It (Allegedly) Stinks!: Exploring the Underappreciated Charm of “The Critic”

*Watching the “Readability monitor* (Sigh) Such a critic.

Not The Simpsons

Anyway, now that you know how I feel about that Readability monitor…

If you watched enough primetime cartoons in the 1990s (other than The Simpsons, of course), “it stinks!” may sound familiar to you. And many believe it to be a direct spinoff of The Simpsons (and they’re so wrong!).

This show it comes from, you ask?

The Critic!

Before There Was Family Guy

In the 1990s, one primetime cartoon was king, and that was The Simpsons. There was nothing quite like it at the time, and it ruffled quite a few feathers. Bart Simpson was every parents’ worst nightmare, and the example that moms used when they said “this is not how you will behave!” Because my mom allowed my brother and I to watch the show, I never understood why so many other kids could not, and why parents were in such a tizz over The Simpsons. And that show was supposed to be family-friendly – I can’t imagine what the people who got their panties in a bunch over The Simpsons felt when they saw Family Guy a few years later.

If you guessed they got their panties in a bunch AGAIN, you’re right. Pat yourself on the back, you’re so smart!

Picture it, a Brief Time in 1994 (and 1995)…

Between that time, in 1994, Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who were previously showrunners on The Simpsons, decided the time was right for another primetime sitcom, but not of the family variety. The premise, you ask? The life of a New York film critic named Jay Sherman. That’s it. He’s a film critic, he’s balding, fat, has a child, is divorced, and has a Siskel and Ebert type show (called with all originalness, Coming Attractions) where he watched trailers for upcoming films. The movies he reviews are spirited parodies of actual films that you’ll immediately figure out if you’re familiar with movies of the time.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiryercg53SAhUJQiYKHYL_DoQQjB0IBg&url=http%3A%2F%2Fthecritic.wikia.com%2Fwiki%2FComing_Attractions&bvm=bv.147448319,d.amc&psig=AFQjCNEqc-Ck9gcv4BGSDSuac4pQRP1bOA&ust=1487623536718562

And they were hilarious! Who didn’t want to see Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Rabbi Cop, Clint Eastwood make another Dirty Harry movie, a Raptor smoke a pipe, or Dennis the Menace shoot up Mr. Wilson?

A Critic(al) Response

In theory, The Critic seemed like a great concept. It was funny, witty, and was floated as a “love letter to New York.” Plus, Jon Lovitz had name recognition and seemed like the perfect person to have his own series. So this should have been a hit, right?

Nope.

Like the tagline Jay Sherman used to describe the movies he was forced to watch and review, people were not fans. The Critic started off on ABC in January 1994, but moved to Fox in its second season. Despite improving ratings, the show was cancelled after two seasons, and twenty-three episodes. For several years in the mid-late ’90s through its Fox airing and later Comedy Central reruns, this was regular viewing for my brother and myself.

Since I had no idea (at least, initially) that this show began life on ABC, I assumed it was premiering on Fox because of the crossover episode of The Simpsons, when Jay hosts a film festival in Springfield. Oh, and he badmouths MacGyver. I’ve never forgotten that. :-D

Original Run

The show originally premiered on ABC in their Wednesday night lineup beginning on January 26, 1994, but was cancelled after 13 episodes.

Uploaded by VHSgoodiesWA…and proof that this show aired on ABC.

The show promptly moved to Fox for the 1994-1995 season (airing all those original episodes during the summer explains why I thought it only aired on Fox). It followed The Simpsons on Sunday nights (a respectable timeslot), but was cancelled after the second season. A move to UPN never happened, and with no network to pick it up for a third season, The Critic was officially done.

Old Soul Approved

Admittedly, I’ve always been an old soul. Don’t get me wrong – I was your typical kid when it came to toys and cartoons, but I loved primetime sitcoms growing up. As far back as I can remember, I watched many of the “important” ones that ’80s babies grew up on, and even at a younger age, I liked the humor. As an adult, I have not spotted one sitcom I liked as a kid and cringed over it. Ok, except for Small Wonder. I now see why my mom was so weirded out by that show.

Where The Simpsons was low-brow and played to the “everyone can relate” stance, The Critic took a satirical approach to humor, parodying movies by combining different movies, lightening up some, darkening others, and parodying high-profile stars of the time. The movie parodies were brilliant – the “clips” were movies any smartass would love to see. And then there was the Orson Welles parodies – Maurice LaMarche is brilliant. Just sayin’.

Uploaded by seinfan9

The feeling of audience commonality to The Simpsons was parodied in one episode. Jay Sherman was often depicted as elitist and smart, but it was his over-the-top dramatics that made him funny and endearing to this “old soul.” I always liked the humor of the show, even at 11-12 years old. The movie parodies were the highlight for me.

