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Putting Electrical Tape on One's Hairy Arms and Quickly Removing It as a Means of Waking Oneself Up: A Concise Review
This is a practice that is not recommended. Let me just say now, it is neither fun nor effective. Nor safe. I'm not sure whether it's always been popular, it's gaining popularity, or it's something that only I have ever attempted.
One dreary Wednesday afternoon at the office, I thought I'd give this idea a try, wherever the heck it came from. I chose a green-colored tape
. Somewhere between puke- and lime-. It seemed especially promising, given not only its offensive hue, but also its grotesque brightness. If I don't feel pepped up after this, I thought, well, then, forget it. The de-motivation terrorists have already won.
I stood in front of a coworker I was sure would make an obnoxious comment, just to be certain I mixed the proper amount of ire into the equation. Ire, I've learned, can go a long way in making a person feel alive. I carefully pulled an inch or so off the roll and flattened it onto my arm, onto the hairiest part I could find. After it had been applied, I still felt tired, but I also felt a little bit scared. My coworker didn't chime in with any obnoxious comments. I looked at the little square and began to fret. Was it all for naught? I thought maybe I could lure her in.
"I'm beginning to regret this."
"It seemed like an okay idea at first."
"You, know... I thought I'd be able to wake myself up a little."
Silence still. Where's an obnoxious coworker when you need one? (Don't answer that
I went ahead and yanked. It hurt intensely for a very, very brief moment. For that very, very brief moment, I felt more awake. But I was as lethargic as ever less than a second later. What a big stupid waste of time that turned out to be. I'm going back to snorting Blistex.
Back in the 1960s Hanna-Barbera was masterful at making innocuous programming. Yogi Bear
is the apex of attention-holding television that will never make you laugh. Not surprisingly, it is hugely derivative. From the title character named after a real live wit to the Lucy-esque hijinx of the bear, with pic-a-nic baskets replacing dollars in the various get-rich-quick schemes, and Ranger Rick subbing in for Desi Arnaz. H-B excelled at this kind of mediocrity all decade long. Their cartoons had less punch than the Loony Toons and less sentimentality than Mickey and Company, but they were never alone, then or now, in the ways, subtle and not, that they reappropriated the ideas of older, adult shows.
was a blatant and much less engaging version of The Honeymooners
. The Jetsons
was the happy if boring marriage of Leave it to Beaver
and Dr. Who
(and, of course, to some extent, a further repackaging of The Flintstones
). And who could forget the Hillbilly Bears
? Inspector Gadget
had all the trademarks of Get Smart
, including Max Smart himself voicing Gadget. In a common trick for this kind of retooling, a child protagonist was introduced for the kiddies at home to relate to. Agent 99 was out, Penny was in.
In more recent years, the syndicated and popular "Disney Afternoon"
of the early '90s was inhabited by similarly strange and unimaginative programs. Darkwing Duck
was Batman repurposed. Tale Spin
was the perennially perplexing combination of Jungle Book
Repackaging these successful, adult shows makes for a good business model with very little investment required in your creative department. The young audience won't recognize the stale storylines and if their parents do, they will likely be charmed. The Babyboomers, for their part, grow up with their fondest memories not of Ralph Kramden and the brilliant teleplays he inhabited but of the bizzaro world of animated Fred Flintstone hamming it up for a laugh track. (That seems to about sum it up for that generation.)
What's interesting is that this production model veers so closely to parody, a form full of vitality and possibility. Animation after all, when compared to the visual aesthetic of video and film, is a bit like a parody of real life. Nonetheless, Hanna-Barbera and its peers have often dived headlong into imitation. It took primetime and Fox to breathe life into animation and give reign to its parodic tendencies. The Simpsons
stuck to the idea that cartoons could mine new material from old shows, but instead of emulating the Cleavers and the Huxtables, it mocked them. The direct adoption of a specific show's premise was absent and The Simpsons
set the medium free, good to remember now that it is caught under so many years of its own expectations and restraints.
So, the cartoon is now clearly recognized for the strength at which it does parody. Unfortunately, most producers' vision has not moved beyond the target Matt Groening and company settled on: the live-action family sitcom. The Simpsons
is now the one being repackaged again and again, an unfortunate homage to a show that cut its teeth on new ground. Family Guy
, The PJs
, King of the Hill
; most network forays into animation since 1989 have clung to the idea that, even if cartoons are the best way to send up the sitcom, The Cosby Show
is still the archetypal sitcom. For those looking to make the next innocuous cartoon show, the Seinfeld
school of sitcom production would seem to hold worlds of fertile material, yet to be mined by the animator's pen.
Sure enough, the way in which recent cartoons have charged into new non-Simpsons
territory has been to do what it did with the family sitcom, while avoiding the remake trap of The Flintstones
and Inspector Gadget
. Space Ghost Coast to Coast
seemed to be hugely aware of how well it avoided the traps of Hanna-Barbera's '60s shows. It is an obvious riff on the late night talk show format without borrowing from any one program. Except, of course, the terrible Hanna-Barbera Space Ghost
of 1966, from which it gets all its characters.
The Powerpuff Girls
did appear suspiciously close to the release of the Charlie's Angels
feature film, but was as much about lampooning the superhero genre as redoing that old teevee show. (Give H-B credit. It produces Powerpuff
and has found new life and creativity on the Cartoon Network.) Animaniacs
brought back the vaudevillian wackiness of much earlier variety shows. South Park
turned the whole process on its head when it made a show framed as a children's program (i.e. featuring kids and their random and vomitous concerns) but for an adult audience.
Of course, there have been some truly original cartoons, shows that do not even seem aware of their live-action counterparts. These shows tack away from parody and emulation for the vast seas of animation's other strength: the fantastic and the incredible. For this reason, these cartoons all smack of drug use. The Smurfs
(H-B again, freewheeling in the '80s now) moved to the beat of its own drum then, just as SpongeBob SquarePants
does now. And while there's no simple way to repackage these shows as live-action comedies for adult teevee audiences, SpongeBob hit the big screen last year and Nickelodeon and Paramount have the Smurfs penciled in for 2008. Still, a film adaptation of The Smurfs
is at least only one level down into remake hell. 2000's effort to turn nostalgia into money, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas
, was a sequel to a remake of a teevee show that was imitating a better teevee show. No good idea goes un-re-used.