Apr 5, 2014

TV Rewind: Pinky, Elmyra, & The Brain - "The Ravin/Elmyra's Music Video/Squeeze Play"

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.

"The Ravin"

In the style of rhyming prose via Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven," the segment is the story of Brain's (Maurice LaMarche) night as it goes horribly awry. He starts by doing some work when he hears a noise from outside. He thinks it is Pinky (Rob Paulsen), but it turns out not to be. It is Elmyra (Cree Summer), who forces them to a series of painful exercises. When things go too far, Elmyra flushes the incapacitated mice down the toilet, where they end up in Rudy's (Nancy Cartwright) possession. However, they get tossed into a cactus field only to come across their old home at Acme Labs (now the Dissy Store), where they are buying plastic junk. They return to Elymra's house to eat chocolate pie.

Rating: 3 out of 5

"Elmyra's Music Video"

In the style of the Village People's "Y.M.C.A.," the video is a lo-fi look through the life of Elmyra and her mice as well as her fascination with Rudy. Brain disagrees with the whole procedure and mocks her and Pinky for being so enthusiastic. The video is a kitschy throwback to homemade videos that were made on cameras that had low grade film and produced things that weren't all that great.

Rating: 2 out of 5

"Squeeze Play"

Brain has found a way to rule the world with a magnifying glass that is converted into a power that controls its subjects. He plans to unleash this on Arizona, where the elderly reside. He plans to shut the state down and cause everyone to abandon it, allowing his plan to come to fulfillment by using as much solar power as possible. When Elmyra finds out about it, she decides to toss the mice into a sack and grab the magnifying glass and head out to the yard to play around with them.
Upon being outside, Rudy comes over to see what she is up to. He ends up taking the magnifying glass. Brain decides to cook up a scheme to sneak into his house to get it back from him and his heat-sensing snake. With the help of Elmyra, who gamely decides to swoon Rudy into a conversation, he is assisted by Pinky in sneaking into the house to get things back. The house is a mess, but at least he is able to get it back. This isn't without problems, as the snake decides to fight back. This causes Brain and Pinky to trip a wire that was meant to be a trap for any intruders. This blows up the house.
Upon getting outside with the magnifying glass, the snake swallows them whole. Rudy and Elmyra get there to see the results. Rudy destroys the magnifying glass out of boredom and leaves Elmyra to wash the mice off and toss them through a dryer. The episode ends with Elmyra playing one last game with Brain. He tosses him in a tuxedo on top of a wedding cake, which embarrasses him.

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

This was as close as any segment has come to getting a grade higher than a 3. "The Ravin" is a particularly inspired bit for the first half. Admittedly, the idea to parody Edgar Allen Poe's most famous work has been done to death. However, this show hasn't prided itself on originality enough for this to be a concern. Instead, we get this great story of Brain working on a project late at night only to have things happen to him. This is all intriguing and I even like the wordplay used. I admit that the reference to Harry Shearer is particularly strange, as I doubt that kids will know who he is. Even then, there's a lot of cleverness that works because it manages to fit into the faux-horror that this kids' show allows it to go into. 
It is in the familiar point of Elmyra's existence in this series that everything begins to turn. What started off as great quickly turns into an eloquent nod to the torturous scenes that have long been problematic for the series. We see the two mice forced into a lot of painfully bizarre situations that end up with them being slammed by a hammer and even flushed down a toilet. It is bleak in the ways that Poe was, but it doesn't help to make the cleverness all that more clever. Also, I cannot quite understand why chocolate pie is a running gag. Along with "Audio-o-hoo" making a come back in the third segment, this show seems like it is attempting to do some building on catch phrases and build a world outside of their initial universes, but I don't feel like it works.
There's even the second sequence, which may be the most dated of them all: "Elmyra's Music Video." Yes, the technique is rather interesting and true to the time. However, it doesn't serve much of a point besides summing up the motivations of the characters and doing it over trippy camera work. It is equal parts kitschy, authentic, and bizarre. I want to like it, but it is redundant in relation to the entire episode. I guess it works, but I feel that in terms of sustainability, it is even less timeless than "How I Spent My Weekend," even if that was far worse in every way. The show cannot pull in these tangential segments too well, I'm afraid.
At best, the third segment manages to have a lot of appealing aspects. We get the plan, we find the obstacle, and it is ruined. Yes, that is a familiar formula, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have its share of moments. Sneaking into the bedroom allows the show to capture what once was so great and fun about Pinky and Brain sneaking into some place to get their ideas. Even the heat seeking snake has a lot of appeal. I disagree with Pinky trying to update his lingo to "hip" talk, but in terms of segments, this one is serviceable and fine as whole.
I am waiting for this series to deliver an above average episode. I want to believe that things will be building to something and that we are on the verge of a classic episode. At most, we have had segments full of wit and whimsy. Nothing else. The show has already exceeded expectations by not entirely being atrocious, but it also hasn't given me much faith in being this great project. I think that there's plenty to like about the show now that I am over halfway through, but there isn't much reason to love it. Even when it succeeds, it does feel like it is moments away from tripping on its toes.

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