We caught Judge Paul Corupe hopping on mushrooms again.
Our review of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, published February 15th, 2006, is also available.
Hey paisanos! Let's do the Mario! Debuting in 1989, The Super Mario Bros Super Show! was a syndicated weekday cartoon that offered mushroom-clad proof that Nintendo had at last transcended the 8-bit world of video games and made an indelible mark on North American popular culture. It starred Mario and Luigi, everyone's favorite pixilated plumbers from Nintendo's flagship Super Mario Brothers game. This mix of live action and animation ran from Monday to Thursday each week, with The Legend of Zelda airing on Friday.
Hot on the heels of their first collection, Shout! Factory has let the second and final volume of The Super Mario Bros Super Show! escape from the warp zone. It provides nostalgia-hounds with another pop culture melting pot of video game, television, and pro wrestling references.
Facts of the Case
Each episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! begins and ends with a live action segment hosted by Brooklyn plumber Mario (Former WWF superstar Captain Lou Albano, 13th Grade) and his brother Luigi (Danny Wells,Magnolia). They solve their guest star's problems with a healthy dose of slapstick humor. In between, the show features an animated adventure in which Mario and Luigi are warped into the Mushroom Kingdom. There, with the help of their friends Princess Peach and Toad, they do battle with the tyrannical King Koopa in a variety of strange worlds, all while trying to figure out a way to get back home.
Shout! Factory has presented the last 24 of the original 52 episodes of the show on four, single-sided discs here. They are:
• "The Pied Koopa"
In 1989, Nintendo seemed determined to capitalize on the wild popularity of their Mario and Luigi characters. The pair of unlikely blue-collar heroes had leapt their way into millions of homes since the Nintendo Entertainment System first arrived four years earlier. That peak year saw the brothers shrunk down to help launch the Gameboy, a handheld system that revolutionized the portable gaming market. They also broke into film with the blatant Nintendo "advertainment" movie, The Wizard, in which Fred Savage offered gamers a sneak peek at the hotly anticipated Super Mario Brothers 3. The game would eventually move over 40 million copies worldwide and be crowned the best selling game of all time. Nintendo's last front of attack was on television, with The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! and its Saturday morning NBC counterpart, Captain N: The Game Master. These two shows of middling quality capped off a mass media onslaught and ensured Mario and Luigi were at the top of every kid's Christmas list that year.
The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, produced by kid's animation powerhouse DiC, is nothing but a 22-minute commercial for Nintendo's hottest franchise, but it's so brainlessly innocuous that it's hard to care. Albano and Wells first appear on screen dressed as the sibling plumbers, dancing embarrassingly to a silly rap theme song. It's clear that this twisted pop culture monstrosity is so firmly of its era that it can only be taken seriously today as a nostalgic peek at the Nintendo-crazed late 80s. From this point of view, the live scenes in Mario and Luigi's basement apartment have now become the most interesting aspect of the show; campy segments featuring totally rad video game sound effects, 8-bit incidental music, and a former pro wrestler encouraging you to do a dance called "The Mario." Sporting colored overalls and phony mustaches, the two actors ham it up unmercifully for the kids at home, getting attacked by a gorilla, running away from a vampire (again!), dressing as countrified hicks, and making pizzas with Mikhail Gorbachev. It's totally ridiculous, but strangely compelling. Though the broad jokes may not worm their way to your inner gamepad-clutching 10-year-old, it's all in good fun. The actors seem to be having a great time bringing their 2-D characters to life.
Both of Shout! Factory's box sets represent the show's only year of production. There's very little to distinguish the content of Volume 2 over the first release, except for the show's celebrity cameos. While the first set of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! boasted Cyndi Lauper and Magic Johnson, the guest star quotient in these remaining episodes is fairly low. Albano relies heavily on his wrestling cronies, including Rowdy Roddy Piper and the impossibly-chinned Sgt. Slaughter (making his second appearance). It's hard to get excited about Mr. Belvedere "teen heartthrob" Rob Stone or even that perpetually-grinning letter-turner, Vanna White.
Albano and Wells also voice the Mario Brothers in the less interesting animated segments that were originally the main draw of the program. These crudely drawn affairs indiscriminately borrow characters and lore from both the Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario Brothers 2 NES games. As with most cartoons based on simplistic properties, the writers were forced to expand on the existing storyline. They push Mario and Luigi far beyond the Mushroom Kingdom of the game in order to squeeze them into tried and true cartoon situations. As a result, kids were probably a little disappointed with such unlikely scenarios as a weather machines, wizards with shrinking potions, and a blackmail marriage between Koopa and Peach. Furthermore, innovations like an all-purpose plumber's jackknife and a magical golden plunger are borderline blasphemy for those who just wanted to see the game's question mark box-filled world brought to life.
Despite the divergence from the familiar, however, some of the stories are passable Saturday morning kiddie fare. The brothers are recast in Nintendo-fied versions of The Karate Kid, Raiders of the Lost Arc, and Goldfinger, not to mention classic literature including Moby Dick and the Bible. Admittedly, the quality of the cartoon is not up to the level of Link's Friday adventures on The Legend of Zelda (available as their own DVD release), which were far better drawn and animated. But these episodes aren't terrible, especially considering the sheer quantity of shorts done in one year. The only other notable problem is that Albano isn't much of a voice actor, and it's obvious that this is his first time working on a cartoon. He just doesn't go as over-the-top as required, and his grizzled tones are an ill fit with Mario.
Young viewers probably didn't notice this at the time, but there's a good deal of padding in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!. Each episode clocks in under 22 minutes, and even then they feature two separate theme songs for each part of the show, a mandatory preview of Friday's episode of The Legend of Zelda, and even gratuitous "we'll be back" bumpers. Cut out the fat, and there's one 13 minute original cartoon and about 5 minutes of live action per episode. On DVD this is no longer a problem. Much of the repetitive content can be quickly skipped by using Shout! Factory's well-placed chapter stops.
Episodes of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! have been collected on single disc compilations in the past, but this is the first time they've been presented completely uncut in a comprehensive set. The videotaped live action segments look great, with fine detail and solid colors. While the cartoons contain a considerable amount of grain and dirt, these blemishes are common for animated shows of this vintage on DVD. Likewise, the sound quality is quite good: a 2.0 mono track that delivers every blip, bloop, and bleep with solid clarity. A slight improvement over the slim extras on the first set, Volume 2 features an interactive tour of The Mario Bros. Plumbing Shop, allowing viewers to select different objects on a drawn map of the set and hear an explanation of what each item does. It's fun, if basically inconsequential, as is "Meeting Mario: A Fan's Tale." In this extra a couple recounts their unremarkable story about heading to a mall to get Albano's autograph on the first DVD set. The self-explanatory "Fan Costume Gallery "is a nice inclusion, even if everyone looks like they're wearing the same outfit. This is followed by "The Worlds of Super Mario Bros. Super Show Concept Art," a look at some of the cell backgrounds used in the show. Finally we have "The Trojan Koopa," "On Her Majesty's Sewer Service," "Koopenstein," and "The Unzappables," four more 13-minute animated segments that are presented without the wraparound live segments, presumably because there were rights issues.
With juvenile humor and near-forgotten celebrities, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! hasn't aged well. But that's probably the best reason for modern viewers to pick up the set. I'll be the first to admit that nostalgia only goes so far, but die-hard Nintendo addicts will be glad to finish up their arcade-influenced cartoon collection with this final volume of the Super Show franchise.
Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
• Bonus Animated Episodes
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