As an opening post on the Scratch Pad, I’d like to break the ice with a review of several of the animated premieres that aired this weekend. Have you seen something over the weekend that you want to review? Go ahead and post a comment! Reviews right after the break.
BEN 10: ULTIMATE ALIEN – “Fame” – (Fridays at 8:00 P.M., Cartoon Network) – The first of two new action series premiered last week on Cartoon Network’s Friday night action block. With that said, whether or not you consider Ben 10: Ultimate Alien to be “new” is up to you. Unlike the original Ben 10 and its sequel series Ben 10: Alien Force, there are few drastic changes to this series. With the exception of a new main villain and the addition of the Ultimatrix with its set of (almost) new aliens, Ultimate Alien is essentially a fourth season of Alien Force with a title change. Unlike the previous series, the premiere episode was a fully-contained 22 minute story, and I feel that the show suffered for it. Despite the title and advertisement, the revelation of Ben’s secret outed to the public is hardly acknowledged. What seems to be an interesting development with plenty of earth-shattering implications is instead used as a short stepping stone to the episode’s main plot introducing Water Hazard, one of the series’ new aliens. Another unfortunate side effect of the running time, there were plenty of plot points that were either glossed over, such as Ben’s new car. The Ultimatrix aliens didn’t feature much, either. While I can understand that Ben wouldn’t have access to some of the new aliens, but the ones he did have (the “evolved” Ultimate forms of his older aliens) were ignored in favor of the regular roster from Alien Force. With that said, the ending with the new main villain Aggregor was intriguing and the episode itself was enjoyable. Hopefully later episodes will flesh this new series out. B-
GENERATOR REX – “The Day That Everything Changed” – (Fridays at 8:30 P.M., Cartoon Network) – The second series was Generator Rex. Announced just last year at Cartoon Network’s upfront presentation, this series was created by Man of Action, the same team of comic writers and creators behind Ben 10. The premise (human weapon battling other mutants) and press images seemed intriguing, but the advertisements and previews that appeared later seemed to paint the show as another Ben 10: lots of potential squandered by an obnoxious lead and bland writing. Now that the show has finally premiered, has my image of the show changed? Unfortunately not. Rex himself is an overly cocky jerk, and his monkey sidekick Bobo Haha isn’t much better, seemingly just an excuse to cram in as many lame jokes into the story as possible. Speaking of the jokes, the writing doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be a serious action show for teens or a jokey, Ben 10-esque show made for children. For example, an onscreen stabbing and a field of dead bodies is juxtaposed with a pretty cringeworthy poop joke just ten minutes earlier. Not to say that I hated it, but I feel that there’s a lot of potential to be had here that isn’t being realized. There are plenty of things about the series I like, such as the main villain Van Kleiss and the freaky, twisted monster designs. The show isn’t bad, but it’s not exactly good either. As of now, it’s just a middle-of-the-road show. Hopefully in the coming weeks, things get better from here. C
TOTALLY SPIES! THE MOVIE – (Sunday at 7:00 P.M., Cartoon Network) – Totally Spies! is like a junk-food cartoon. It’s not high art and I probably wouldn’t tell others about it, but it’s a guilty pleasure that I’m willing to watch every now and then. It’s literally been years since I’ve seen the show the last time it aired on American television, and I was afraid that it wouldn’t hold up. For the most part, I was wrong. With the exception of a few voicing issues, the show is as good(?) as I remembered. My only disappointment was that for an “origin story” movie, there wasn’t much origin story in it. With the exception of a couple scenes at the beginning about WOOHP hounding them down, there’s not much about the characters and show that we didn’t already know from the series. The remainder of the film plays out like a regular episode. And just like most episodes of Totally Spies!, it’s a fun, enjoyable ride but is ultimately nothing special. B+
AMERICAN DAD! – “Bully for Steve” – (Sundays at 9:30 P.M., FOX) – Probably the most underrated of the Seth MacFarlane comedies, American Dad! continues the chug along in its little Sunday night slot. While not as hilarious as last week’s episode, it had a nice focus on Stan’s relationship with his son Steve. My only main fault with the episode is the ending. The episode keeps building up to Steve finally facing up to Stan, and it ends with a cop-out: Steve just simply pays his father’s old high school bully to beat Stan up for him, effectively making the entire point of Stan bullying Steve moot. I guess that was the point though, and it led to a pretty hilarious fight scene at the end. The subplots were pretty dull, however. The plot with Roger becoming a crime scene photographer seemed to disappear halfway through the episode, only reappearing when it was tangentially related to the main story. Once again, the Hayley and Reginald story arc went nowhere. I like that they’re trying to add continuity and flesh out two underused characters, but it all seems so dull. But hey, at least Jeff’s back! A-