Warner Bros. // 1996 // 232 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // May 4th, 2009
Freakafans rejoice! Everyone's favorite red pajama-ed kooky crimefighter is back on DVD with the release of Freakazoid! Season 2.
Like Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures, Freakazoid! was a surreal mid '90s animated comedy executive produced by Steven Spielberg. Unlike those other shows, however, this superhero parody never got the audience it deserved. That it got picked up for a second season at all was amazing, and almost completely undermined by the WB network constantly changing its time slot. Freakazoid!'s superfans may have made the effort to find out when it was on, but no one else did. The show died after a total of 24 episodes, leaving behind a beautiful blue-skinned corpse.
Freakazoid! Season Two has all 11 episodes of the cult cartoon's final season, across two discs:
* "Dexter's Date"
Geeky Dexter Douglas finally works up the nerve to ask Steff out on a date, but their big night is ruined when the Lobe takes over a local TV station and Dexter must turn into Freakazoid to stop him.
* "The Freakazoid"
In this Godfather parody, Freakazoid spends his birthday receiving guests and granting their requests, but then Lobe shows up and makes an unusual request that Freakazoid can't refuse -- no matter how much he wants to.
* "Mission: Freakazoid"
Trading off of a certain spy TV/movie franchise, this episode finds Freakazoid and his crack team on a mission to rescue the Douglas family from the impenetrable Chesky Beresch prison.
* "Virtual Freak"
On a trip to the mall with Steff, Freakazoid convinces Cosgrove to join him in a hot new virtual reality arcade game, only to get sucked into the computer by the Lobe.
* "Hero Boy"
Freakazoid must channel his favorite Astro Boy-like animated hero when he is captured by the not-as-dead-as-we-thought Gutierrez.
* "A Matter of Love"
Freakazoid is happy for Cosgrove when he finds out the gruff cop is in love. He's a lot less happy when he finds out his friend's new squeeze is actually a demon in disguise.
Freakazoid must find a way to save Steff after she is turned to stone by Waylon Jeepers and his so-called Medusa watch.
* "Island of Dr. Mystico"
In this H.G. Wells parody (introduced by Leonard Maltin), Freakazoid and a plane full of villains crash on an island owned by a mad scientist performing inhuman experiments.
* "Two Against Freak"
Cosgrove is shadowed by cameramen from the TV show "Real Life Police," Roddy MacStew teaches Freakazoid how to move objects with his mind, and Cave Guy teams up with the Cobra Queen to steal a valuable artifact.
* "Freak-A-Panel/Tomb of Invisibo"
First, Cave Guy tries to hide from Freakazoid in a comic book convention. Then, Freakazoid battles his first invisible enemy -- an evil Pharaoh raised from the dead.
In the series finale, the Lobe kidnaps carpentry great Norm Abram and forces him to build a trap for Freakazoid, then invites all of the show's supervillains to watch him finish off our hero once and for all.
As with all tragically short-lived television shows, watching this final batch of Freakazoid! episodes is both satisfying and infuriating. The first season, which came out last year, was great; season two is even better, making it even sadder that there wasn't a season three.
The biggest difference between the first and second years is that the two-story format of season one is replaced by a meatier single story per episode (with the exception of "Freak-A-Panel/Tomb of Invisibo") this time around. The decision was partly financial -- it just costs more to produce three different segments than it does one -- but it works in the show's favor. There's more room in a given episode for stories to develop, meaning more chances for twists, turns, and fourth-wall-breaking non sequiturs. An episode like "Dexter's First Date," for example, might have fit in the first season, but they would have had to cut the brilliant "Bonjour Lobey" musical number. With room to breathe, the show is able to take more chances with the core characters.
The single story episodes also mean more screentime for minor players like Freakazoid's alter ego Dexter Douglas, his girlfriend Steff, mentor Roddy MacStew, Joe the announcer, and Ed Asner's Officer Cosgrove -- easily my favorite character in the entire series. In the first season, Cosgrove would show up at inopportune times to invite Freakazoid out for sno-cones or trips to the fair. In season two, he still does that (this year's sidetrips include gondola rides at Spumoniland and a visit to a jelly museum), but he also takes over as Freakazoid's de facto sidekick. He fights Eastern European baddies alongside Freak and Steff in "Mission: Freakazoid," gets sucked into a virtual reality game in "Virtual Freak," and has his heart broken by a demonic cosmetic magnate in "A Matter of Love."
The downside to the single story format is that all the B-side stories from the first season are gone. A few cameo appearances aside, characters like The Huntsman, Lord Bravery, Fanboy, and Bo-Ron are nowhere to be seen. Fans of the show's original scattershot approach might see this as a problem. I don't. As fun as those non-Freakazoid first season segments were, I much prefer the full-length adventures in season two.
Season Two also marks the introduction of Freakazoid's new butler, Professor Jones, played by Lost in Space's Jonathan Harris, who punctuates line-readings with his trademark Doctor Smith screams and put-upon indignation, usually after he's asked for the hundredth time whether he was "on a show with a robot." Other notable season two guest voices include Tim Curry as Dr. Mystico; Ricardo Montalban, returning as the evil Armando Gutierrez; Leonard Maltin as himself; and Norm Abram in the series finale.
The road to that finale is the subject of the set's main bonus feature, "Liebeslied für Normadeus" -- a 20 minute making-of retrospective with the people who made the series. They talk about getting picked up for a second season, how hard it was to watch that season get bumped from time slot to time slot, and what it felt like to make the season-ending episode knowing it would be their last. Turns out the foreknowledge gave them license to go all out, getting Norm Abram (hardly your standard kid's show guest) to play himself opposite the Lobe and a rogues gallery of series villains, and bringing everyone out on stage at the end of the episode (and the series) to sing a tear-filled rendition of "We'll Meet Again." "Liebeslied" is as tongue-in-cheek as the show itself, mixing fake announcements and interruptions by the network censor with the actual information about the show's production. It's the perfect way for the people who made the series to give it the send-off it deserves.
The other two bonus features aren't nearly as interesting, or exhaustive. The first season didn't have commentaries on every episode, but at least it had a few. This time around, fans have to make do with an extra called "A Full Season's Worth of Commentaries (in Five Minutes or Less)." Exactly what it sounds like, it features announcer Joe Leahy, producer/director Rich Arons, actor/writer/producer Paul Rugg, writer John McCann, and writer/producer Tom Ruegger chatting about their favorite moments from the season. It's fun; I just wish it was longer. The final extra is Richard Stone's original demo tape for "Bonjour Lobey."
The audio-visual presentation of the set is clean and neat. The animation looks bright and mostly schmutz free. The audio is available in 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround. The surround mix isn't terribly aggressive, but makes enough use of all speakers to distinguish itself.
When Freakazoid! Season 1 came out last summer, I was afraid it wouldn't sell well enough for Warner Bros. to bother putting out this second and final set. I'm glad I was wrong. Both seasons are a great gift to fans, and a welcome addition to any DVD collection. Whichever season you prefer, it's hard not to be excited about getting to own one of the best animated series not enough people have heard of. If you're among that group who missed Freakazoid! the first time around, there's no better time to get on board, provided you hold on tight.
Hugbees! I mean...Not Guilty!
Review content copyright © 2009 Erich Asperschlager; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 232 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Demo Recording