Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cow and Chicken

Cow and Chicken was easily the worst atrocity to ever have been shoved down our throats from the notorious Cartoon Network storyboard contest (more on that later), one that failed spectactularly and a failure which the channel refused to give up hope on. Even after it dropped like a stone, CN refused to take the hint and did all they could to jumpstart it, refusing to give up beating the dead horse long after the obvious. How on earth could they have ever possibly thought that they ever had a working idea here?

Gimmick: the concept is that of a suburban family in which the two happily-married parents, whom we always see only from the waist down, have two "children", a brother and sister, but for some reason the "sister" is a cow while the "brother" is the chicken (uh, shouldn't that make it Cow and Rooster?). As if this suggestion wasn't nauseating enough regarding how this could be possible, the two parents in question are both human, a man and a woman (I know, I know -- you're now all thinking: Ewwwwwww. With a capital "E"). This concept, which is so many shades of wrong that it could outshade your average rainbow, is presented as an apparent "spoof" of family-oriented T.V. situation comedies.

Sound like a good idea?


A better word for Cow and Chicken, which was for several years running wildly overadvertised up the wazoo on its native Cartoon Network while also having individual episodes of it being frantically sandwiched into every single spare ten-minute time slot in between their other shows normally reserved for commercials that the channel could spare in a desperate attempt to jumpstart its consciousness in the public eye and hence make it a hit, could very easily be "awful".

When I first saw it after it had been turned into a full half-hour program years back, it resided on the channel's "Cartoon Cartoon" lineup, where it sat firmly wedged between the latest episodes of Dexter's Laboratory and The New Adventures of Johnny Quest, and was then-currently competing against the likes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and 60 Minutes. Cartoon Newtork, obviously, was betting against all odds that 60 Minutes was over the hill, that Star Trek no longer attracted large viewing audiences, and that fans of Dexter's Laboratory and Johnny Quest would be left too catatonic to change the channel.

What those poor unfortunates endured were visuals that easily rank among the ugliest ever seen in animation since Rude Dog & The Dweebs.

They also endured lots of attempts at "gross out" humour, stabs at sibling rivalry, and nonsensical gags regarding a member of the family taking it upon themselves to become a "superhero" after donning various spare clothing articles and household items.

These last three ingredients can and certainly have worked before, in instances when the writing was sharp, the gags right on target, and the chosen storylines reasonably intelligent. So far Cow and Chicken is batting 0 for 3.

Hopeful newcomer David Weiss feverishly bangs out his gag ideas as though terrified that his audience won't get his jokes and has to immediately clobber them over the head with another one a.s.a.p. in order to make them instantly forget how unsuccessful the previous one was. The animators and writers do as much with the material as the limp premise will allow, and the characters' voice actors all ham it up as much as Weiss wants, or will allow, which in either case is too much. A small hint of subtlely is provided here by an incidental character who appears every once in a while called Boneless Chicken, not because he is funny, entertaining, or in any way interesting, but because the character is the only one in the entire cast who has lines read in a normal, reserved delivery, offering a small touch of restraint to a show that can certainly use it.

Now it could very well be that I am being unfairly harsh here. It could very well be that this show just needs time to gain its footing. It could very well be that it may soon blossom into a truly well-developed hit and find a huge worshipful audience. It could very well be that it might one day become a huge marketing bonanza just as its creators obvious hope and will make them all rich. It could even very well be that one day it will be regarded as a timeless television cartoon classic in the same league as Scooby Doo, The Flintstones and The Jetsons. That could very well be, but frankly, modern cartoons tending to be what they are these days, I highly doubt it.

Now I could be wrong. Maybe funny animal cartoons are still as entertaining to modern audiences as all get out. Hey! Could that explain the reason why viewers everywhere have been tuning into channels like Boomerang to watch older --- and therefore much better --- funny animal cartoons? Naaah.