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Archive for the ‘TV Episode’ Category

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, S1E04: Applebuck Season

Posted by Tracy Poff on October 28, 2012

The fourth episode the first season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic aired on November 5, 2010. It is called “Applebuck Season”, and was written by Amy Keating Rogers.

The Story

Sweet Apple Acres has produced a bumper crop of apples, but Big McIntosh, Applejack’s brother, has been injured. He believes that there are too many apples for Applejack to harvest alone, but she swears she’ll harvest every one by herself.

Applejack is a pony in high demand, however. As she’s about to start work, a herd of cattle begins to stampede toward Ponyville. Fortunately, Applejack’s expert rodeo skills allow her to divert them before they cause any harm. When the citizens of Ponyville have a party in her honor, a week later, Applejack only just shows up in time to receive her award, and is so tired that she dozes off during the award ceremony.

When Applejack later tries to help Rainbow Dash perfect a new trick, the usually athletic pony’s lack of coordination ruin’s Rainbow Dash’s practice session. When helping Pinkie Pie bake some muffins, she misunderstands the recipe, creating muffins that sicken the ponies who eat them. When assisting Fluttershy with the bunny census, Applejack’s growing irritability leads her to frighten the rabbits into stampeding through the town, eating all the gardens as they pass through.

Throughout these events, Twilight Sparkle tries to get Applejack to accept some help with her apple bucking, but Applejack is as “stubborn as a mule” and insists on doing all the work herself. Finally, when she believes she’s finally finished, Big McIntosh points out that there are still many trees yet to be harvested. She realizes that she can’t handle the whole job alone, and accepts her friends’ help. Together, they finish the job with ease.

The Lesson

“While friendship is about giving of ourselves to friends, it’s also about accepting what our friends have to offer.”

I mentioned that the previous episode hinted that Twilight should have asked Celestia for help. This episode is all about asking for help.

Applejack is used to being the pony that everypony can depend upon, but when she needs help herself, she’s too stubborn and prideful to ask for it, or accept it when it’s offered. However, by trying to go it alone, not only can’t she manage her own responsibilities, she can’t help her friends, either. Twilight’s letter to Princess Celestia sums this one up very well.

This whole episode works toward communicating one lesson, and it works very well. Full points for the lesson, this time.

My Opinion

Another fun episode. The feeling of everything building up to Applejack finally accepting her friends’ help is nice. The lesson is again a good one, and it’s presented more directly that last episode’s lesson, which isn’t a bad thing. If I were pressed, I’d have to say that I like “The Ticket Master” better; it gives us more insight into the characters. Still, “Applebuck Season” is a solid episode.

Details

Applejack

This episode focuses on Applejack, so we learn a bit about her. She’s stubborn and prideful, it turns out, but she’s also got a lot of positive qualities. She refers to herself as “the loyalest of friends and the most dependable of ponies.” Twilight calls her “a pony we can always count on to help in matters great and small.” Rainbow Dash says she is Ponyville’s best athlete, and Pinkie Pie says she is the best baker ever.

We also learn that Applejack and Big McIntosh pretty much run Sweet Apple Acres by themselves; the crowd of family members we saw in the first episode were just in for the Apple family reunion. We’ll get to see more of Applejack’s family, later: Apple Bloom features in several episodes, starting with “Call of the Cutie”; Granny Smith stars in the second season episode, “Family Appreciation Day”.

Pinkie Pie

I noted previously that the main characters work to support themselves. In this episode, we learn that Pinkie Pie works at Sugarcube Corner, and that this week, she gets to run the shop for the first time. Unfortunately, things don’t go so well for Pinkie, or for anyone else who sampled the “baked bads.”

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, S1E03: The Ticket Master

Posted by Tracy Poff on October 22, 2012

The third episode the first season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic aired on October 29, 2010. It is called “The Ticket Master”, and was written by Amy Keating Rogers and Lauren Faust.

