Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The donkey used to have his charm, but he's looking at us with alarm

I demand a certain level of internal consistency in my fiction. Not a lot, mind you. I’m not that anal. But even in a featherlight comedy, little things can add up to cause unnecessary distractions from the narrative. In the Father of the Pride universe, Donkey is noted to be the star of Shrek. No further explanation is given. Considering that the animals of the Sigfried & Roy compound perform as “themselves,” the logical implication is that Shrek, in this narrative, is a live-action film. (Possibly with Mike Myers performing in heavy, Fat Bastard-like prosthetics.) However, it seems to have been established that the animals of FotP cannot speak to humans. That means Donkey performing as himself – including voicework – is something of a quandary. Ditto the incongruence of Donkey compared to the other animals. All the normally-quadrupedal (and still-quadrupedal, when humans are around) ‘regular cast’ and extras – lions, tigers, cheetahs, antelopes, gazelles, gophers, et alia – are bipeds, in the privacy of their own little society behind the hotel. Donkey isn’t. They have names beyond just their species, which are instead treated as surnames; Donkey doesn’t. (His stunt double does, interestingly, in a plot point seemingly lifted from Bowfinger.) They’re stylistically anthropomorphized to the extent of lacking anatomically-correct species-specific secondary sexual characteristics. Donkey’s agent isn’t. Ew? I know I’m overanalyzing. This was ratings-grabbing synergistic fluff. But it bothers me nonetheless, because it points to a production staff that doesn’t respect their work’s basic premise enough to keep it even marginally consistent. (Or have been forced to ignore such concerns due to network pressure. Either way.) Consider The Simpsons and Futurama - in both shows, only the other is treated as fictional within their respective fictional universes. Homer didn’t make a smirky cameo as an ancient astronaut animatronic in the theme park ride “Whalers on the Moon,” nor has Fry inexplicably dropped by Springfield in some sort of flashback. You can be irreverent and silly, yet still respect your material enough to give it some kind of consistency. Failing to do so gives off a visible aura of desperation, clumsiness and opportunism. That half the purpose of the show seems to be providing a handy showcase for the trendy guest star of the week* does not inspire confidence in NBC. On the other hand, the B-plot this week was fairly clever, seeing Sigfried and Roy ridding Las Vegas of a non-gaudy, non-flashy, non-corporate restaurant, in a rather inspired and bizarre campaign of civic pride. And, finally, check it out: The portrait of Sarmoti by the door has disappeared. That’s what I mean by a lack of consistency. If the writers, animators or storyboard artists had confidence in that gag, the portrait should still be there, and that would be funny, as a continuing non sequitur in episodes long after its initial appearance. *I’m looking at you too, Will & Grace, at least since season 4. Scrubs, you’re definitely on notice. And Joey, just skip straight to nightly syndication, please? Crikey.

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