Thursday, August 14, 2008


Enough toe-dipping and wading… It’s time to jump into this new Blog-thing with both feet! And what better way to do this than with FREAKAZOID!

Clearly, this wonderful Saturday morning animated series from Steven Spielberg and Kids WB (aired 1995-1997), is a huge influence on my script writing for comic books like UNCLE SCROOGE, but even I hadn’t realized the extent to which this is true until viewing these episodes on DVD again in one glorious lump! Check it out and see…

If only the show’s announcer, Joe Leahy, were here to say: “And now, let’s enjoy the following DVD review of FREAKAZOID!” …Bum! Bum! BUM!

FREAKAZOID! Season One: Released July 29, 2008 by Warner Home Video.

A Typically Long DVD Review by Joe Torcivia.

Watching this set brings back pleasant memories of Saturday mornings with the now-defunct Kids WB and weekday evenings with the might-as-well-be-defunct Cartoon Network.

FREAKAZOID! is a wacky, manic superhero who protects, saves, and works for the betterment of mankind, unless (as his theme song goes) “…something better’s on TV”.

FREAKAZOID! is also the most underappreciated, flat-out funniest animated series ever produced for Saturday morning TV.

If you enjoy WB’s better known ‘90s hits ANIMANIACS and BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES, FREAKAZOID! is the perfect bridge between the two – with its expert melding of off-the-wall humor with superheroes and villains... If you enjoy the abrupt, now-expected digressions and “callbacks’ to earlier bits that is a hallmark of FAMILY GUY… You will love FREAKAZOID!

You will also love his cast of characters: Good Guys include Police Sgt. Cosgrove (preformed in marvelous deadpan by the great Ed Asner), the prissy, “John Cleese-like” Lord Bravery, the ultra-intense Huntsman- who combines Charlton Heston with DC Comics’ Green Arrow, Toby Danger – a dead-on parody of Hanna-Barbera’s adventure cartoon JONNY QUEST, and the “all-too-familiar-to-some-of-us” Fanboy, appropriately voiced by “Animal House’s” Stephen Furst.

And, oh those bad guys… The witty, urbane, loin cloth-clad brute Cave Guy, Candle Jack (a Jack Palance-like masked phantom that brings terror to the night), the half-man / half-steer Longhorn – more like half-Johnny Cash and half Mister Ed. And special props for Ricardo Montalban as Armando Guitierrez, a portrayal so over the top that it would justly earn “The Wrath (and admiration) of Khan”!

…And Best for Last: David Warner (the starkly serious Ra’s Al Ghul on BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES) as The Lobe. The Lobe, whose head consists of a big, squishy brain with facial features, is Freakazoid’s most enduring enemy.

The key to defeating The Lobe lies as much in undermining his dignity as in thwarting his plans, as you will see when Freakazoid expertly toys with him in such mini-classics as “Handman” and “The Lobe”. Freakazoid and The Lobe may have the strangest hero/villain relationship in history of super-heroic fiction. They find an odd sort of validation in each other. They exchange Christmas gifts. The Lobe abandons an evil plan just because Freakazoid rants about how stupid it is! And, in the second season, we learn that there is little satisfaction in “doing bad” for The Lobe, unless he can get Freakazoid to chase him – and Freakazoid abandons a date rather than let his baddie-buddy down! This is wonderful stuff, people!

Beyond the characters created for the show, there is an almost endless parade of guest players from reality and pop culture. One short episode alone (“Freakazoid is History”) features President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Barbara Streisand, Rush Limbaugh, Joan Rivers, Kate Smith, Sharon Stone, and Pinky and The Brain!

Other such luminaries range from late night talk show host Tom Snyder, to Princess Diana, and Pope John Paul II… yes, really!

The stories are first rate comedy and satire. There’s a wicked piece of work by famed writer Paul Dini on “nerds”. And you will NEVER AGAIN hear the old “Theme from a Summer Place” (If you don’t recognize the name, you’ll know it when you hear it!) without thinking of “Relax-O-Vision” – an anti-violence innovation foisted upon Freakazoid by a “know-better” Kids WB TV executive played by Ben Stein!.

Needless to say, this stuff sailed over the heads of the Sat AM kiddie crowd, and FREAKAZOID! left the air after two seasons. But, if we’re all good little Freak-A-Fans and buy this set, WHV might reward us with the Second Season. There we’ll see a regular role for Jonathan Harris of LOST IN SPACE (tributing his “Doctor Smith” character), an absolutely hysterical sequence where The Lobe performs a musical number from Hello Dolly, and witness Freakazoid, and fellow WB animated stars Wacko Warner, and The Brain argue with Executive Producer Steven Spielberg over who is Spielberg’s favorite!

To the DVD set itself, yes it should have been “The Complete Series” as there were only 11 episodes in the Second Season!

But, in Warner’s favor, they’ve improved the packaging over the type I’ve complained about in other reviews, where one disc of a two-disc set rests upon another. With such packaging, you cannot handle or remove DISC TWO without first removing and handling DISC ONE. There is always potential, however slight, for damage with packaging of this sort. Here, they’ve put DISC ONE on a hinged holder and DISC TWO rests on the back, inside wall of the package. An improvement, I’d say.

There is a “phantom episode” on DISC ONE, consisting of “The Cloud” and “Candle Jack”, that must have been originally shown as such on Kids WB in 1995. Both cartoons are elsewhere on the set… BUT, there is an alternate end credits sequence (that you may not even notice, unless you watch closely) with different gags hidden therein. One of those gags relates specifically to “Candle Jack” – and is seen nowhere else in the series! So, this is less of a “cheat” than it appears.

For a two-disc set, WHV is overly generous with the Extra Features. Three episode commentaries with creators Paul Rugg, John P. Mc Cann, and Tom Ruegger, a number of original promos that predate the series to the point that there was still NO FOOTAGE OF FREAKAZOID! TO USE in these promos (!), and a very informative documentary on the genesis of FREAKAZOID! Hint: It didn’t start out, as it ended up!

Anyone who has never seen FREAKAZOID!, or has not seen it recently, owes it to themselves to get this set! Despite lacking the handful of second season shows, it receives my highest recommendation.

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