The Story

Twilight is helping Applejack bring in some apples, when she receives a letter from the princess inviting her (plus one guest) to the Grand Galloping Gala, the social event of the year. Twilight is excited to go, and so are her friends–each for her own reason.

Applejack imagines that she could set up a stand and sell apples at the event, earning money for the farm. Rainbow Dash dreams of upstaging the Wonderbolts during their performance at the Gala, earning a spot on the team. Pinkie Pie wants to go because it’s a huge party. Rarity wants to be a part of high society and meet (and marry) a prince. Fluttershy isn’t so interested in the Gala, but is enchanted by the idea of the gardens that surround the dance.

Twilight can’t decide which of her friends should get the extra ticket, and her decision isn’t made any easier when each of them tries to do her favors to convince Twilight to give the ticket to her. Twilight, who just wants to get something to eat, spends the day avoiding her friends while trying to decide which of them she’ll give the ticket to, and which she’ll have to disappoint.

In the end, Twilight’s friends see that they’re making her unhappy by trying to get the ticket, and voluntarily give it up. Twilight, in turn, sends the tickets back to Princess Celestia, saying that if she can’t go with all of her friends, she’d rather not go at all.

Surprisingly, Princess Celestia quickly responds to Twilight’s letter by sending back six tickets–one for Twilight and one for each of her friends. She even sends one for Spike. Now, they will all be able to attend the Grand Galloping Gala together.

The Lesson

“I’ve learned that one of the joys of friendship is sharing your blessings. But when there’s not enough blessings to go around, having more than your friends can make you feel pretty awful.”

Twilight must make a difficult decision, and no matter what she decides, some of her friends will be disappointed. In the end, she chooses not to choose, and this works out well for her.

There are several lessons in this: first, Twilight learns that her friends won’t abandon her even if she can’t give all of them what they want; second, she realizes that making her friends happy is more important to her than attending the Gala–which is what her friends learned, too; third, minorly, she learns that she could have asked Princess Celestia for more tickets at any time–that she should be prepared to ask for help when she’s in a difficult situation.

These lessons are all good, and we’ll see some of them again, from different angles. The best and most effective lesson in this episode is the combination of the first two: that it can be better to make your friends happy even at some cost to yourself, and that they may feel the same way. I admire this dual presentation of the lesson.

My Opinion

This is the first episode after the initial story, so it’s the first time we get to see how Twilight and her friends interact in Ponyville, absent lurking horrors. Unsurprisingly, their behavior isn’t so different from how it was in the first episode, when they first met. Unsurprising, since a children’s show like this can’t be expected to do much character development, though a little disappointing.

Lack of complex character arcs aside, the episode is fun. It meets the standard set by the two-part introduction, containing a good share of comedy as Twilight tries to avoid her friends and another good share of pathos as she worries about who should get the ticket.

Details

The Grand Galloping Gala

You wouldn’t guess it from the next few episodes, but this actually introduces a story arc that will be revisited later in the season, and which includes the season finale. In episode 14, “Suited for Success”, Rarity will make dresses for each of the main cast to wear to the gala, and in episode 26, “The Best Night Ever”, we see them actually attend.

Spike

In this episode, we learn that while Spike can eat grass or apples, like the ponies, he can also eat gemstones. We also see him acting a little childish, pretending not to be interested in going to a girly party like the Gala, but secretly wanting to go.

Angel Bunny

This episode marks the introduction of Fluttershy’s pet rabbit, Angel. He’s mute, but seems quite intelligent, and acts stern in contrast to Fluttershy’s demure and pliable personality. He’ll return in several future episodes of both the first and second seasons.

Money

It wasn’t obvious in the first episode, since everyone seemed to be providing for the Summer Sun Celebration out of the kindness of their hearts, but Equestria does use money. Applejack imagines earning money to get some work done around the farm, and we may understand from this episode that Rarity has a business designing clothing.

I mention this because while the ponies are of indeterminate age, we can see that they must be young adults, since at least Applejack and Rarity are working to support themselves. This is notable, since children’s shows very often have children as protagonists, and this is the first indication that the ponies aren’t just particularly independent children or teenagers.

