Sep 29, 2012

TV Rewind: Freakazoid - "The Chip: Part 2/Freakazoid is History"

Hello and welcome to TV Rewind, a series that will explore the shows of yesteryear and dissect them one episode at a time. My goal is to explore lesser known programs that you may not be aware existed. For my first series, I have chosen Freakazoid!, a beloved cartoon that ran on the WB from 1995-1997 and made for some weird, Animaniacs-style parodies of the superhero genre. I will attempt to give you the goods every weekend, just like the actual show. While I may not do it every week, make sure to look out for double headers in which I review episodes on Saturday and Sunday.

The Chip: Part 2

In this episode, we finally see the conclusion to "The Chip" arc. However, as the title suggests, this is not the whole episode. In fact, if you paid attention to the end credits in which they gave a sneak peak, they gave away almost every key element that comes into play in this episode. And yes, I am counting the man wrestling a bear for no reason. Yes, it is all comical, but this show should never attempt to do a teaser like that again, because it kind of impacted momentum this week.
However, let's just jump into the episode. As you may remember, Gutierrez (Ricardo Montalban) has kidnapped Dexter (David Kaufman) and Roddy MacStew (Craig Ferguson) in a quest to get the Pinnacle Chip back. He also kidnapped Dexter's family (Tress MacNeille, Googy Gress, John P. McCann) and forced them to watch Marty Ingels videos as torture. The one perk is that Roddy encourages Dexter to turn into Freakazoid (Paul Rugg) so that they can free themselves and right all of the wrongs.
Dexter doesn't know how, until he finally screams "I'm freaking out!" This does the trick, and suddenly Freakazoid is free. He wrestles some guards, knots them into a ball, and kicks them through a few buildings to a chiropractor, who is happy to see them. With them out of the way, Roddy and Freakazoid go on a quest to find Gutierrez, who has the chip and the code to turn himself into the diabolical ruler of the world.
Since Gutierrez is a terrible typer, this takes him awhile. Roddy finds a nearby computer and types in the code. He is now in the computer where he is making his home. He also reveals the necessary information for Dexter to turn into Freakazoid. He is contempt and is never seen again. In fact, it is so dramatic that Freakazoid claims that it made water come out of his eyes.
After cornering Gutierrez, the two have a showdown. Freakazoid's move is to pull back his eye patch and run it all the way to Tibet. Here he apologizes to a raker that he yelled at in the first part of "the Chip." He gives it to him, only to have him let go. This results in the patch hitting Gutierrez at such a rate that he falls through the wall and through multiple high rise buildings. He is soon projected back to the room by a pair of telephone wires. 
This helps the police to capture Gutierrez and put him behind bars. As Freakazoid is out in the parking lot, Cosgrove (Ed Asner) walks over to him and compliments him on the job. However, this isn't without a request to join him for a snow cone. During this, Cosgrove opens up about how he feels someone with Freakazoid's powers should be a superhero. In fact, Freakazoid is not convinced until Cosgrove mentions that it is a good way to get ladies. This seals the deal and starts a wonderful friendship between the two characters. 
Cut back to Jack Valenti, who is wrapping up the segment with his farewell speech. As he is about to say goodbye, Freakazoid pops in to say that they forgot about one thing. If you remember from the last episode, Valenti promised to show a clip of a man wrestling a bear for no reason. They finally show it, and with that, the segment ends.
This seems to be more straightforward than "the Chip: Part 1," though it could be because it is only half of the episode. It has plenty of laughs, but the suspense and constant slapstick is really what makes this segment work. We don't get as much of a sense of character as we did in the first, but at least the origin manages to fit in Cosgrove in a way that is already familiar to the series. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Freakazoid is History

