Monday, April 4, 2011

Robot Chicken's Move to the Nineties

Robot Chicken was created by Matthew Seinreich, Mike Fasolo, and most notably Seth Green, who's voice can be heard all over the place in the show. It was picked up by Cartoon Network's segment Adult Swim, a more adult-oriented set of strange cartoons. Like many shows on Adult Swim, Robot Chicken's episodes are designed for fifteen minute blocks. First aired on February 20th, 2005, Robot Chicken has really come into its own and is widely popular. They even did several Star Wars specials which were absolutely hilarious. It actually has won an Emmy in 2006 for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation," and has been nominated and won others since. The show is well-known as being designed "for the ADD generation" because each episode is made up of many short bits that are then smashed together in quick cuts. The show, though funny in its own right as well as great animating, is also known for its constant eighties references.

A lot of the eighties references happened somewhat naturally, being created and written by children of the eighties, as well as being very nerdy (i.e. Seth Green). These elements amplified the show as a whole, being very clever in its references and often being able to make clever cracks at silly oversights and inconsistencies in the shows, or just putting characters in completely different scenarios. In a very recent episode Kramer Vs. Showgirls, the group decided to truly tackle the nineties in the same vein. To be fair, this episode aired January 30th, 2011, the fourth episode of the newest season (number five). The show makes allusions to Toy Story, which is somewhat funny with Andy coming home from Spring Break, but gets lost with him lobotomizing Buzz Lightyear to use as a bong (which feels kind of forced as well as contrived) and becoming a reference within a reference. It starts off with Legos, which was fun, but for some reason decides though the people can drive the vehicles made of bricks, random things are made of the actual material they normally are. Though funny at times, "their faces! THEIR HORRIBLE FACES!!" It's mostly a small chuckle.

The unfortunate, worst part of this episode is when "Michael Moore" reports on "nineties characters we thought we'd never forget...and then we did." Among these are Darkwing Duck, Where's Waldo, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Pinky and the Brain, and Daria. Unfortunately, aside from these being a cheap knock at mostly Saturday morning cartoons and a puzzle game, the worst rendition was of Daria. She was referred to "this anti-sexual, basically asexual boy-rebelling train wreck." When interviewed, she is extremely fat and is apparently now "Daryl," having realized she's not a "disgusting woman" but a "beautiful man." None of these descriptions remotely describe her characterization or the show's overall feel. It was at this point it became clear that those writing the material simply didn't know or watch the shows they were making fun of. When I shared these "references" with friends who also grew up in the nineties, we were all disappointed and mostly bothered by this clearly "the eighties try to destroy the nineties" take on the nineties.

Over all, I think Robot Chicken is a great show. I love Seth Green and his nerdiness, and I can't wait to hear his voice as Joker in Mass Effect 3. That being said, perhaps Robot Chicken should let things naturally flow, rather than finding themselves out of material for eighties references and try to force their view of the nineties on viewers who have a better understanding of those references.

Watch the episode here.
Watch the infamously inaccurate clip here.
Robot Chicken on Wikipedia.
Robot Chicken's own Wiki.

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