Monday, May 9, 2011

The Looney Tunes Show has been bitten by the Gambling Bug

If you get that reference, you probably agree with me.

I have mixed feelings about the new Looney Tunes show. On one hand, I did actually get a few laughs out of it, but the first thing that put me off was the choice of Jeff Bergman as Bugs and Daffy. This guy is the absolute worst choice- he did Bugs and Daffy right after Mel Blanc died, in Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue of all things, the most bizarre thing any Looney Tunes characters appeared in. I guess he's slightly better in Blooper Bunny, but still- you might as well have chosen Noel Blanc or Jeff Bennett, or even some random impressionist on YouTube.
(Heck, even my brother can do the two better than Bergman, although hardly anybody seems to agree.)
I don't understand at all why they didn't pick Joe Alaskey and Billy West, whose Bugs and Daffy are almost indistinguishable from Mel, especially on good days (Billy West's Bugs wasn't always so hot). Did Alaskey and West decline to play the parts, because of the script? That's my best guess.

The next decision that baffled me was the change of format and humor style- I could've gotten past the redesigns because the animation is nice enough- instead of simple slapstick-and-wordplay-based humor, with "We vs. They", "Bad Guy chases Good Guy" plots, they've chosen to do suburban settings, with humor based entirely on personality interaction. It's nice that the writers seem to know who they're writing for, but it all reminds me of '60s-era Bob McKimson cartoons and the Dell and Gold Key comics.
I should think that slapstick would've been the easiest route- it would've required less mental effort and less complicated backgrounds, and most certainly a heck of a lot less dialogue. Why work so hard to attempt cynical lampshading?

I also wonder what on earth Cartoon Network has been thinking when it comes to promoting the show. It was bad enough that they stopped playing the original stuff on Boomerang for unfathomable, unjustifiable reasons, potentially depriving an entire generation of children of some of the most brilliant and mind-expanding cartoons ever made. To play the original stuff at noon, when nobody but children who haven't started school or people without jobs are watching, is completely nuts if you ask me.
I have severe doubts about kids today. Do they know who the heck these characters are? Are they counting on the parents buying their kids the DVDs, or recording the noontime airings on their DVRs? Many of the jokes in the new show were so self-referential- particularly the way they described Bugs' catchphrase- that I seriously doubt many kids understood what they were talking about.

I also have some qualms about the characterization. I appreciate the effort to make Daffy somewhere in between his early screwball duck incarnation and his later jealous, egotistical jerk incarnation- he's now a goofy jerk- but he was never THAT stupid...
So far, the only real atrocity they've committed is their total revamp of Witch Hazel and Gossamer. Why in God's sacred name have they become black people? They sound like Suzie Carmichael from The Rugrats. What's wrong with June Foray's voice, and what's wrong with a huge brute?

Overall, I think the show is extremely misguided, if not a complete mess- I'm still willing to give it a chance, but the more I think about it, the more I think that Warner Bros. is taking the biggest risk they've ever taken. And not the good kind.

EDIT: Okay, I have to say that another decision of theirs is equally as bad as making Witch Hazel a black woman- drastically changing Lola's personality.
Say what you will about Space Jam- it's based on Michael Jordan's passing celebrity and pop culture references that quickly became outdated, but at least it introduced a strong female character to the cast for the first time.

Nobody really remembers Honey Bunny, Bugs' first steady girlfriend as seen in the Gold Key comics. I can tell by just looking at her that she's not a good role model, and extremely boring. When Lola first appeared, here was a strong, independent, and very talented woman who wasn't there just to be Bugs' foil.
If the team behind The Looney Tunes Show was trying to be more politically correct by losing Lola's curves and keeping knee-jerk feminists from labeling her as mere eye candy for male audiences, they completely canceled out their efforts by making her an air-headed, creepy ditz. This is a very tired, unflattering stereotype that should be only reserved for antagonists or foils to a more level-headed female character.

The very idea that being an attractive, curvy woman is considered politically incorrect is a concept that's becoming increasingly irritating to me. It's almost as though you can't be such a woman in real life- and that you're an awful man if you prefer them.
I can't think of a single fictional female character who had curves and beauty that didn't have positive personality traits of some kind, save for the femme fatale. In movies (especially those from the 1940s), comic books, and pulp fiction, these women are all strong-willed and anything but helpless or unintelligent. When I create an attractive female character, it's not because I expect every woman to look like that, it's just because I like women who look like that better. It's supposed to be a compliment.
So making Lola no longer entirely beautiful (at least in my eyes) not only makes her more boring to look at, it associates women who aren't curvy with the ditzy personality she now has, which isn't fair. It's like they thought, "Hey, let's make Lola more like Honey Bunny!" I guess signs of this were seen in "Dating Dos and Don'ts", when all she ever did was giggle.

If they really wanted to make a ditzy female character, they should've chosen Tina Russo Duck (aka "Melissa" from "The Scarlet Pumpernickel", "The Muscle Tussle", "The Duxorcist" and Baby Looney Tunes). The most she ever did, originally, was whimper and cry for help- which is completely unlike Lola. It's like they decided to switch their personalities.

I worry that kids are going to be reading the Looney Tunes comic books and wondering why they're not like what they are on television, but for entirely different reasons. It's a complete turnaround- the DC comics were the first to make them like the cartoons, finally making the two coincide, but now it seems as though they're trying to make the cartoons more like the way the comics used to be. Blecch.

So I don't know what the heck they're doing, but I want the old Lola back. Space Jam, for all its associations with late '90s teenage culture, is looking better all the time.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jack's Bourrée

So I've just listened to Bach's "Bourrée in E minor". Does anyone think that the main strain sounds like the first verses of "Jack's Lament" from Nightmare Before Christmas?