Thursday, July 15, 2004

Watch now as our rockets race here from afar

Teletoon recently rejiggered its evening schedule, replacing the increasingly stale and ever-butchered Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show with episodes of Spider-Man and Rocket Robin Hood. Though I originally spurned both as horrendously-bad Cancon (both produced by Toronto-based Krantz Films), I've come to appreciate them - Rocket Robin Hood in particular - as not merely bad, but loveably, charmingly bad. The most evident problems with the show are technical ones: The animation just plain sucks. It's only partial animation (cf. bad Flash animation), with quite a few instances of reuse even from scene to scene, not even to mention between episodes. (Plus, though I haven't seen those in question myself yet, apparently entire episodes were recycled between Spider-Man and Rocket Robin Hood.) The characters somehow manage to be off-model in nearly every scene; sometimes they're very Siegel-and-Schuster Supermanesque comic-looking, and sometimes they're flat, deformed, and seem to be optically enlarged to the point of fuzziness. It's also badly written. (Well, globviously, but even worse than should be possible.) The basic premise seems fine - Robin Hood, but updated in space opera costume - but it's done inconsistently. The setting is the "National Outer-Space Terrestrial Territories." As a friend pointed out: Every word in that phrase contradicts another word. But as an acronym, it's somewhat close to "Nottingham," so...yeah, whatever. "Space Prince" John is still the villain (I'm curious: Where's the equivalent of Richard Coeur-de-Leon, and who exactly is he off crusading against in the Astounding Years to Come?), and Robin supposedly "steals from the cosmic rich to give to the astral poor," though he only actually seems to have done that in one episode of the dozen or so I've seen so far. It's also posited that the entire band of merry men are direct descendants of their "historic" counterparts. (Which, over a 2000-odd year period, is actually pretty reasonable, in the same way that just about everyone with the slightest European heritage can legitimately claim to be descended from Charlemagne. Granting the assumption of giving fictional characters however many descendants the story calls for, obviously.) But my biggest problem with the basic premise is that not enough is done with the space opera setting; it's just used as an excuse to write a grab-bag of themes and characters in the Adventure Town manner. It may as well not be in space or the future, for how much either actually affect the show - except, admittedly, for language. Everything is "astral" or "cosmic" or "space." That villain isn't Ancient Egyptian; he's a Space Ancient Egyptian, with Space Mummies. That leprechaun isn't just a leprechaun; he's a Space Leprechaun. How weak is the setting as a central conceit if every other line of dialogue has to remind the audience of it? Ah, but that's only part of what makes it a delight for the ironic connoisseur. I don't know if it was done on purpose or not - the presence of Ralph Bakshi and the year of release makes me inclined to suspect that most of the production staff may have been high at the time - but most every episode is snicker-provokingly full of suspiciously suggestive imagery. Oh yes, ye of the tending towards uncontrollably sophomoric giggling, Rocket Robin Hood has it all. Jousting on streamlined phallic "rocket-horses" that would make Slim Pickens jealous? Check. Curious poses that put Little John and Robin closer than Ace and Gary? Check. Strangely blunt lightsabers with improbably bulging hilts? Check. Dialogue like "Don't cook up any schemes where I have to bend over?" Check. It's a veritable feast of the silly, strange and bizarre. Which is to say, it's much better than anything else on in primetime during the summer. I wouldn't miss new...well, there's not much left on at 8-9 during the regular season except Enterprise, and I'd consider missing a bad episode of that for Rocket Robin Hood. The moral, I suppose, is that very rarely bad Cancon can sink to the depths of so-bad-it's-good jackassery. But that's not reason enough to federally subsidize it.

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