Everybody has that children’s program that holds a special place in their hearts. For some it’s Transformers. For others it’s The Muppets. Many would say Sesame Street. And plenty hold some classic Nicktoons up to a high standard. For me, (despite my constant cheering for the classic Nicktoons I just mentioned) nothing tops The Looney Tunes. Bugs, Daffy and the rest of the crazy bunch always managed to put a smile on my five-year-old face. And when I refer to the bunch, I’m not talking about the abortions that are the films of the last few years. I’m talking about all those great cartoon shorts from back in the day. Back when political correctness wasn’t a term, and good writing was important, regardless if kids could get the jokes or not.
Which brings me the newest addition to the franchise, The Looney Tunes Show. To my greatest surprise and why it made the Saturday edition of Channel Guide: it’s good. Really good. This is a program that understands The Looney Tunes. It understands that you can’t play all the jokes to the kids. Kids will be happy with the slap stick (which there is plenty of), but jokes that mock people who are obsessive to the point of stalkerish? That’s what Looney Tunes are all about. Giving something to everyone. Even if it is blatantly on the nose (which is an easily correctable glitch).
It’s obvious this show is an attempt to reboot the franchise that has not seen much success in a long time. And like other recent franchise reboot attempts such as Transformers, Star Trek, Hawaii Five-0, Scooby Doo, Nikita and Battlestar Galactica, it’s clear that this attempt is trying to get back to the franchise’s roots while applying a new spin to the characters. And what is that new spin you ask? Taking the two faces of the franchise out of the woods and putting them into suburbia. As well as doing away with the animated shorts format, and replacing it with single, half hour, animated sitcom stories.
Cautiousness to the idea is understandable. But believe it or not, it works. The result of the format change is a more grounded story that fits the modern day. In this new iteration, Bugs and Daffy are roommates who have to deal with each others crap. Think of it as a children’s version of The Odd Couple.
Right from the get go, the writers and animators paint a clear picture of who these two characters are. Daffy is a self-absorbed, slightly psychotic, loveable dummy. Which is a well needed departure from what he was. In the original series, Daffy is a cold, almost villainous character. But here he’s just funny, and exactly what some new five-year-old kiddos can enjoy. And Bugs Bunny? Well, Bugs is the same old Bugs. Chill and full of life. The only difference is that he isn’t sucking down carrots every two seconds anymore.
In fact, the writers go out of there way to poke fun at the cliches of the franchise, in hopes of starting fresh. In the first act there is a reference to the fact that Bugs will incessantly use his “What’s up, Doc?” catchphrase. And the best part? It’s done through the origin story of Superman. How cool is that?
The show writers take full advantage of every tool at their disposal, which adds to the grounded nature of the show. Thus making it more realistic (as far animation goes), and enjoyable. Plus, the characters don’t stop with Bugs and Daffy. Cartoon Network has made it clear that throughout the course of the series, many characters will be making appearances. This week’s episode included fan favorite Speedy Gonzales, and The Goofy Gophers. And while I wanted to punch the Gophers in the face (probably my twenty-year-old brain kicking in), the new modern version of Speedy was a welcomed treat.
Is he a blatant Mexican stereotype anymore? Well, sort of. But he’s charming now. And that’s the main point. The franchise has regained the lovable nature it lost over the last couple decades with those feeble film franchise attempts. These characters that have infected the media populace for generations are built for the small screen. They always have been. Even during the days of the original film shorts, once the series went to television, that’s when it took off.
Fortunately for the five-year-old in us all, The Looney Tunes are back. And back with their A-game in tow.
To listen to the latest episode of Merrill’s TV Podcast, The Idiot Boxers with Kevin Carr, head over to Fat Guys at the Movies.