And just like that, we go from a fairly straightforward segment to this round of pop culture mania. Try and keep up with all of the references, if you can. There are so many, and not all distinctly 90's, that makes this probably the most cluttered and nerdiest segment that the show has produced to this point. The first gag is a simple one of Freakazoid perched on top of a talking gargoyle (90's kids will remember the show Gargoyles, which this is undoubtedly spoofing).
The story follows Freakazoid as he is set to rescue the airplane Air Force One. On board is President Clinton (Frank Welker), who is panicking as they are flying through a thunder storm. After questioning who is flying the plane, it is discovered that one of the people is Barbara Streisand, who sings about how airplane pilots are the happiest people in a way not infringing on another song. It is also a peril because the door covering the wheels is jammed and the plane is running low on fuel. 
Freakazoid comes to save the day, but only on account that he gets airplane peanuts. He gets them and does his job. He pushes the doors open, which he claims is better exercise than aerobics. After doing this, he watches the plane take off, only for him to be sucked into a vortex. He thinks that he can escape, but is eventually proven wrong.
Upon landing, he thinks that he's in Norway. He sees palm trees and a lot of hula girls. He soon discovers that he is in Pearl Harbor right before the invasion. This is already ballsy subject matter for a cartoon, but how it is handled is pretty splendid.
A segment card reading "Quantum Freak" (obviously a play on Quantum Leap) appears across the screen, and Freakazoid openly acknowledges that it is a parody. There are also clips of Freakazoid spliced into old movies, which includes: the Graduate, the Sound of Music, Jaws, Ben Hur, Davey Crocket, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Saturday Night Fever and North by Northwest (not in that order). 
Upon returning to the episode, Freakazoid notices that there are some kamikaze pilots heading his way. With his rocket pack attached to his back, he decides to figure out a way to stop them. He decides to build a stationary post where he checks each plane for smuggled in goods, most notably fruit (Blazing Saddles reference?). This causes everyone to turn around, and Freakazoid is proud that he averted the start of World War II.
Travelling to the modern day, he notices a few changes. This includes the ability for Sharon Stone (Tress MacNeille) to actually act and that Rush Limbaugh is a bleeding heart liberal. Being curious, he heads back to the Air Force One and discovers who the president is. It is the lab mouse the Brain (Maurice LaMarche) and the pilot is Pinky (Rob Paulsen). The episode ends on an extended Pinky joke and their theme music playing.
While this may have had more references per minute than every other segment combined, it was still a very funny one. The hula girls gag never ceases to be a highlight, and the ability to name all of the iconic parodies is another achievement. This is by far the nerdiest segment to date, even if it isn't the most clever in the plot field.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Ever wonder how Cosgrove and Freakazoid became friends? This episode explains it. It is also effective because in all of the directions that it could have gone, it was simple and to the familiar way that we know the two. They always get together and celebrate for no reason. Sometimes Cosgrove may seem kooky, but other times he spouts words of wisdom, like he does here. I am hoping that this is the start of Cosgrove in every episode, because the show has been lacking in him, though in the last episode, it kind of makes sense.
I also think that Roddy MacStew, as cliche Scottish as he is, is an excellent addition to the cast. The entire spiel about surfing the internet felt really solid and bizarre. Gutierrez was also excellent, if just because he felt reminiscent of the Star Trek character Khan this time, especially with the way he altered some of his iconic dialogue. Of course, everything in that segment was overshadowed by the slapstick. This isn't an issue, but it felt uneven to the first half.
As for "Freakazoid is History," the segment was really solid despite the fact that it was nothing but pop culture references. I worry about when the show heads down that road, because sometimes it goes too far. However, it knew just the right point to sneak in a little bit of originality. Like I have said before, the hula girls gag is pretty excellent and was never overplayed, when it could have easily gone on for another 20 seconds.
Combined, this is Freakazoid in transition to being the great show that I know that it can be. I have no doubt that even in segmented form, we can expect tangential humor and Cosgrove interruptions that will keep making you laugh. It also seems to be getting a little risky. From last week's excessive use of crud to this episode's use of fudge, there are naughty words that somehow are implied, but never spoken.  
This show has never been about consistency, and that is a good thing. If it was, would it really sneak in a cameo by Pinky and the Brain? Probably not. Still, this is more of an episode for nerds, as I doubt anyone under 20 would know what Gargoyles is. Let's just hope that the rest of the show doesn't fall into 90's humor.

Check out more of my work at where I post every Wednesday and have a podcast called Nerd's Eye View.

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