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, S1E02: Friendship is Magic, part 2 (The Elements of Harmony)

Posted by Tracy Poff on October 21, 2012

The second episode the first season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic aired on October 17, 2010. It is called “Friendship is Magic, part 2” or “The Elements of Harmony”, and was written by Lauren Faust.

The Story

In the previous episode, Nightmare Moon returned from her thousand-year imprisonment to bring eternal night to Equestria. Now, with Princess Celestia missing, Twilight Sparkle intends to find the Elements of Harmony so that she can defeat Nightmare Moon, rescue the princess, and save Equestria.

The five ponies Twilight met the previous day insist on coming along to help Twilight, so together they venture into the Everfree Forest, a creepy and unnatural place, which apparently doesn’t work the same way as the rest of Equestria. There, they must overcome several tests of their new friendship.

Together, the six ponies defeat Nightmare Moon, and it is revealed that Nightmare Moon is in fact Princess Celestia’s younger sister, Luna. Celestia and Luna rejoice at their reunion, and they all return to Ponyville.

Twilight Sparkle is sad that she will have to leave her new friends, so Princess Celestia assigns her to remain in Ponyville and study the magic of friendship.

The Lesson

The ultimate lesson is that the power of friendship can overcome anything. Along the way, there are several more lessons to be learned about the value of honesty, kindness, courage (though it’s termed laughter, here), generosity, and loyalty. I’ve given some details about these below, under the heading “The Trials”.

The lessons are good, although I’d question the effectiveness of the presentation. In particular:

The lesson about honesty comes across simply as “trust your friends”, and it’s very strained. I imagine it was difficult to work honesty into the episode in a dramatic way. Unfortunately, this continues to be a problem in future episodes, as well.

The lesson about kindness, “sometimes we all just need to be shown a little kindness”, as Fluttershy puts it, also doesn’t work that well. It seems like Fluttershy just got lucky.

The others work better, and Rainbow Dash’s segment, teaching about loyalty, fits in particularly well.

My Opinion

This episode is even better than the first. We get a nice quest, everypony plays a part, and the lesson is good. If I’ve got a complaint, it’s that there’s not much tension–all the problems are resolved very quickly. However, there’s a lot of action to fit into a single episode, and the ending is great, so this flaw can be forgiven.

Details

The Trials

While in the Everfree Forest, the ponies must overcome several trials before they can reach the Elements of Harmony.

First, the ground falls out from under the ponies, sending them hurtling toward a cliff. All but Twilight are able to stop themselves safely. Applejack grabs Twilight, but then tells her to let go and fall off the cliff, and she’ll be safe. Twilight is understandably skeptical of this. Applejack emphasizes that she is being honest, and Twilight trusts her and is caught by Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash before she falls to the ground. It works out well, but I can’t imagine why Applejack didn’t just tell her that the others were waiting to catch her. Or why they didn’t just push her back up over the cliff. As the plot demands, I guess.

Next, the ponies encounter a huge and angry manticore. They try to fight it individually, to no avail. They prepare to all rush it together, when Fluttershy interposes herself between them and the beast. As it turns out, the manticore had a thorn in its paw. After Fluttershy removes it, the manticore is a sweet as a kitten. Twilight asks how Fluttershy knew about the thorn, to which Fluttershy replies: “I didn’t. Sometimes we all just need to be shown a little kindness.”

Then, the ponies encounter some very creepy looking trees, which, given the circumstances, frighten them–all except Pinkie Pie, that is. She advises them that the trees can’t hurt them, and that they should just laugh and make them disappear, in the series’s first musical number. Since the monstrous appearance of the trees was just an illusion, this works, and they proceed.

A little further along, they encounter a river which has been churned up so as to be impassable. As it turns out, it has been churned up by the anguished thrashing of a sea serpent whose lovely moustache has been severed. Unwilling to allow this crime against fabulosity, Rarity cuts off her own tail to serve as a replacement moustache. Delighted, the serpent provides his own body as a pathway for the ponies to cross.

