Ken Tucker's TV Prime-Time TV commentary

Tag: Cartoons (31-40 of 46)

'South Park' and 'The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerBalls': Writing a bestseller, killing the Kardashians

The nice thing about a headline like this is that I don’t have to warn you about language you might find offensive, right? Last night, South Park promoted reading, demonstrated the perils of literary success and hoaxes, and killed the Kardashian sisters and (off-camera, as it were) Sarah Jessica Parker.

After being forced by their teacher to read The Catcher in the Rye — we were told J.D. Salinger’s novel had been widely banned as “inappropriate” — Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny became READ FULL STORY

'South Park' season premiere review: Tiger Woods got golf-clubbed

The South Park boys enjoyed a new video game last night, a new Tiger Woods game in which players can make Woods’ wife beat him with a golf club. (Cartman, thumbing the controls wildly, used his “Pre-Nup Power-Up Option”; instead of losing points, Woods “loses endorsements.”) Warning here, naughty language:

This episode, titled “Sexual Healing,” was a set-up for a South Park carpet-bombing of all celebrity sex-related scandals and sex-addiction therapy, with David Letterman, Charlie Sheen, Bill Clinton, and David Duchovny among those cartooned by creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

But the 14th season premiere wasn’t really slamming Woods and READ FULL STORY

Seth MacFarlane on 'Bill Maher': Sarah Palin's 'phony pity' for those with Down's Syndrome

Seth MacFarlane told the host of Real Time with Bill Maher, “I saved my Sarah Palin virginity for you,” making his first public statement about Sarah Palin’s criticism of Family Guy‘s episode featuring a character with Down’s Syndrome.

MacFarlane cited Andrea Fay Friedman, the voice actress who played a character with Down’s Syndrome and has the condition herself, who said Palin “has no sense of humor.” MacFarlane said Palin wanted to “inspire phony pity” for people with Down’s Syndrome.

Unfortunately, Maher kept talking over MacFarlane, attacking Palin as “the queen of fake outrage,” when we wanted to hear MacFarlane‘s words.

Earlier, as part of a round-table discussion with READ FULL STORY

Rating Seth MacFarlane's empire: How would you rank 'Family Guy,' 'American Dad!' and 'The Cleveland Show'?

All-new episodes of Family Guy, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show air tonight, making it a good time, at the start of the year, to reevaluate these creations of Seth MacFarlane.

I’ve written reviews of these shows in the past, but at this point, I’d rather hear what you have to say, because as the years have gone by, I’ve noticed that audience taste and preferences can shift — have shifted, in some cases.

Family Guy will probably always be the quintessential MacFarlane series. Since its premiere in 1999, it’s established its unique template of hard-edged satire mixed with pop-culture non sequiturs and shaggy-dog jokes.

But in recent years, a vocal segment of fans has asserted that READ FULL STORY

My preview-reviews: Here are the best new January TV shows

Happy almost-new year. I thought during this week of widespread TV reruns, I’d whet your appetite for some of the fresh stuff coming in January. I’ve already written a bit about Chuck, so here are four more new or returning shows I highly recommend. I’ll be writing about these in more detail once they premiere, but here are some shows you can program your DVR to record right now. (Guarantee: No spoilers ahead, other than details these shows’ producers have already made generally available.)

Big Love (premieres Jan. 10, HBO) Can things get any more complicated in the Henrickson houses? Yes! Especially when you have ambitious connivers both at home (Nicki and Margene get on Bill and Barb’s last nerves real fast) and out in the world (two words: Alby Grant — and Matt Ross deserves an Emmy nom for his portrayal this season). Gambling! Corpses! Bill runs for political office!

Archer (premieres Jan. 14, FX) A sneak-preview of the pilot for this cartoon spy show aired in September, and I’ll assert that subsequent episodes only get better. From the makers of Sealab 2021 and my beloved Frisky Dingo, Archer is crass, crammed with verbal and visual gags, and seems to have absorbed every spy genre from the Bond canon to The Man from U.N.C. L.E. to Get Smart. And smart it is.

