Mar 15, 2014

TV Rewind: Pinky, Elmyra & The Brain - "At the Hop!/Pinky's Dream House"

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.

"At the Hop!"

It is time for the annual Fall Dance at Chuck Norris School. Everyone is getting ready for the social event of the year, which comes with plenty of kitschy 50's knock-off tunes. Brain (Maurice LaMarche) is deciding to unleash his latest plan at the dance. It involves a perfume extracted from ants that attracts people to the smell. Labeled in a jar with skulls and crossbones, he hid it in plain sight with expectations of nobody messing with it. However, it becomes mistaken for pirate perfume and the realization that Elmyra (Cree Summer) has taken it becomes immediately evident. 
Brain decides to attend the dance in the disguise of Patty-Ann in order to get it back. Along the way, he gets into a fight with Elmyra over who is really Rudy's (Nancy Cartwright) girlfriend. Rudy is more attracted to Patty-Ann, even though everyone recognizes the misshapen head and very robotic dance moves. Things are going fine as the neglectful DJ Johnny Hot (Ben Stein) plays tunes while studying for his lawyer degree.
However, when Rudy gets rejected, he seeks to feel gratified by putting a beetle on fellow classmate Vanity White (Jane Wiedlin). This happens simultaneously to the transaction of Elmyra giving Brain the potion, which backfires and causes everyone to become startled. The potion flies onto Johnny Hot and all of the kids chase him out of the gymnasium, attracted to his smell. Brain, defeated, decides to try again with something else.

Rating: 3 out of 5

"Pinky's Dream House"

Brain's latest idea involves a ray that he hopes will solve all of his problems. The ray is built to send everyone in the universe into a frenzy and return whatever the last thing they bought was. From that, he could get spare parts and control people to live in a poverty-like state. However, it can also grant wishes, which Pinky (Rob Paulsen) uses to talk about a dream house that is located by a landfill and has him living with Brain in harmony.
Most of it comes true when Elmyra brings home a dollhouse. At first, Brain isn't persuaded to buy into the luxury. However, from the TV with a pasted image of Ed Asner to a vibrating chair, he begins to enjoy the lush culture. He upgrades to cable to watch episodes of Jerry Springer and have a great life. He is a little miffed by Pinky's motherly tendencies, but that becomes the most of his problems as he eventually learns to accept his environment.
Brain takes it too far and decides to get infinite cable with access to all of the channels in the world. However, Pinky attaches the ray instead of the cable and it is in direct relation to Elmyra, who has also gotten into a habit of buying a lot of dolls. She suffers buyer's remorse and returns everything, leaving Brain to feel humiliated for giving into material goods. He is ponderous about what to do next, as he isn't quite ready to give up the lazy lifestyle he had for a few days.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

I do like to feel like the Ed Asner references in this episode were direct correlation to the actor's involvement with Freakazoid!. Of course, the overall praise for his abilities is quite astounding. Otherwise, there are a lot of references in this particular episode that make the episode feel rather 90's and dated. The lack of creativity to hide their Jerry Springer Show references was especially weird, as that show's questionable morality clashes too much with the vibe that Kids' WB is supposed to be presenting. A show about pregnant teens and cheating spouses shouldn't probably be in relation to a kid's show even if they were on the same network for a period. The other less problematic is Vanity White, which is a play on Vana White, co-host of Wheel of Fortune. It isn't a problem to reference game show hosts, but it does seem strange that somehow Vana White was capable of name recognition, specifically as that show aired on an entirely different network.
The episode as a whole wasn't bad. The issues with "At the Hop!" are in its anti-climactic nature instead of anything else too major. I feel like this series has already used the accident-ruins-everything clause a few times. However, Kids' WB has always been great at making Ben Stein into a delightfully strange voice actor for every show. In this one, he doesn't disappoint with his neglectful DJ routine. It may all be in his humdrum personality, but that isn't so much a problem when he is a minimal character. He has the most laughs for this episode, especially as I feel like him escaping from the kids at the end is more of a trot than a jog.
If there is any issue with the show, it is odd how this series has now tried to make the mice into platonic lovers. While it seems rather progressive, it is a far cry from the relationship that Pinky and Brain shared for every series before this. Seeing Pinky dream of a house where he plays a motherly figure to Brain's husband-type role is a little questionable. It does a lot to make the gimmicky parody of 50's TV shows work, but when adding a scene involving a discussion with them wearing lipstick, there seems to be some queer elements to the plot. Maybe it is unintentional, but the comedy of Patty-Ann has come more from Brain's disinterest in doing the part. Here, the platonic romance feels like it comes from a place of closely knit bonding. 
However, that doesn't stop "Pinky's Dream House" from being a great character piece for the two characters. Even if it lacks much of a plot, it actually covers a large basis of how strange Brain's beliefs can be. He is anti-corporate, but takes to the dollhouse with embracing arms. The livelihood is simple and a nice change of pace from Brain's attempts to take over the world. However, when he realizes that it destroyed his motivational techniques, it adds some sort of commentary that makes a message for the audience as well as Brain: material goods will only buy you so much happiness. It is a strange message for a spin-off based on a spin-off and rebooted franchise. However, it works well enough to keep the ending from feeling anti-climactic.
I do enjoy that the show has moved away from the abusive Elmyra concept and instead replaced it with gimmicky episodes. They aren't necessarily the best that the Kids' WB brand has to offer, but there is a sense of grounding being formed here and the comfort of these characters in a new environment is starting to work. It may never be great, if just for how simply executed they are, but that cannot stop these adventures from being delightful throwaways. This particular episode is helping me to turn away from disdain for the series and instead finding some charm in a very haphazard premise.

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