Feb 8, 2014

TV Rewind: Pinky, Elmyra & The Brain - "Cute Little Alienhead/Better Living... Through Cheese"

Welcome to TV Rewind with the doomed crossover series Pinky, Emlyra & The Brain in which two flagship series join forces for a short-lived, ill conceived show. Over the course of this series, we will look at all of the episodes as presented on the DVD set and analyze if the show was really that bad and if it does any justice for the beloved 90's output between Warner Brothers and Steven Spielberg, who parted ways afterwards. Check back every Saturday for a look at the latest and make sure to check out my other recaps as well.

Week two of recapping Pinky, Elmyra, and the Brain and I already feel like I'm in for a long, miserable haul. It doesn't come more obvious than in the first segment "Cute Little Alienhead." There is an argument that can be made for physical actions being construed as comedy, but where is the sympathetic element that makes anything feel relevant? For the most part, Elmyra (Cree Summer) may be one of the most annoying animated psychopaths in TV history. Take a look at the still from this week's episode in question. For no discernible reason, she has jammed an apple into a parrot's mouth. 
Mind you, this is supposed to be for comedic effect. There is nothing comedic about it. This is only an encouragement of animal abuse to a depressing degree. I am not even sure that Elymra is a thought out character. All she does is come into the scene and wrecks havoc. I know that Brain (Maurice LaMarche) is supposedly influenced by dictator Adolph Hitler, but come on. The mouse is simply trying to find a home and take over the world. As much as it works for his plans to be ruined, the methods are insanely banal and monotonous.
I am not saying that she is the reincarnation of a serial killer, but I don't imagine Elmyra having a wonderful adulthood. Nobody likes her and the cutesy talk is the only thing keeping her on anyone's radar at the current moment. To think that there are 13 total episodes of this series is a little bit depressing on top of already being the most confusing mash-up in the Steven Spielberg-produced cartoon era. With this preface noted, I am really, really, really in the belief that Elmyra is an abomination and created for extremely poor tastes. 

"Cute Little Alienhead"

While Brain is busy working on a project, Elmyra decides to play games with him and Pinky (Rob Paulsen). This is called "Scotty Says," which involves her tossing them onto the roof of her room and shoving an apple into a parrot's mouth. As the plans are slowly revealed, it turns out that Brain is trying to contact an alien to get spare parts in order to save money and build a generator to control all of the power on Earth. He manages to get a hold of Shad Equipo (David Paymer), who promises the parts on account of receiving goods. After some bartering techniques, he decides to get some socks that Pinky found lying around somewhere.
When he reaches Earth, he finds Elymra in the backyard. She has dug a hole in order to plant a "bunny tree" using spare buttons. As she has disappeared to go find a hose, she comes back and finds Shad lying in the hole. She is enthused that she has made a bunny with help from the button. Things quickly go south as Shad is being mangled by Elmyra. He loses his space ship and in the process, Brain's spare parts get ruined thanks to a collision with Elymra and Shad fighting each other. In the end, Brain is content with Shad receiving all of the abuse that usually goes towards him, including the Scotty Says game.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

"Better Living... Through Cheese"

While Brain is trying to work on a way to make natural energy with the help of cheese, Elmyra and Pinky are working on a volcano made of tortilla chips that spew moldy cheese. When Brain cannot concentrate anymore, he interferes with their project and demands that they be quiet. In the process, he discovers that they are building it for a science fair that is to be held in which the top prize is a science kit that has all of the parts that Brain needs for his project. However, the shady wiring causes consistent problems and eventually ends up with Brain falling into the volcano and having it spew all over the room.
This is the moment that his generator works to full capacity. With this in mind, he decides to submit his generator to the science fair with belief that it will go over well. Rudy (Nancy Cartwright) is there destroying all of the projects, but Elmyra is more enamored by his physical presence. Pinky and Brain pass themselves off as her gym instructors and try to sell the project to judge Bob Quack (Paulsen) the Science Hack. 
Things are going over well until the power goes out for a split second. When the lights pop back on, the project is missing and Brain must figure out who stole it. He follows an old couple out into the park to see if the bag that they are carrying has the answers to his problems. It doesn't, but leads him to wonder where the project could be. When he finds it, he decides to test it for Bob Quack, though it doesn't start up in time. What ends up happening is that Brain uses powdered eggs to operate it instead of regular eggs, which causes a massive explosion that blows up the school. Rudy steals the nacho volcano and wins top prize. It turns out that the old people that Brain was following switched the eggs in order to sabotage him.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Overall Rating: 1.5 out of 5

What exactly am I missing about this show? I get that a lot of the humor is supposed to appeal to the aggressive violence of children, but there isn't any emotional core to anyone. For most of the episode, Elmyra's sole purpose is to spout increasingly annoying cutesy talk and slam animals into physical harm. As it stands, each segment featured within the first five minutes Brain being brutally shoved into something. In the first, it was the ceiling. In the second, it was a volcano. Meanwhile, Elmyra is laughing at the violence without any ulterior motive other than to call them cute names and harm them.
I do not understand how this was a viable trio. I don't even understand how Pinky would fall for all of this. He may be a dimwitted character, but he always had a sense of loyalty to Brain that was impressively keen. He was dumb, but he was able to navigate that into working as a partner. With Elmyra, it just feels like the show is taking a depressing stance involving Stockholm Syndrome and delusion. This is animal abuse at its worse for a cartoon world. There aren't really any consequences and because Elmyra gets top billing (her name is in the title), she is somehow a protagonist on this show. Mind you, a rather terrible one.
There is practically no purpose to "Cute Little Alienhead" besides childish name calling. What starts off as a decent premise: Brain trades goods with an alien, quickly goes south. Elmyra is abusive and that is her arc for the entire segment. It isn't a very long one, but with Brain practically doing an elaborate scheme, there should have been some details added to the pointless subplot. If anything, Elmyra is a pointless subplot entirely. Her full circle in this segment goes all the way to her beating up an alien just like she did with Pinky and Brain. There is nothing fulfilling about it at all.
Even if the second segment is more high concept and thus more interesting, it is a slog for similar reasons. True, Elmyra is more crucial because it is her science fair, but she does little else. She has a volcano made with moldy cheese, and that somehow flies as a logical entry. Brain is right to degrade her, though she ends up coming out on top. Brain is the one who is defeated because someone sabotaged his mission. Elmyra could care less about the science fair. She is more wrapped up in Rudy, who is somehow attractive for being a complete imbecile. 
If this show has a problem, it is that none of its female protagonist is likable. Even her love interest doesn't have anything worth making a compelling romance provided that the show got that desperate. It is very one note and not even one that feels like it could sustain an entire season. Her abusive nature and cutesy talk make the second segment into a drag and pulls the overall quality of Brain's scheme down with it. I only wish there was a way to separate the two, but together, the trio is nothing but problematic in exploiting animal abuse to an impressionable audience.

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