24 (premieres Jan. 17, Fox) Jack is in Manhattan. Guess what else is there? You are correct: a terrorist threat. So is Freddie Prinze, Jr. No, that’s not a threat — he’s actually good, at least in the first four hours I’ve seen. And Katee Sackhoff, in the sort of high heels Battlestar Galactica geeks have previously only dreamt of, makes a formidable foe for… Chloe! Under threat of torture, that’s all I’ll say.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand (premieres Jan. 22, Starz) I’m telling ya, this slashing take on Roman warfare and lust could very well prove the Not At All Guilty Pleasure of the season. Co-producers include Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert (Xena: Warrior Princess), and creator Steven S. DeKnight (Smallville, Angel). The violence is gleefully appalling (severed limbs, spurting crimson spray), the sex is unapologetically raunchy, the humor is bleakly funny. The glowing visual look of Spartacus is unique. Boy, I had fun — I think you will, too.

Are you looking forward to any of these?

You can follow me on Twitter @kentucker.

TV to watch tonight: Ted, Charlie, and Farrah

No new episode of The Good Wife. Biggest Loser finale? No thanks. The Forgotten? I make a point of forgetting it’s still on.

If any one of those reactions strikes a chord in you, here are three very different shows to watch tonight.

Better Off Ted: Praise be, Ted is finally back. Veridian Dynamics is exerting its imperious-corporate influence on everything, including the dating plans of Ted (my, that Jay Harrington knows how to wear a suit, doesn’t he?), much to the witty disgust of boss Portia de Rossi:

A Charlie Brown Christmas: Bumped last week for the President’s foreign policy speech, the hardy perrennial is back tonight. Despite my apparently controversial preference for the Grinch, I certainly recommend A Charlie Brown Christmas as a way to soothe the jangling nerves the holidays can bring.

Teen Mom: Finally, MTV, contrary to what you may be reading everywhere, is not solely in the business of promoting hottub STDs with its Jersey Shore. Tonight at 10 p.m. EST, the documentary Teen Mom follows up on some of the subjects of its 16 and Pregnant subjects, such as Farrah:

What the interesting, frequently emotional hour finds is that these young woman are doing their best in often difficult situations. And good luck with your mom, Farrah — you don’t need that kind of pressure.

Planning to watch Better Off Ted or Charlie Brown’s Christmas, or Teen Mom tonight? Please sound off below; thanks.

Why is Popeye on the Google home-page today?

Popeye the Sailor Man, his bulging forearms, and his strength-fortifying can of spinach can be seen on Google’s home page today, doing fans of cartoon art a big favor. Today is the birthday of Popeye creator E.C. Segar, born 115 years ago.

Segar was a newspaper cartoonist, and Popeye was first seen in Segar’s comic strip “Thimble Theater,” starring the sailor, his rail-thin girlfriend Olive Oyl, her brother Castor Oyl, and, eventually, their hamburger-munching pal Wimpy, and Popeye’s rival for Olive, the hulking Bluto.

The adventures of Popeye in the comic strips were fantastic — terrific storytelling about the creepy Alice the Goon, the Sea Hag, and other exotic villains. But the character of Popeye is best remembered for the series of cartoons that the great animator Dave Fleischer made in the 1930s. Take a look at the way Popeye and Bluto battle it out in this 1936 cartoon:

As a kid watching these shorts on TV, I loved the bouncy, elastic animation of the Popeye cartoons; as an adult, I appreciate the way the work is utterly different in tone and style from the equally-great Warner Bros. cartoons (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck) and MGM’s Tom and Jerry shorts.

There used to be some debate about the violence in Popeye cartoons. After all, the climax of most of his adventures arrives in the form of Popeye wind-milling his muscled arms and beating Bluto to a pulp.

I also loved the voice-work by Jack Mercer, the way he made Popeye mutter sarcastic asides, commenting ruefully on the action. No one else in cartoons sounded like that.