Finally, the ponies are in sight of the location where the Elements of Harmony are kept, when a broken bridge stops them. Fortunately, Rainbow Dash is able to fly across and repair the bridge. However, when she reaches the far side, three ponies stop her, and introduce themselves as the Shadowbolts, the best flying team in the Everfree Forest, and soon in all of Equestria. They offer to make her the captain of their team, if Rainbow Dash will abandon her friends and come with them. Rainbow Dash refuses them, though, because, as she says: “I’d never leave my friends hangin’.”

Did I say “finally”? In fact, there is one, final trial. When the Elements of Harmony are broken, Twilight must realize that the spirits of the Elements of Harmony are represented by her friends, and that the final Element is magic. And, as we all know, friendship is magic. Twilight, together with her friends, is able to defeat Nightmare Moon. Quest complete!

Princess Celestia

In this episode, we get our first look at Princess Celestia, the ruler of Equestria. She’s a winged unicorn, and much larger than the rest of the cast. She appears to have a close relationship with Twilight, if their interaction when she first appears is any guide. She also turns out to be at least a thousand years old: she’s the pony described by the storybook at the beginning of the first episode, and Nightmare Moon is actually her sister, Princess Luna.

Princess Luna

We first met Luna in another guise, as Nightmare Moon, in the previous episode, and we see her thus again in this episode. Once Twilight and her friends use the Elements of Harmony to defeat her, though, she appears changed, and much smaller. She and her sister, Princess Celestia, are reunited at last, and return with the others to celebrate in Ponyville.

Luna won’t be seen again for over a year, in the fourth episode of the second season, “Luna Eclipsed”. She’ll have a rather different character design, then, too.

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, S1E01: Friendship is Magic, part 1 (The Mare in the Moon)

Posted by Tracy Poff on October 21, 2012

The first episode the first season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic aired on October 10, 2010. It is called “Friendship is Magic, part 1” or “The Mare in the Moon”, and was written by Lauren Faust.

The Story

The episode opens with storybook-like narration: the land of Equestria was ruled by two sisters, princesses, the elder responsible for the day, and the younger for the night. The younger sister was jealous and sought to shroud the land in eternal darkness, calling herself Nightmare Moon. The sisters clashed, and the elder exiled the younger to the moon using the legendary Elements of Harmony.

We see that this story is being read by the series’s central protagonist, Twilight Sparkle. She believes that a prophecy states that Nightmare Moon will return after a thousand years, which is this very year, and writes to her mentor, Princess Celestia, with her concerns.

Princess Celestia seems not to be impressed by her student’s alarmism, and instructs her to visit Ponyville to oversee the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration and to make some friends. With her assistant, Spike, Twilight travels to Ponyville.

Twilight meets several ponies while she’s checking on the preparations for the celebration; particularly: Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie. After a trying day and a sleepless night, Twilight waits for the Summer Sun Celebration to begin. Princess Celestia is supposed to come to Ponyville and raise the sun while the citizens watch, but she is nowhere to be found. Instead, Nightmare Moon appears before the frightened citizens, and declares that henceforth the night will last forever.

To be continued…

The Lesson

Although the second episode did not air for another week, the first two episodes form a single story. As a result, there’s no clear moral in this episode. Despite Twilight’s intention to quickly check on the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration and then find proof of the upcoming return of Nightmare Moon, she is waylaid by several ponies who seem intent on becoming friends. As we will see in the following episode, though, this is all for the best.

My Opinion

This episode is a great introduction to the series. I usually don’t like first episodes of television shows, but “Friendship is Magic, part 1” manages to both provide a lot of information on the world and characters and also tell a fun story. It’s an auspicious start.

Details

A lot is introduced in this episode. I’ve written notes about some of the more prominent things.

