Judge William Lee is mad as hell, but he'll probably tolerate this for a little longer.
Taking on the world…one annoyance at a time.
"I can't believe how much I hate everything," declares the titular character of Dan Vs. Dan has a hair-trigger temper and his obsession with getting even knows no bounds. Each of these 22 Season One episodes begin with Dan experiencing some sort of personal affront from an individual (the dentist, the barber) or a conceptual enemy (baseball, technology). Vowing revenge, Dan strikes out on his elaborate missions with pushover-best-friend Chris in tow.
• "The Wolf-Man"
While creators Dan Mandel and Chris Pearson based these characters on themselves, let's hope considerable creative license was applied. Dan, voiced by Curtis Armstrong (Better Off Dead), is such an unlikable sociopath it's impossible to imagine him having a positive relationship with anyone. His only friend is Chris (Dave Foley, NewsRadio) whose protestations are always overridden by Dan's insistence that they carry out his felonious missions together. Chris' overly tolerant wife Elise (Paget Brewster, Andy Richter Controls The Universe) usually gets involved with a side plot that shows off her special set of skills in a secret life she manages to hide from her dimwitted spouse.
Armstrong and Foley are great voice talents for these characters. The nuances of their work does so much to define Dan and Chris that the animation is almost unnecessary. I wonder if this show would have worked better in live action? Armstrong's performance especially makes me want to see him performing this live. An actor's performance allows so much more subtle characterization to seep in, it's impossible to capture with factory animation. The only real advantage to the show being animated is that lots of stuff can get blown up.
Dan Vs. is a Flash animation production that looks like every other computer-driven cartoon made since the genre became computer-dominated. That's not to say the show looks cheap. The animation is clean and character poses are well defined. The backgrounds have a nice painted shading about them that creates mood lighting and suggests a more unbridled art style. However, there isn't anything happening in the foreground that really distinguishes the show's look from a dozen other animated productions currently on TV and the Web.
Presented in standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the image quality offers consistently rich colors and nothing noticeable in the way of compression concerns. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix Audio is quite strong and clear, with every word of Armstrong's lengthy and loud rants easily discernible. Plus, rich environmental effects are directed to the surrounds and never overpower the dialogue. The only bonus feature is an animatic version of the "Burgerphile" episode; an early production cut using storyboards and pencil sketches to illustrate the story. Animation buffs might find it interesting.
The anti-hero sitcom has been done successfully using both live actors and cartoons. The uncomfortable humor of Curb Your Enthusiasm relies on Larry David's uncanny ability to make situations worse. Whether he's right or wrong, it's in his nature to engage in pointless confrontations. The animated series Duckman was another uncouth and angry character, but he was a family man (er, duck) whose morals were sympathetic even if his ethics were deplorable. While these shows aren't for everyone, the lead characters have considerable dimension and the writing takes their stories in interesting directions. I wanted to like Dan Vs. for its subversive premise and commitment to an antisocial lead character, but the end result left me feeling indifferent. No matter how fanciful his revenge schemes, the writing has nothing to say, except to deliver a punch line when Dan's anger is finally satiated. This is the kind of show you watch when you're too lazy to change the channel.
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