Apr 28, 2014

TV Rewind: Pinky, Elmyra & The Brain - "Fun, Space and Time/Hooray for Meat"

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.

"Fun, Time and Space"

Brain (Maurice LaMarche) is working on an invention that is creating a black hole that will help him rule the world. Meanwhile, Elmyra (Cree Summer) is hosting a show in her room that features her dolls. Pinky (Rob Paulsen) is set to guest star on it to promote his film The Great Pinky Adventure. Brain uses this opportunity to have him distract her while he works on the project to control the black hole. Things are going well and Pinky is making Elmyra laugh with basic jokes. However, when it comes to the clip of the video, Pinky claims that it is misrepresenting what the film is actually about, which causes conflict and Pinky to be catapulted across the room. 
This sets things out of balance. Elmyra has become anxious again and needs satisfaction. After Brain temporarily knocks her out, he tries to work on the project, but the black hole is becoming out of control. It is sucking up all of the objects in the room that are not glued to the floor. Elmya decides to take a closer look with the mice in tow. They escape the black hole, but a desk goes flying in. At this point, Brain asks Elmyra to grab the table's leg and throw it out the window. It works successfully to Brain's bafflement. Feeling defeated, he goes back to the drawing board for tomorrow night.

Rating: 3 out of 5

"Hooray for Meat"

Disguised as Patty Ann, Brain decides to enter a contest at the park to be the Meat Queen for Gristle's (Townsend Coleman) meat company. Elmyra has unsuccessfully competed and Vanity White (Jane Wiedlin) has also tried out and failed when she becomes disgusted by the sight of meat. Brain doesn't do much better, but with the help of hypnotic earrings, he manages to convince everyone to allow him to have the trophy. During the time that the hypnotic earrings are on, Pinky gets across the idea that the float needs to be made of meat. Gristle agrees and soon they have dug themselves in a hole, especially with Rudy (Nancy Cartwright) even more in love with Patty Ann now that she is the meat queen.
As time goes on, Rudy falls further in love while Elmyra becomes jealous that she is taking her man. Vanity decides to befriend her in an attempt to get revenge. Pinky unveils the float, which is the Statue of Liberty made almost exclusively out of meat. As it goes down the parade route, the meat is melting and falling apart. Vanity takes Elmyra to the pound to unleash some animals, who have picked up the smell of the rotting meat. Right as Brain is within distance of being able to use his hypnotic earrings to a wider audience, he drops them and loses them after the dogs attack the float and cause the Patty Ann body to crush the earrings.  Brain is defeated once again as he heads home to think up a new plan.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Maybe the disapproval that I have for "Hooray for Meat" comes from my lack of tolerance for the ideas presented. Personally, the sight of meat in this segment disgusts me at least in its animation. Also, making a float out of meat, while justified within context, is pretty stupid. The payoffs were all predictable and nothing too exciting happened with the meat. I don't even understand what other duties came with this Meat Queen position. It was all rather bizarre and surreal. Even then, the most asinine part of the entire segment was that Vanity and Elmyra could go up to a pound and unlock a door with as much simplicity as they could. Yes, it was needed to advance the plot, but where's the security? I understand that this is a cartoon and not one that bases its judgment solely in logical scenarios, but "Hooray for Meat" was too far fetched.
In fact, the only real pleasurable part of the entire thing is that Pinky was the downfall in the episode instead of Elmyra. Yes, theoretically Vanity unleashed the dogs, but if it wasn't for Pinky insisting on a meat float, there is a good chance none of this would have happened. In that regards, the segment wasn't a total waste. However, the desire to push the Rudy-Elmyra-Patty Ann triangle into the story was a little uninspired.
Then again, the show has had a strange relationship with parodying songs. Where Animaniacs' biggest strength was in making original songs, this feels like their attempt to cash in on the familiar. The opening of the segment largely relies on the preconceived notion that kids know what The Bee-Gee's "Staying Alive" sounds like. It is a popular song and the musical cues in this segment are sometimes inspired, but it does feel like it exists solely to fill up time. It really didn't add anything besides to remind us that Rudy still likes Patty Ann even though Gristle helps me to understand that this universe (even if it is tangentially related to Pinky & The Brain logic) recognizes that Brain's miniature head is a distracting feature.
Of course, there are more strange references that oddly date it. At one point, the phrase "Meat: The Fresh Maker" is mentioned. People familiar with Mentos adds will likely recognize the slogan. It makes no sense other than to be a familiar reference. Even then, this is nothing compared to the Dumb & Dumber reference from "Fun, Time and Space" which was already better executed in a Pinky & The Brain episode. While this is still technically the same set of characters, it feels disappointing to hear them recycle jokes like that. Even if the show has abandoned a desire to differentiate itself from its predecessors with its own catchphrase language, I become disappointed to notice that they recycle the jokes, especially one as solid and memorable.
By comparison, "Fun, Time and Space" is a lot more high concept and interesting. Yes, it is very anticlimactic, but the ideas in play are interesting. The idea that Pinky is finally being properly used as a distraction from Elmyra is a notable achievement established early in the show but never really used. Placing Pinky as a foil on Elmyra's fake talk show was fun, if just for that little banter of disagreement. Yes, I am aware that this is a redundant segment considering that chronologically on the DVD to see "That's Edutainment" exactly before this, but it serves the purpose nicely.
Even then, the real beauty of the segment is the thing that feels like a literal throwaway. Watching Elmyra throw a black hole out of her window with a table leg is probably one of the show's greatest gags conceived. It makes no sense, but serves as a strange and inventive moment that is sadly missing from some of the show. In fact, most of the segment feels rather predictable, even if Brain is mostly his own folly here. I would have loved to see this idea stretched out into a longer segment just to see the mechanics play out more. As it stands, ideas are thrown on screen and while it ends on a high note, there isn't much to really justify most of the actions.
This upcoming Saturday is the finale. We've made it through the entire series. Can't say that it has been an easy time, but it has been interesting to see it go from its uninspired roots to where it is now. It doesn't rank among the greats, but the crossover nonsense actually added up to a few candid moments of excellence. The only question is what the lasting farewell will be. Of course, the show has never been one for continuity or meaning, so I won't be expecting much. However, I am taking this time to also announce that this isn't the end. After this Saturday, expect a recap of the entire season in the week to follow. Should be fun.

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