Monday, November 3, 2008

The Week's New Shows

Classic cartoons, current politics, and compressed horror flicks. Enjoy!

Presented from Worst to First

Episodes: Fourteen episodes, most of which are 7-8 minutes long
Clips: None
Studio: FUNimation
Rank: C-
I can think of a lot of words that describe this short-format CGI cartoon, but I don't know that I can easily convey the experience of watching Mr. Stain and his friends negotiate their bizarre little world. Here's the best I can do: The episodes are like one of the old Tom and Jerry cartoons-- there is no dialogue, and many of the storylines lend themselves to slapstick violence. But here, the violence in question is gory enough to be disturbing.

There was one bit in an old Bugs Bunny cartoon when a cartoon dog was trapped on his back and someone says "This time, I didn't forget the gravy." He then proceeds to dump a vat of gravy into the dog's whimpering, protesting mouth while the dog's belly starts to distend to cartoonish proportions. I found it to be very disturbing, and not at all funny. A lot of the slapstick in Mr. Stain is similarly disturbing, as when Mr. Stain is being eaten alive by a giant fish, tears rolling down his cheeks while his supposed friend looks on stoically. When a character gets whacked in the head by a shovel in this show, he bleeds. Sometimes he bleeds a lot.

A final note: the animation in this show is very low-budget-- it's a scaled down CGI that reminds me of the worst parts of Veggie Tales. Sadly, the worst new offering of the week.

Episodes: None
Clips: Five 2minute clips
Studio: FEARnet
Rank: C
This show features compressed, super-fast recaps of some popular horror movies. I was surprised to find how complete the blow-by-blow recaps could really be. If you like the horror movies in question (currently The Candyman, The Howling, Evil Dead 2, Night of the Living Dead, and Leprechaun in the Hood), then you will probably find the short recaps worth watching. You might as well check it out. It only takes 10 minutes to watch them all.

Episodes: None
Clips: One-- the entire half hour ad
Network/Studio: Brought to us by the good folks at Hulu!
Grade: C+
I think it's important for Hulu to put content like this up, but that being said, I didn't care much for the schmaltz that Obama is peddling here. When third party presidential candidate Ross Perot bought up national airwaves in the early nineties, he broke out the pie charts and had a serious discussion with America about how he thought his programs would help the country. Obama's ad, by comparison, is so slick it makes "Slick Willie" Clinton look like Bob Dole. I was hoping for something a little more substantial than violins playing in the background while an average american tells us his or her sob story. Let McCain make all the hay he wants out of his Joe the Plumber schtick. One of the nice things about Obama is that he appeals to the intellectual in all of us, and that appealing trait was nowhere in evidence here.

Episodes: Twelve 24 minute episodes
Clips: None
Studio: FUNimation
Rank: B
I would call this almost-great anime. The premise is awesome-- Watanuki is a young man who has been plagued by dark spirits his entire life. Invisible to the world at large, they chase and pummel him whenever they feel like it. In the first episode, Watanuki winds up going to a witch, who tells him that she will keep his demons from him, but only if he works for her until his debt is paid. The setup allows for a bunch of great stories-- there is the ongoing story of Watanuki himself, as well as the stories of those other cursed people who come to the witch for help.

But I still had some problems with the execution. My biggest issue is that Watanuki himself is just not very likable. A very tall and thin Harry Potter lookalike, he yells hysterically whenever things don't go his way. That gets real old, real fast, as the saying goes. The animation is decent, but not terrific. And while the storylines are creative, the dialogue and writing are subpar at times, telegraphing plot twists from miles away before trying to dazzle us with a big reveal.

That being said, the setting, story, and supporting characters (most notably Yuko, the sultry and morally ambiguous witch) are good enough to make this one worth watching.

Episodes: 32 twenty two minute episodes, which includes all of Season 1 and most of Season 2
Clips: None
Network/Studio: MGM
Grade: B+
I found this semi-scripted sports comedy to be very watchable in small doses. There are six main characters, who run the sports desk at a television station (so expect wagonloads of sports celebrity cameos). In the season 2 opener, the team gets suspended from the sports desk after accidentally insulting football legend Jerry Rice. They're told that they're going to be replaced by "Baby Heroes," which will show the characters of Heroes when they're babies ("When will that be on?" asks one of the sportscasters, clearly intending to watch it). The humor is quick, consistently light, and snappy. They're going for a feel that's somewhere between The Office and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and I think they pull it off pretty well. It was way better than I expected, at least, even if the characters are somewhat unlikeable.

Episodes: Ten 13 minute episodes, each of which contains 2 vignettes
Clips: None
Network/Studio: Entertainment Rights
Grade: A-
The Casper cartoons are like a fine wine-- they go down much more smoothly after aging for 50 years. The episodes posted aired between 1952 and 1963, but some of the vignettes are re-airings of cartoons from the 40s. What originally seemed inane and predictable has been transformed by the years into a quaint portrait of the era in which it was produced.There's something inherently watchable about a harmless, relentlessly good-hearted ghost who is shunned by all who discover that he's a spirit. On an endless quest for friends, Casper meets such diverse characters as Wendy the Witch, a skunk who is similarly lonely, and the no-good ghostly trio, who constantly tear Casper down for failing to be a proper ghost. This is a fine addition to the Hulu stable, and definitely worth a look-see. For now, the best new offering of the week!


The Hulu Man

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