The Setting

Equestria is a new setting, created for this series. Previous My Little Pony cartoons were set in Dream Valley or Ponyland. We see that Equestria is home to unicorns, pegasi, and Earth ponies, and that the day and night do not simply come of their own accord, but are brought about by unicorn magic. Later episodes will show that other aspects of the natural world are also controlled by the ponies, through magic or other means.

Twilight Sparkle

Twilight Sparkle is the central protagonist of the series. She’s a bookworm–the very first time we see her, she’s reading a book, and she skips a party in order to do some studying, prompting others to comment that she does nothing but study, and that she’s more interested in books than friends. Even her teacher, Princess Celestia, comments that she spends too much time reading, and should make some friends. She’s accompanied by a baby dragon, Spike.

Spike

Spike is a returning character in the My Little Pony franchise, debuting in the first My Little Pony special, Rescue at Midnight Castle, and later appearing in My Little Pony: The Movie as well. In Friendship is Magic, he is a baby dragon, and acts as Twilight Sparkle’s assistant. In the first episode, he becomes smitten with Rarity.

Applejack

Another returning character, Applejack also first appeared in Rescue at Midnight Castle.

Applejack (and her farm, Sweet Apple Acres) is in charge of food for the Summer Sun Celebration. She enthusiastically introduces Twilight to her (large) family, and convinces her to stay for brunch.

Applejack seems to be the most practical pony, holding back Rainbow Dash when she attempts to attack Nightmare Moon, and preventing Pinkie Pie from insulting her.

Rainbow Dash

There was a pony called Rainbow Dash in previous “generations” of My Little Pony, but she was an Earth pony.

Rainbow Dash crashes into Twilight just as Twilight is looking for the pegasus who was in charge of the weather. Rainbow Dash intends to impress the Wonderbolts with her flying skills when they are in Ponyville to perform for the Summer Sun Celebration. When Twilight meets her, Rainbow Dash hasn’t yet completed her task, but after some goading, Rainbow Dash clears the sky of clouds in ten seconds flat, prompting Spike to comment that she is amazing.

When Nightmare Moon appears, Rainbow Dash makes to attack her to try to rescue Princess Celestia, but is held back by Applejack.

Rarity

As with Rainbow Dash, there was a pony called Rarity in previous generations of My Little Pony, but she was pink, unlike the current version.

Rarity is in charge of decorations for the Summer Sun Celebration. Twilight meets her after her run-in with Rainbow Dash, and Rarity insists on fixing Twilight’s hair, which had become rather mussed. Spike thinks Rarity is beautiful, and develops a crush on her.

Fluttershy

Fluttershy is in charge of music for the Summer Sun Celebration, and is conducting a chorus of songbirds. When Twilight meets her, Fluttershy is, as her name suggests, very shy–so much that she can’t even speak her name. When she sees Spike, though, she is very interested in him, and acts much more confident.

Pinkie Pie

Pinkie Pie appeared in many previous MLP cartoons.

Pinkie Pie is actually the first pony Twilight meets upon arriving in Ponyville, but she runs off before introducing herself. Later, when Twilight arrives at the library, hoping to do some studying, she finds that Pinkie has thrown her a party to welcome her to Ponyville, so she’ll have lots of friends.

When Nightmare Moon appears, and asks if the ponies have all forgotten who she is, Pinkie Pie begins irreverently guessing insulting names for her, before she’s silenced by Applejack.

Nightmare Moon

Although she appears only for a couple of minutes at the end of the episode, Nightmare Moon certainly makes an impression. She seems resentful of her long imprisonment, and displeased that the ponies do not find her “royal enough” for them. She has somehow displaced Princess Celestia, and promises that henceforth the night will last forever.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders

Foreshadowing! Although we won’t really meet them until the twelfth episode, “Call of the Cutie”, we see Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo together even in the first episode.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season 1, Episodes 01-02: “Emissary”

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 24, 2012

Star Trek, as we all know, is about a bunch of people traveling through space, exploring strange new worlds, and so forth. Or is it? Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is set on a space station, and although there are a few field trips in the course of the series, the bulk of the action takes place on board DS9 itself.

