Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky tried to imagine...um, uh...wait, no that's not it. Well, so much for that blurb.
"Television tastes funny."—Cheese
After Cartoon Network aired the telefilm Good Wilt Hunting last year, I assumed it was curtains for the best original show in the network's all-ages lineup. Usually such a "feature-length" episode means that a network wants to slow down production, close out a series, or move the creators on to new projects. Creator Craig McCracken had been through such a move twice before: when Dexter's Laboratory moved to a new production team after a 1999 telefilm (Ego Trip, which McCracken co-wrote) that was supposed to finish the regular run of the series, and when McCracken handed over the reins of The Powerpuff Girls after its theatrical feature, to see the show continue for two more seasons with a different crew.
Fortunately for all of us, new episodes of the show seem to be trickling out, the online game "Big Fat Awesome House Party" has been popular enough that Cartoon Network has extended its run another six months, and DVD sets of the show are on a steady release schedule. Oh look, I've got one of them right here. Ready?
Facts of the Case
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: The Complete Season 2 features thirteen episodes of wonder and weirdness starring young Mac, his best friend Blooregard Q. Kazoo, and a house full of the strangest characters ever unleashed by the imaginations of children. Check these out:
• "The Big Lablooski": The "usually sweet, quirky,
and adorable" Madame Foster flips her lid when her bowling rival snatches
up her team. So Mac assembles a new team from our Foster's regulars.
Season Two of Foster's showcases the inspired visual composition I gushed about in my review of Season One. No surprises here: the show crackles with a smart energy lacking in other, more popular (and exhaustingly rerun) Cartoon Network fare. Characterization is always strong, from the pulsing id that is Blooregard Q. Kazoo to the clever and witty imaginary friends that guest star through the season. Meet Bowling Paul, the zen master of the three-holed ball. How about Uncle Pockets? A funny clown would seem obvious, but the show manages to put a fresh spin on him by—well, that would be telling…
The best new character—perhaps the funniest character on the show—is Cheese. How can I sing the praises of Cheese, the half-wit who may be the quintessence of Foster's surreal charm. His askew physique, his absurd outbursts ("I like chocolate milk!") that seem to emerge from some primal ur-child that baffles even the needy and ego-driven Bloo (no wonder Mac initially thinks Cheese is Bloo's half-brother), his ability to seem completely unexpected no matter how often you see his (altogether too few) episodes of the show—Cheese is a marvelous creation. Although he only features in a single episode in the second season, that one episode is such a standout that Cartoon Network throws pictures of Cheese all over the DVD packaging. Cheese handles the menu transitions. He licks your television set—from the inside. Cartoon Network offers as an extra on this set a commentary track on "Mac Daddy" by Cheese himself (voice actress Candi Milo): he screams whenever he sees the scary "yellow man," tries to talk to the characters, and has absolutely no comprehension of what he is watching. You will either find it brilliant or brutally annoying. There is also a "CheeseQuest" music video, showing clips from the video game playable on the Cartoon Network web site. It made my brain hurt. Cheese also appears in several of the show promos. Piles and piles of Cheese. (Other extras on Disc Two include the gag sequences that run during the closing credits—the best one is the "lesson" Bloo imparts for "Bye Bye Nerdy"—and a gallery of imaginary friends seen in passing during the show.)
The show occasionally focuses on "playground lessons" for kids, like after-school bullying in "Beat With a Schtick" (adults will also enjoy the shots at bad prop comics in this one) and being a geek in "Bye Bye Nerdy." The show also continues to prove that it isn't just for kids with some deft satire, particularly in "Cookie Dough" (with its rapid-fire attacks on corporate greed), "The Sweet Stench of Success" (the cult of celebrity and the advertising biz), and "Bloo Done It" (tabloid journalism, plus some Hitchcock parody). Scripts are densely packed with gags that are actually funny—even the endless visual puns. (And usually puns are a cheap out for comedy writing.) These are cartoons that lend themselves to multiple viewings: visual gags, crisp dialogue, tight storytelling. Whatever it is Craig McCracken and his crew is doing on this show, they should bottle it. But they should not let Bloo sell it, because he'll just get out of control again.
If you have an imagination, you should go out and buy both seasons of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends as soon as possible. If you have no imagination, you probably haven't read this far in the review. So you can't see that we are all laughing at you right now. And that haircut of yours. And what's with those shoes?
Go buy this. Don't just leave it there on the shelf, Ditchy McAbandonpants.
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• Commentary Track by Cheese on "Mac Daddy"
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