Happy birthday, E.C. Segar, wherever you are.

Are you a Popeye fan?

'Charlie Brown' vs. 'The Grinch': Which is better?

On Monday night, ABC will air How The Grinch Stole Christmas. On Tuesday night, ABC will air A Charlie Brown Christmas.

So even though Thanksgiving is barely past, it’s time to stake a claim:

I think Grinch is a superior cartoon showcase for its characters than Charlie Brown is for its pint-sized protagonists. Here are my reasons.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) was produced and directed by Bill Melendez, based, of course, on Charles Schulz’s beloved characters in the comic strip Peanuts. It featured a voice-cast of mostly “real” (i.e., not professional) children. It had a jazzy music score by Vince Gueraldi. By all reports, Schulz himself liked the half-hour.

But to me, A Charlie Brown Christmas sentimentalized Schulz’s characters in a way that Schulz himself rarely did in his comic strip — at least, during the first half of his comic strip’s run. I admire the fact that the TV cartoon includes quotations from the Bible (and specifically the King James Version, the way to go in Bible translations, by my standards), making it one of the few cartoons that actually acknowledges the religious tradition behind the holiday. (CBS was freaked out about this element, but such was Schulz’s power then, that he prevailed.) However, A Charlie Brown Christmas over-simplified Charlie’s character — he’s just a sap, a victim, a whiner. Beyond this, I also dislike the music. The pop-jazz score is indeed unusual, but it’s also intrusive and irritating. Who, before this cartoon aired, ever read a Peanuts comic-strip collection and heard jazz in his or her head? Classical music, maybe — that’s what Schroeder was there for. But more likely, blissful silence would have been better. And I think the silly dance in Christmas, with many of the characters wiggling around, is just a foolish time-waster. A Charlie Brown Christmas is sincere and well-meaning, but it doesn’t come close to equalling that Charles Schulz pulled off regularly in his comic strip: funny melancholy.

By contrast, How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966), co-directed by Chuck Jones and Ben Washam, is both faithful to the Dr. Seuss source-material and opens up new avenues of pleasure. The narration by Boris Karloff is superb, a great example of a marvelous voice enhancing Seuss’ impeccable rhymes. And the music score by Albert Hague, including songs such as “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” adds to my pleasure, unlike Charlie‘s score, which for me is a distraction. I also think the work of Jones, the veteran Warner Bros. animator and creator of classic Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Road Runner cartoons, is more finely detailed than the stiffer animation overseen by Charlie Brown co-producers Melendez and Lee Mendelson.

Don’t get me wrong. I think A Charlie Brown Christmas is a perfectly fine entertainment. I’m not trying to set up one of those “Charlie Brown sucks, Grinch rules!” pseudo-“controversial” posts. I’m just putting it out there: When it comes to choosing between these two works of popular art, I prefer Grinch as the superior work.

What do you think?

'South Park' last night: Trying to make 'The F Word' okay, and beating up Emmanuel Lewis

South Park tried to teach us a lesson last night, and lesson-teaching is something a TV show should usually try to avoid, because it usually makes for lousy storytelling.

That proved to be the case for South Park. Stan and his pals were irritated by a motorcycle gang that kept roaring around town, and drowning out everyone’s conversation. The South Park gang started yelling at the gang, calling them a crude, three-letter word READ FULL STORY

'South Park' and 'Whale Whores': Lady Gaga and Entertainment Weekly harpooned, er, lampooned

Last night, South Park had its usual tartly sarcastic way (by which I mean “delightfully savage ridicule”) with save-the-whales conservationists, cable-TV nature shows, Lady Gaga, and, yes, Entertainment Weekly in the episode titled “Whale Whores.”

First, let me say that Cartman’s version of “Poker Face” is pretty terrific. Second, gotta love the fake EW cover, complete with the second-sell headline, “We’re STILL Remembering Michael Jackson”:

Don’t you think Cartman deserves an MTV Video Award?

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