I think that there isn’t really a huge difference, practically, between setting the show on a space station and setting it on a space ship. There’s no reason that the two have to be presented any differently. However, the feeling I got watching DS9 is that there’s more focus on the characters–more time spent just seeing characters interact as the plot moves along. It’s been a while since I’ve seen DS9, though, so this may just be nostalgia; we’ll see how well my memory matches reality as I go through each episode. That said, let’s begin at the beginning.

The first episode of DS9 is a two-parter called “Emissary”. Like most shows, we’re introduced to a lot of characters, and given lots of hints about the backstory.

We meet Commander Benjamin Sisko, who is assigned to command DS9, but appears reluctant to do so. Sisko has a son, Jake, who also seems reluctant about living on the space station. Sisko’s wife, Jennifer, was killed during the attack at Wolf 359, and we see that Sisko has not forgiven Captain Picard for his role in it, when Picard gives Sisko his orders: as commander of the station, Sisko is to work to prepare Bajor to join the Federation.

Upon arriving at DS9, Sisko meets Major Kira Nerys, a Bajoran woman who is to act as liaison between the Federation and Bajor, and Odo, the chief of security on DS9, who is a shapeshifter. We also learn that Miles O’Brien, previously a member of the crew of the Enterprise, will join DS9 as chief of operations. Quark, a Ferengi, runs a gambling establishment, and although he had intended to leave the station, Sisko convinces (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say ‘coerces’) him to stay. Later, Julian Bashir, the station’s chief medical officer, and Jadzia Dax, a friend of Sisko, arrive, and the main cast is complete.

In order to fulfill his mission to prepare Bajor to join the Federation, Sisko must attempt to stabilize the government. Kira opines that the only way that will happen is if Kai Opaka, a spiritual leader on Bajor, were to assist. So, Sisko heads to Bajor to meet with her, and she tells him that he will be the Emissary of the Prophets, the Bajoran gods. She shows him a glowing object she calls the Tear of the Prophets, which induces a vision of his past, when he first met his wife.

Though this doesn’t look much like an orb to me…

Nine of these ‘orbs’ have been found in Bajoran history, but eight have been stolen by the Cardassians. Kai Opaka fears that the Cardassians will seek out the Celestial Temple, the home of the Prophets, in order to control their power. She cannot help him to unite Bajor, she tells him, until the prophets have been warned of this danger. She gives him the orb, and he returns with it to DS9, where he sets Jadzia the task of finding the Celestial Temple. She, too, has a vision, of her joining with the Dax symbiont.

Dax discovers a pattern which suggests the Celestial Temple might be located nearby, and when they approach its approximate location, they are pulled through a wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant. On returning through the wormhole, though, their runabout slows and seems to land inside the wormhole. Shortly thereafter, Jadzia is sent from the wormhole toward DS9, while Sisko remains trapped inside. Recognizing the value of a stable wormhole, Kira orders DS9 moved closer to it.

Inside the wormhole, Sisko is shown scenes from his memories, but the other people in his memories talk to him. He realizes that these are aliens that live inside the wormhole: Bajor’s Prophets. It becomes clear that the aliens are not corporeal and do not experience time in a linear fashion, and they are concerned that Sisko means to destroy them. Sisko spends a while trying to convince them otherwise and  to explain the meaning of a linear existence, and in the process realizes that his existence isn’t quite as linear as he believed: that he has never really left the time when his wife died.

Ultimately, Sisko succeeds in convincing the aliens to allow passage through the wormhole, and returns to DS9, resolved to command the station, rather than return to Earth, as he had been considering.

Whew! Enough plot summary. Condensing a ninety minute story to a few paragraphs forced me to leave out quite a few things, but c’est la vie. Sisko’s conversation with the Prophets in particular merits some further consideration, and I intend to write more on that subject at a later date. For now, though, this post is shaping up to be quite long enough.

In this first episode, we see relationships between the characters that will continue to develop as the series goes on. At this juncture, Kira does not entirely trust or like the Federation, and her relationship with Sisko is strained; this will be revisited in the next episode.

