Apr 12, 2014

TV Rewind: Pinky, Elmyra, & The Brain - "Teleport A Friend"

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.

"Teleport a Friend"

It is carnival day and Elmyra (Cree Summer) is excited to attend and eat strange foods such as cheese corn. Meanwhile, Brain (Maurice LaMarche) is inside her tote bag with his teleportation flashlight, which he wants to test out. His plan to stay home failed when Elmyra discovered that she was bigger than Brain and Pinky (Rob Paulsen), whom she dragged along. Upon playing a game in which Elmyra has to toss a pig named Penny (Frank Welker) through a flaming ring, they escape to try and work out their plan.
However, things go poorly when Elmyra sets Penny free and causes a chase. While setting everything up, Brain accidentally gets in the path of the teleportation rays along with Elmyra, which fuses them together. Brain feels frustrated because this means that they are only hours away from their DNA meshing together in unthinkable ways. It also means that he has limited control over the body and needs to figure out a way for her to cooperate with him. Pinky meanwhile befriends Penny and establishes a romance with her.
Monkman (Tim Curry) is the owner of the freak show department of the carnival. His big sell was Larb (Paulsen), who had disgusting puss all over him. When Larb turns out to have been cured of his acne problems, this causes him to look for other options. He finds Elmyra and Brain running around and forces them into an act. Unlike the other performances, nobody is throwing garbage at them and are instead cheering them on. It is a triumphant moment and Monkman likewise lets them eat popcorn, as he doesn't have any freakishly unhealthy foods available for them to eat.
Eventually, Monkman becomes so obsessed with them that he doesn't let them go. He ties them up. Pinky and Penny are meanwhile trying to outrun the ring toss owner who imprisons her. They run into a tent and end up finding the captives. Brain's big idea is to butter up the ropes in order to free them. However, the act is already starting and their brains are starting to mesh. 
Also, Monkman tracks them down and is furious about their inevitable escape. As the two are beginning to set up a reversal process, Monkman tries to interfere. It is too late. Brain and Elmyra are two different people again. Being jealous, he steals the device and tries to figure it out. Through an accident, he ends up falling into the taffy machine along with the teleporter and the inevitable success that Brain could have had with it. Also, a kid who saw Penny in the parking lot earlier in the episode decides to pick her up and take her home, leaving Pinky alone. The group heads home in defeat and Brain admitting that Elmyra's thought process is strangely hollow and addictive.

Rating: 3 out of 5

In the series' sole full episode, it is impressive that it manages to come through in a way that almost clicks. The ingenious, if familiar, plot of two bodies combining to make one adds a certain flavor to the episode that is actually quite enjoyable. While Elmyra's vapidness can be at times annoying, there is something fun about watching her and Brain try and control the body and ending up making a lot of solid physical humor. The song performance in particular works because while the obsession thing isn't new, the strange lack of movement in her arms (as Brain controls them), is great. I think that the episode works on the "freak" quality that it was going for. Even the general premise of being captured by Monkman kind of worked.
However, I do not know if the episode was necessarily funny. Yes, it is great to see the episode bookended by the villain getting his due. First, he loses a freak in Larb and then loses himself to his own devices. He is booed by the crowd that he loves to entertain. There is magic in that. Everything in between is kind of strange and doesn't work. Hostility has been the show's strong suit, though it has also allowed the feeling to be a little off putting. Yes, it is important that Brain and Elmyra had peril. However, Monkman's portrayal was a little on the broad and dull side. His big contribution? Treating them like freaks in every way possible, which included a list of rancid food that was particularly strange and not all that funny. It was simply strange.
Pinky's love affair with animals continues here with a lot of strange moments with Penny. We have seen him in love with a horse before, so this isn't to be unexpected. However, there is something that feels off about loving a pig. It feels like it was only needed in order to keep Pinky from being written out of the episode. Also, their subplot was a little pointless at times and asked for the jokes of an awkward inter-species relationship to work. 
If there is one thing about this episode that I admire is that it is strange. Where most of the series has gotten by on tired gags and hostility, this at least tries to feel a tad original. Everyone is given something unique to do and the results are all intertwined in a logical manner. However, I do feel like the strangeness is both a compliment and a detriment. If the humor is supposed to come from the surreal nature of the concepts, then it doesn't work all that well. It mostly feels like an attempt at making the characters into a faux-horror scenario. Also, the conflicts between Elmyra and Brain throughout the episode are tried and familiar, so there isn't much to get out of that.
I suppose I admire it for being unique and innovative for what the show normally does. I also love the shout out to Venice Beach. Whether or not that is a direct reference to Freakazoid! episode "Statuesque" is a mystery, but I'll take it just to connect the universes. As we approach the end, there is a realization that the show cannot pull off a surprise spiking growth in order to make it great. However, "Teleport A Friend" does suggest a show that could have been: high concept with intertwining subplots that come together in strange and logical manners. If only there were more episodes like this, the show wouldn't be so bad.

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