considering himself a criminal mastermind, isn't keen on doing something so plebian, but he's intimidated into it.  So he enlists the help of Ammonia Pine, the evil cleaning-lady from some earlier episode or other.

Meanwhile, Gosalyn has the great idea that there should be a Darkwing fan club.  Accordingly, when he goes out to investigate this mysterious bank robbery, she brings some kids out to watch him do his thing.  This is all pretty silly, but sort of amusing, I suppose.

Steelbeak and Ammonia make a theoretically interesting team, but it ultimately gets a little unpleasant: she's into him, and he just acts like a dick about it.  If you ask me, it would be way funnier if the affection was to some degree mutual.

DW gets all full of himself with the fan club thing, but ultimately, with some help from Honker and Gosalyn, he prevails, in the sense that Steelbeak gets beaten up.  In more to-the-point categories, however, he doesn't prevail at all: I must note the most amusing thing about this episode, which is that FOWL totally achieves all its goals, or close enough: sure, Steelbeak and Ammonia were going to rob one last bank, but the FOWL boss makes it clear that the previous robberies had already resulted in sufficient profit to return to normal levels of criminal activity.  Steelbeak getting thwomped doesn't change that.  The writers really took their eyes off the ball here.

Still, not a terrible episode, and we get a longer and more interesting look at Steelbeak than we normally do.

Stray Observations

-"Now try to imagine that Launchpad here is a witless, brainless thug!"

-"I always knew you were a big chicken, Steelbeak!"

"Darkwing Duck does not know the meaning of the word 'defeat'!"  "I know who's getting a dictionary for his birthday!"

Friday, March 9, 2012

Darkwing Duck, Season One, Episode Twenty-Four: "When Aliens Collide"

Hokay, we're back.  The exact reasons for the recent silence hereabouts are a bit convoluted, but let me just say this: refusing to release almost half the episodes of Darkwing Duck on DVD or providing any other way to legally access them and then staging a major crackdown on their availability on youtube and such like?  Pretty serious dick move, jackasses.

But suffice it to say that I believe I've sorted everything out now, so regular updates will resume.

And unfortunately, they resume with an episode that I found none too exciting.  It takes as a theme, or subtheme, the question of whether or not Drake is being overprotective of Gosalyn and whether he should trust her more; a perfectly reasonable thing to want to address, but the episode does it in a really half-assed way, as in the open in which he's kvetching because she made him take her and Honker to a "rock concert"--that's right, a generic "rock concert."  "You always think you know what's best for me," she complains.  "You've gotta start trusting me sooner or later."  But this is all in reference to something really trivial that, when you come right down to it, has nothing at all to do with growing up.  Sheesh.

Sigh…so the idea is that a mute purple alien thingie with a bow tie crashes its spaceship.  It indicates that it wants the bow tie removed, but it transpires that it's really evil and stuff and wants to blow up the universe, and the tie is an inhibitor preventing it from using its real power.  And our heroes, with the help of an interstellar cop, stop it from doing so.  And the question of "trust" is just kind of left awkwardly hanging.

Not impressed, DW people.  You need to step up your game.

Stray Observations

-Yeah, and how 'bout this: there's a machine to remove the bow tie, but Gosalyn needs to know what button to push to activate it.  "Quick, Honk!" she exclaims.  "What's your favorite color?"  'Cause Honker's smart and stuff so naturally his favorite color would be the right color for this particular task and COME ON, don't DO this; crud like this is worthy of the worst of Ducktales.