The story, as is so common with introductions, feels slightly insufficient to fill ninety minutes–much time spent introducing the characters and situations, and not enough left for a really engaging story. However, I do like the time spent looking at the characters, so I don’t count this as too great a fault, and in any case I’m perfectly willing to be forgiving of this fault; there are precious few television shows that avoid this without committing some other, and often greater, sin.

It’s a forgone conclusion that I like these characters and believe that the series has promise–DS9 ended thirteen years ago, and I’ve seen all these before, but it’s still worth noting that in my opinion this episode serves as a good introduction to the series. It’s a pretty good mix of on-station and off-station action, we get to see most of the principal cast, if in little depth, and get a feel for the forces that will shape the first couple of seasons.

Following this episode, we may expect a series of episodes that offer us a chance to get better acquainted with the characters. Things won’t get too serious for a while yet, so for now we can just settle back and enjoy the standalone stories to come.

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The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! – Episode 01: “The Bird! The Bird! / Neatness Counts”

Posted by Tracy Poff on December 24, 2011

Near the end of 1989, Nintendo was king of the realm of video games, and Mario was Nintendo’s favorite son. It was only natural, then, that Nintendo would use their dominance in the video game market to make inroads into television. Thus, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! was born.

SMBSS Title Screen

In the first episode of TSMBSS, we meet two plumbers, Mario and Luigi, played by Lou Albano and Danny Wells, who perform a brief comedy segment (“Neatness Counts”) involving Nicole Eggert, a clogged drain, and making a mess. It’s pretty awful, but no one was watching this show for the live action segments, I’ll wager.

Was this how you imagined Mario and Luigi to look?

After the live action segment, the animated story (“The Bird! The Bird!”) begins. Mario and Luigi, having just rescued Princess Toadstool, are travelling in a frozen wasteland, along with Toad, who is suddenly kidnapped by a nearsighted Birdo who mistakes him for her child.

While the others are trying to save Toad, King Koopa receives a report on the situation (and, rather creepily, orders his minions to lick his feet). He sends his Koopa Troopas to attack while the Mario brothers are distracted, but they deflect the attack. Ultimately, Koopa leads the attack himself, but with the help of the Birdo, whose child they have restored to her, they succeed in repelling Koopa and his minions.

After the animated segment ends, another live action segment plays, continuing the story from the first segment. After a brief interruption for a preview of the next episode of The Legend of Zelda, the live action segment concludes–though the Mario Brothers have made a horrible mess of Nicole Eggert’s outfit, it’s fine, because she was going to a ‘sloppy party’ and they’ve saved her the trouble of buying an outfit. Yeah, right.

Well, that’s the plot. As the screenshots reveal, the video quality (on Netflix) is pretty poor–it looks like a bad VHS transfer, really. What the screenshots don’t show is that the audio is also problematic, though not because it’s unclear. Rather, the background music and sound effects are so loud that it can be quite difficult to understand the dialogue, sometimes. I assume that they figured that the big draw for the show was that it was based on the video games, so they wanted to emphasize that connection, by using music from the games, and inappropriate sound effects all over the place.

The live action segment is just bad comedy, and the animated segment is a fairly average cartoon. I’m not an eight year old, to squeal with joy over seeing video game characters on television, but it is still kind of fun. I’d say that if you’re a fan of the Mario games, and you’d like to see something a bit different, it’s worth checking this out, but it’s hardly the kind of thing you’ll want to watch over and over.

Do the Mario!

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Aladdin – Episode 06: “Getting the Bugs Out”

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 10, 2011

Once more: nothing subtle here. Mechanicles wants to take over the world for no stated reason, and though he dislikes messes has no problem with creating quite a stupendous mess with his mechanical bugs.

More importantly, Aladdin here becomes an incompetent jerk for no reason but that the plot demands it. He’s entirely too egotistical to be believed.

Aladdin in this episode is rude, arrogant, and too stupid to see he's wearing a pot on his head.