I sorta knew who Jon Lovitz was at the time (thanks to A League of Their Own). His is a voice you can’t forget, and his haminess works perfectly for Jay.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjNobH_gp3SAhVGRyYKHWlqBvUQjB0IBg&url=http%3A%2F%2Fvillains.wikia.com%2Fwiki%2FDuke_Phillips&psig=AFQjCNHrWIYFLd55U3_v78q0QVPqCH0u7Q&ust=1487623348012497

“All hail Duke, Duke is life!”

The only other character I laughed at as hard as I did at Jay was his boss, Duke Phillips, and while I knew who Charles Napier was (but not until much later), I didn’t think that was his real voice! Duke’s characterization was that of Ted Turner – a media conglomerate owner who rules with an iron fist.

And What About Those Movie Parodies?

Yeah, what about them?

Uploaded by Random Comment

There are many more amazing parodies, and this merely scratches the surface. There’s this…

Uploaded by KnightedFrog

This…

Uploaded by Kanaru2

And this!

Uploaded by YoKozo

These, and the many other parodies of the movies…not bogus!

Availability

The show aired in reruns on Comedy Central (where I watched it after Fox cancelled it), has been in syndication during the last decade, and made the trek to TV-on-DVD in one set with all 23 episodes, including the ten-episode Flash Animation webseries (2000-2001). The set is available on Amazon for a respectable price of $14.99. And yes, I own that DVD set.

And In Closing…

The Critic was one of those gems that lacked the proper respect in its time, but still holds up well despite its age. It had a great sense of humor that paved the way for the humor of Family Guy, and all of the shows that would follow in that vein. Ahead of its time? Maybe. Classic? Definitely!

How could anything with that distinction stink?

It is impossible!

Would You Like To Enjoy Breakfast at Jellystone Park Every Morning?

Imagine being able to have breakfast with Yogi Bear, Pixie and Dixie and the rest of the gang in Jellystone Park. Every morning! This Jellystone Park plate and Pixie and Dixie bowl set, which was made in the 1960s, makes this possible.
Jellystone Park

My husband loves all things pop culture, just like I do. He has fond memories from his childhood of eating from this plate and bowl set. I was amazed to discover that his mother still had it and it was in excellent condition.

My husband enjoyed being able to see the familiar Saturday morning cartoon characters on plates and bowls. He has fond memories of his mom telling him that he was not finished until he could see Pixie and Dixie at the bottom of the bowl.

These characters first appeared in the late 1950s and early 1960s. My husband and I saw them as kids as Saturday morning cartoons re-runs.

The plate has Yogi Bear, Ranger Smith, Quick Draw McGraw, Blabber Mouse, Snooper, Hokey Wolf, Ding-A-Ling Wolf, Mr. Jinks., Quick Draw McGraw and Baba Looey, Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss, Yakky Doodle, Pixie and Dixie.

On the plate, Ding-A-Ling is helping put up the sign and Snooper is carrying a bowl of food. Baba Looey, the Mexican burro, Huckleberry Hound, and Snagglepuss are putting the tablecloth on the table. Blabber Mouse is carrying Yakky Doodle in a pink flower pot. Pixie and Dixie are wrapping a present.

I’m a big fan of the Hanna Barbera cartoons. I feature them regularly on my blog, Between the Pages. Check out this Snagglepuss Cake and these amazing Flintstone Cakes and Scooby-Doo Cakes and this Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons.

Zim Animation Teases 3D Intros To He-Man And More!

You might remember Zim Animation from the post I shared on Halloween two years ago. It was a 3D computer rendered version of the intro to the classic Real Ghostbusters cartoon. But that wasn’t the only bit of awesome retro inspired 3D work that Zim Animation has produced.

Why back in 2014 he in fact delivered the 3D intro to the 19802 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

It appears that Zim Animation though is more than willing to keep bringing us 3D versions of popular animated series. To prove this the Vancouver, Canada based animation team have put together this short teaser. With the idea in mind that they will eventually include short clips – mashed together with various classic characters. Like the Thundercats, Masters of the Universe, and Batman.
Zim Animation

One can hope that in addition we might see some of the Transformers included as well! Furthermore is it too far a stretch to believe that G.I. Joe might make up the roster of retro cartoons to make the cut?

Without further ado here is Zim Animation’s 3D Remake Mashup!

With what we could see in that teaser – I assume this new project will look like someone is flipping channels. If you want to help support Zim Animation in this new project, you can totally visit their Patreon Page. Moreover make sure to check out the awesome rewards for pledging your support to this endeavor. Reward such as first looks at the work in progress and communication with the animators as well!

