Judge Bryan Pope says this children's cartoon from home decorating maven Martha Stewart is not a good thing.
Craft a fun-TASTIC holiday season!
Oh dear. What hath Martha wrought?
Decorating maven Martha Stewart has stuck her foot in her share of messes over the course of her career, but this time she takes us unwary viewers down with her.
Martha & Friends: Holiday Collection imagines our redoubtable hostess as a resourceful ten-year-old girl who, along with her three friends, engages in such holiday frivolities as dressing up as a "Glampire" for Halloween, throwing together a children's Thanksgiving Day camp with less than a day's notice, and saving Christmas at the local youth center.
There's nothing inherently wrong with the concept. On the contrary, Martha's quiet soothing manner might have been a welcome antidote to the loud busy children's programming crowding the airwaves. The stories are benign, allowing room for a few kid-friendly holiday crafts (Thanksgiving trivia place cards, anyone?), but that's about all this series has going for it.
For this particular father of two, Martha's holiday specials are an unimaginative, uninspiring, lazy endeavor that follows a checklist rather than a good script.
Case in point: Martha and her friends hit all the demographic bases. There's an Anglo, an Asian-American, and an African-American. Even a boy gets his craft on. Très diversifié! Too bad nobody bothered giving them discernible personalities. These children are perfectly polite, perfectly respectable, and perfectly…well, perfect. No flaws or distinguishing characteristics for a young viewer to embrace. Nothing to challenge kids or to make them think. The program withers and dies in the shadow of wittier children's programs like Phineas and Ferb, Adventure Time, and Regular Show.
The package includes three 20-minute episodes: "Martha's Halloween," "Martha's Thanksgiving," and "Martha & the Christmas Tree." The backgrounds are blandly pleasant and festive, with each episode assigned an appropriate color palette (purple, yellow, and black for Halloween; orange, yellow, and brown for Thanksgiving; red, green, and white for Christmas), but the computer animation is only a few notches above a typical Xtranormal video. You think Martha comes across as stilted in person? Wait until you see this!
The Martha & Friends: Holiday Collection DVD package is as unmemorable as the program's generic bubble gum pop theme song. Each episode is presented in standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with a serviceable Dolby 2.0 Stereo soundtrack and English subtitles. Extras include a handful of "webisodes," each running no more than a couple of minutes, and craft ideas and recipes that can be downloaded to your computer.
Guilty! Martha deserves an additional 10 to 20 for this.
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