Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cartoon Rant: The Fairly Odd Parents

Yes, I know I'm too old to be watching cartoons. I'm aware I really have no say in what happens in the world of animation, specifically with kids shows that are not in any way targeted at me, but I need to get this off my chest.

What the hell happened to this show?

Seriously, The Fairly Odd Parents was a show that, at one point, was popular enough to rival even the almighty Spongebob Squarepants in ratings. It was clever, funny, quick-witted, and while not exactly the comedic masterpiece of, say, The Animaniacs or Pinky and the Brain, it was generally well written and fun to watch.

Maybe I'm just overly nostalgic (which would be interesting, given that I'm probably a bit too young to be) but watching the show now, in those rare moments I happen to catch my sister watching it and I don't have to run off somewhere, is sort of like reaching for the last apple and realizing it's gone soft and rotten. You know it was once good, you can picture it being ripe and ready to go, but now it's just...not. It's a stale, mutated version of it's former self.

And yes, I realize I'm being melodramatic here. It's just hard to sit there and watch something that used to make you laugh just make you feel uncomfortable. There are some older episodes of this show that I still quote randomly in otherwise civilized conversation. When someone asks me where I got something, I will almost undoubtedly respond "Internet" in an amusing monotone, and yes, I do occasionally threaten to suck people's brains out through these...BENDY STRAWS!!

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when this show lost it. The writing has been steadily declining for a while, it's main characters being altered and exaggerated beyond recognition. It might be around the time creator Butch Hartman left to work on Danny Phantom, but again, it's really hard to tell. Personally, I attribute it to the moment that Ugopotamian warrior prince, Mark Chan, donned a human disguise and moved to Earth. The episodes that his character was in were always some of my favorites, and to this day, will still make me laugh hysterically. It was exciting to see him in the show, but ultimately, it's a simple rule of comedy to not overuse a joke. His character wasn't exactly increased, per say, but was significantly altered and made a permanent staple.

Keep in mind, this was long before the "Cousin Oliver" character of Poof, the fairy god baby, was added to the show. Seriously, why do network executives keep assuming that adding a random young kid to a declining show will "improve ratings" or "breath new life into it"? Has it ever been proven to work?

But when it comes down to it, what bothers me the most, is the protagonists. Take a look at the earlier episodes, Timmy is not exactly the brightest person you've ever met, but he's still a thousand times more intelligent than any of the adults, and in fact, most of the people around him at all. He was more snarky than stupid, and actually seemed to have some common sense to him. Cosmo, despite being clearly insane, was, again, more silly than just downright stupid, and was complimented by Wanda who, while definitely the most down-to-earth of the group, was just as off the wall as Cosmo.

Now watch some of the recent episodes. Timmy is annoying and selfish (except, so I've been told, in the recent Wishology episodes) Wanda is an offensively stereotypical female nag, and Cosmo has reached such extreme levels of stupidity that it's a wonder he can even function at all. The once clearly happily married fairy god parents have become just Wanda forcing Cosmo to be her bitch, despite the fact that it was stated very early on that Cosmo ran away from home, of his own free will, specifically to marry Wanda. It's gotten to the point where Cosmo is willing to literally trade Wanda in for a nickel. They were once a rare example of a legitimately positive and functional couple, one that is somewhat worryingly lacking in kids shows. It kills me that it's been mutilated into a stereotype-laden mess.

But again, I'm probably over-analyzing. Shows jump the shark all the time, they live long past their welcome and end up a barely recognizable shell of their former selves. Look at Scrubs, look at Pinky, Elmyra, and the Brain, hell, look at later Rugrats. This is nothing new, it's just sad. It makes me angry when writers think that kids won't notice when characters are horribly altered, or the jokes aren't really funny anymore. Just because they're kids doesn't mean they don't notice when a show has seriously lost it's mojo, that's why ratings decline and shows eventually end up doomed to land of 3AM re-runs.

And seriously, don't even get me started on the live-action adaption. Has Nickelodeon learned nothing from the atrocity that was M. Night Shymalan's The Last Airbender? Why can't animation just stay animation? Is that so wrong?