Popeye Met The Defenders Of The Earth In 1972?!

Back in 1985 one of my favorite animated series was Defenders of the Earth. Numerous times on The Retroist I’ve mentioned my fondness for pulp characters. Of heroes of the Golden Age – like The Shadow, The Phantom and others.

Thanks in fact to the 1980 Flash Gordon film. I came across an old collection of comic strips from King Features Syndicate at my local library. Which is of course how I was introduced to the likes of Mandrake the Magician and Lothar. Which like The Phantom was a creation of Lee Falk as well. They even had old Popeye collections from the E.C. Segar strip days!
Popeye

So you can easily imagine my joy when the Defenders of the Earth series debuted one morning. Bear in mind that if you didn’t have access to a TV Guide you were generally caught unawares about a new animated weekday show.

Themecstasy

Until last night however I wasn’t aware that the Defenders of the Earth had grouped together before 1985. Back in 1972 in fact for Popeye Meets The Man Who Hated Laughter – which was part of ABC’s Saturday Superstar Movie!

[Via] Muttley 16

When I stumbled on this I felt for a moment like I was reading an issue of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Moreover these early Defenders were joined by another King Features Syndicate hero – Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon.

That is not even the most interesting part of it. The group that we would come to know as the Defenders of the Earth were brought together for a very special mission.

The Defenders of the Earth circa 1972.

In Popeye Meets The Man Who Hated Laughter, the US government asked the team to locate missing comic strip characters. Such as Blondie and Dagwood.

Beetle Bailey and Sarge.

As well as Popeye and Olive Oyl of course!

To say nothing of characters from Henry, Hi and Lois, Tiger and Prince Valiant. In addition to Bringing Up Father, Little Iodine, Snuffy Smith, and more.

Popeye Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter concerns itself with the villainous Professor Morbid Grimsby. A wretch who plans on banishing all laughter in the world – aided by a super computer as well as Popeye’s nemesis, Brutus. Inviting the cast of comic strip superstars aboard a yacht – the S.S. Hilarious. Taking them to the island hideaway of Professor Grimsby, where they will be his prisoners.

It’s up to the proto-Defenders of the Earth to locate the missing characters. Now in view of just how awesome this TV special really is, I should warn you about something. The sound isn’t that good. But in all honesty we are all incredibly lucky that Stupid Dim Bulb was able to upload this rare 1972 movie.

While it would take the Defenders of the Earth 13 years in fact to return to animation. Popeye was back in action in 1978 with The All New Popeye Hour!

[Via] Cartoons Intro

Check Out This 1984 Kidd Video Interview!

When the pilot episode of NBC’s Saturday morning animated series Kidd Video debuted on September 8, 1984. I was hooked. The premise of a garage band getting sucked into an animated universe was right in my wheelhouse.
Kidd Video

Kidd Video scratched that itch I was beginning to develop, which was obviously a desire for music. Music videos in fact. Please keep in mind that music wasn’t a big thing in my household when growing up. It wasn’t banned or anything like that – we just didn’t listen frequently.

Having said that, Kidd Video came out at the perfect time. While it would be a couple of years before I would get access to the likes of MTV. I had already been introduced to the music video by way of Nick Rocks!

[Via] AnnainCA

Now as I just mentioned, I really dug Kidd Video. I apparently wasn’t the only child of the 80s who took to it either. As the show was the most popular new children’s show of 1984 as well as coming in third in the Nielsen ratings for all Saturday morning cartoons.

It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that the cast who played the members of the band. Also lent their voices to the series as well as the original songs they sang. Kidd Video was portrayed by Bryan Scott, Carla was played by Gabrielle Bennett. The band’s resident tech head, Whiz, was Robbie Rist. Yes, none other than Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch.

Last but not least was Ash, the keyboardist for the band, played by Steve Alterman.

Furthermore with the exception of Bennett, they could actually play their instruments. So this made Kidd Video something of a powerhouse for both DIC and Saban entertainment. Which is how the band members and even Haim Saban were interviewed on the program, 2 on the Town.

[Via] Toolbot

Now Kidd Video were also popular enough to appear on Dance Fever!

[Via] toolbot

While the animated series was quite popular, they didn’t have much of a marketing impact in the USA. Although this wasn’t the case in Israel where the group in fact toured. Kidd Video spawned a record album, coloring books, a card game, and even candy bars and yogurt. So why not treat yourself and listen to a track from said album. The song from the intro of the cartoon – Video To My Radio!

[Via] Gen. DeverauX