Feb 15, 2014

TV Rewind: Pinky, Elmyra & The Brain - "My Fair Brainy/The Cat Who Cried Woof"

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.

"My Fair Brainy"

The episode begins with Brain (Maurice LaMarche) trying to find a way to get aboard a space shuttle. His plan, with assistance from a fiddle-playing monkey, is to take over the world using elements from outer space. When he discovers that there is a contest on TV to have a cute child go into space, he immediately tries to make Elmyra (Cree Summer) the prime candidate. He attempts to teach her all the name of the planets, but ends up with her saying "Chocolate Pie." Through the element of song, he finds a way to teach her all of the planets and their area in space with efficiency. 
Elmyra eventually gets in, despite answering that all planets were named "Chocolate Pie." Many believe that she got in because of her ingenious song selection. As Brain and Pinky (Rob Paulsen) are boarding the spacecraft with her, Pinky reveals that they will be stuck with her for two weeks. This causes Brain to change his mind at the last minute and bail on the mission. They end up spending the two weeks in Elmyra's room in peace watching Pinky's favorite show, the Telechubbies.

Rating: 4 out of 5

"The Cat Who Cried Woof"

Pinky and Brain are having trouble running away from a cat named Mr. Pussy Wussy. This could be from taunting that Elmyra has been giving and causing hostility throughout the house. Brain decides to fight this problem by using a special potion mixed with dog hair that will turn the cat into a loyal dog. He decides to use Rudy's (Nancy Cartwright) dog Trudy, who gives up the hairs easily. Rudy sees the incident and reports it to the City Dog Pound in hopes of getting rid of the cat as well as the talking mice.
After discovering that the mixture was a success, they feed it to Mr. Pussy Wussy, who takes it to as a loyal dog. Before taking off, Brain tells the cat to bury something in the yard. What he doesn't realize is that the cat buried his potion, thus making it impossible for his mission to happen. With his test proving a success, his goal is to poison the water supply so that everyone in the world obeys him.
He finds Mr. Pussy Wussy and Elymra in the backyard, where they have been burying stuff all afternoon. Brain begins digging around in desperation. Mr. Pussy Wussy befriends Trudy and the two fall in love despite being different species. Elmyra eventually uncovers Brain's bottled potion, which she wants to keep because the bottle looks pretty. When Rudy decides to interfere, he takes the bottle, and Elmyra construes that as a sign of affection. 
He tosses the bottle, which causes Brain to chase after it. He catches it, but soon runs into another obstacle that causes him to drop it. The potion pours into the dirt, turning all of the worms into vicious killers. When the dog catcher comes, he accuses Rudy of being a nut, as there are no cats or talking mice to be found. The episode ends with Rudy being chased by killer worms.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

After my big panic of last week's abysmal episode, it is amazing to even think that this one came from the same show. The reality is that Elmyra is an annoying character who ruins any credibility that the show has in most circumstances. The sooner that you push her into a secondary role, the more tolerable things become. As "My Fair Brainy" suggests, there's even some recognition that she is so much of a pain that most would rather get rid of her instead of take over the world. She ends up in space, abusing the fiddle playing monkey, which leads Brain to some solace and the revelation that he can do nothing and be happy.
The reason that "My Fair Brainy" works above the average segment so far is that it is high concept while also working within some semblance of confines from the Pinky and the Brain model that this show spun-off from. This isn't about Elmyra messing up anyone's plans. It is about trying to teach her in a delightful nod to the musical My Fair Lady. The songs may be a little contrived, but for a kid's show, they are delightfully constructed in ways that call back to the genuine song craft presented on Animaniacs. The satire works, especially as "The Rain in Spain" from the musical gets translated to a song about planets here. 
True, she is very one note still. She is abusive to animals and even manages to break a computer. She is bad news. However, because it is about trying to make her a better person, there is a semblance of progress in the first segment that allows her to seem redeemable, even if she is still obsessed with chocolate pie. The twist at the end in which Brain has a change of heart and ditches the mission is especially brilliant as it serves as the voice of the audience quite well.
Even "The Cat who Cried Woof" had an ingenious set-up, largely because Elmyra was a secondary role. We get the sense that Mr. Pussy Wussy is a nice cat gone bad from hanging around the wrong child. He longs for freedom, but ends up being forced to chase mice. You can sympathize with him to an extent. Even the mission to brainwash the cat and turn him into a dog, while seeming a little bit reminiscent of Chinatown, lead to a lot of memorable sight gags.
I really hope that Mr. Pussy Wussy is brought back as a character, because he is endearing. He may suffer like everyone else on the show, but here he is given the bulk of the show's brilliance. He acts like a dog and even barks in the mirror. Of course, the romance between Rudy and Mr. Pussy Wussy is especially sweet, given the twist at the end where romance quickly turns south and causes Brain to lose his potion. There isn't much to the episode besides sight gags, but watching everyone observe this experiment did lead to a lot of the show's strongest bits.
I still cannot get behind Elmyra liking Rudy. However, I like the idea of introducing an outside world that has no respect for the children of this community. I am still waiting for Elymra to get her due, but for the time being, Rudy getting sassed at by the dog catcher was an especially nice move. Talking mice has been a running gag since the beginning for Pinky and Brain, but it never gets old. It is the one plot device that makes all other elements work. It is ridiculous enough that hearing Maurice LaMarche come up with excuses for the mice to exist in this universe are deliciously strange.
I know that it could just be a brief moment of sunshine on this show, but I actually really liked these two segments. They packed ingenuity and satire into familiar scenarios and allowed the show to be genuinely childish while also keeping Elmyra in the episode for a tolerable amount of time. I can only hope that despite getting second billing out of three, she will remain this way for the last 10 episodes of this series. Otherwise, I may be heading back into my animal abuse rants once again.

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