Incidentally, Mechanicles quite reminds me of The Mechanist from Avatar: The Last Airbender. I guess maybe he’s fitting a more general ‘crazy inventor’ character design, but I can’t think of others off the top of my head.

Anyway, Aladdin eventually discovers he’s been acting like a jerk, and with this realization, becomes once more competent and saves the day.

Aladdin recovers well enough to disrupt Mechanicles's giant steampunk insect tank.

This is another episode that presents its story well enough, but that fails to be more than mediocre. Why does Aladdin act the way he does? Who cares. Once the episode is over, there’s no more need to think about it.

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Aladdin – Episode 05: “Never say Nefir”

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 10, 2011

This episode once again confuses absurdity with comedy. Certainly absurdity can be a component of comedy, but it’s not enough to just throw a giant pink rhinoceros on screen.

A giant, dancing, pink rhinoceros is destroying the city. Of course.

The plot is once again straightforward: they want to stop Semir from destroying the city, the unlikable guy turns out to be the real bad guy, and they soundly defeat him. As usual, the characters end up doing some bizarre and anachronistic things in the name of comedy.

And why was this necessary? Genie's magic works on Rule of Funny, apparently. Pity the jokes aren't better.

I’m fairly sure that I have heard of some other story where someone wears a pair of cursed shoes that force them to dance until they burn up. Hans Christian Andersen has a story “The Red Shoes” that is similar, but not quite right. The closest thing I can find at the moment is the Buffy episode “Once More, With Feeling”.

Well, in short: this episode isn’t bad, but it’s still just the usual straightforward children’s show fare.

Update: It seems that this series isn’t yet available on DVD, but while looking I did stumble across a VHS collection which apparently includes this episode. Why don’t they make these shows available as season DVD sets? It’s a mystery.

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Aladdin – Episode 04: “Do the Rat Thing”

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 10, 2011

In this episode, Jasmine is incensed by the implication that she doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a street rat, and decides to disguise herself as a thief to prove that she does. As a result, in the typically magic-filled world of Aladdin, she is turned into a rat, and must try to get back to the palace so Genie can reverse it.

Jasmine get unreasonably angry when Genie points out that she is a princess, not a street rat.

Why does Jasmine want to be a thief? Yeah, she says she wants to better understand Aladdin, but this is a bit much. She knows, or should know, that she’s not really familiar with the plight of the common man in Agrabah, so her anger at people pointing this out is a bit mystifying.

Jasmine will end up getting a bit of karmic retribution for her arrogance, though the show paints in more like a learning experience than punishment, and in the end, Jasmine doesn’t seem to feel like she brought this on herself, either.

When a guy that looks like this gives you a warning, you should listen.

Indeed, just after stealing the mirror, Jasmine seems perfectly pleased by her cleverness and admires her smiling reflection.

The scene where the kids mistake Jasmine for the “magic holiday rat” is just odd. I guess the writers couldn’t come up with a better joke, and you certainly can’t let a minute pass on a children’s show without some lame attempt at humor.

When Jasmine is finally restored, at the end, she is inexplicably angry at Aladdin. Yeah, you could pass it off as anger at him for not recognizing her when she was a rat, but that’s just quite unreasonable. She treats the rat better than Aladdin.

Ultimately, the only thing Jasmine seems to have learned from this episode is that poor people exist. She doesn’t accept any responsibility for her actions that led to the events of the episode, and I imagine she’s quite forgotten her earlier claim that she’d come back and pay for the mirror.

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Aladdin – Episode 03: “To Cure a Thief”

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 10, 2011

Here Aladdin is acting quite cruel to Abu. It’s not as though Aladdin didn’t once encourage Abu’s thieving. The plot is simple–Aladdin was mean to Abu, who left, then they make up and the episode ends.

Amin playing basketball with Genie is another example of the usual nonsensical 'humor' in children's shows.

The depressed Abu coincidentally avoiding all the traps was pretty good.

Another episode that’s bearable for a children’s show, but not worth watching more than once.

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