Like a lot of 10-year-olds, I’ve got my own personal favorites on the Cartoon Network, arguably the weirdest and most subversive channel on cable. Space Ghost: Coast to Coast (on unfortunate “hiatus” and relegated to the wee hours) and Courage the Cowardly Dog (gorgeous animation and more paranormal activity than The X-Files) are at the top, not to mention the occasional vintage Hong Kong Fooey (Scatman Crothers lives on).
Sheep In the Big City (debuting Friday, Nov. 17, 10:30 p.m.) is the Cartoon Network’s ninth in-house creation, and it may be their most bizarre ’toon yet. Accurately pitched as a cross between Rocky & Bullwinkle, The Fugitive and Monty Python, Sheep is initially notable as overdue employment for ex-MTV geek Kevin Seal, who provides voices for both hero Sheep (who only bleats and baahhs) and villain General Specific, the diabolical leader of the Top Secret Military Organization (actual title) out to bring him in at all costs. Why? Because Sheep is the only genetic match for the General’s ultra-destructive sheep-powered ray gun, of course.
Sheep flees his “agrarian utopia of positive reinforcement,” the tranquil farm run by Farmer John—a sensitive lug who holds regular livestock group therapy sessions—and hides out in Big City. Comfortably on the lam, Sheep settles into his new urban lifestyle faster than Hillary Clinton, with his own swanky apartment, ATM card and telemarketing job. Yes, his vocabulary still consists entirely of “baahh,” making him somewhat overqualified for the gig.
The rudimentary animation of creator Mo Willems (whose résumé includes both Sesame Street and Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival) resembles Rocky & Bullwinkle, and the pun-a-second pacing even more so. Also, like R&B, Sheep In the Big City has an omnipresent narrator, except this one frequently flips out over ridiculous plot points (“Enough! I accept that a sheep, desperately wanted by the military for a ray gun, can get a job—but an apartment? In the Big City? Hello?!”).
Some of the sight gags are obvious (Sheep’s favorite movie is Silence of the Lambs), some winkingly Gen-X (Sheep gleefully tossing his wool skyward in stop-frame, a la Mary Tyler Moore), and some jarringly left of left field (a grainy “spliced” action scene featuring a Sheep “stunt dummy” rappelling, Die Hard-style, between buildings). The overall effect is simultaneously funny, surreal, classic and contemporary. Now if Cartoon Network would just put Space Ghost back into production, we could get back to the business of making America a weirder place.
In other cartoon-related news, TNT’s killer TV-movie adaptation of the Top Cow comic book—sorry, graphic novel—Witchblade made enough of a splash in August to warrant a comeback as a regular series next summer. Even though (in true TNT fashion) the cable net ran the two-hour action flick about 128 times after its debut, you could possibly have missed it, so here’s the thumbnail: Tough-cookie NYPD cop Sara Pezzini (Yancy Butler) unwittingly becomes perma-accessorized with a mythological weapon known as the Witchblade, a symbiotically charged metallic glove that alternately controls and is controlled by Pezzini, kills Forces of Evil dead, and moves from daywear to eveningwear in style.
The fanboys always have to find something to bitch about when their beloved comic book—sorry, graphic novel—gets adapted to the screen, and did they ever with Witchblade. The biggest beef? Pezzini’s “superheroine” costume—essentially random silver strips covering an as-drawn-by-horny-comic-artists, impossibly voluptuous nude body—was nixed in favor of Butler simply donning a leather jacket and jeans. You know, like maybe an NYPD cop would wear.
While the fanboys were burning up those Internet boards in disgust about Witchblade’s lack of boobs-a-poppin,’ regular ol’ action fans who’d never even heard of the comic book (like me) were sucked in by the Matrix-standard martial arts mayhem, cool special effects and Butler’s gritty, anti-sexpot performance. If she learns to occasionally blink those saucer-eyes for the series, all the better.
In other boobs-a-poppin’ news (these segues are performed by professionals; don’t try them at home), a new game show called Who Wants To Date a Hooters Girl? is set for late-night syndication next fall. It’s completely true, and I’m fighting with every fiber of my being to not sneak in a “handful of prizes” zinger—doh! Sorry.
Six regular dudes (read: dim frat rats who couldn’t quite make the cut for Blind Date or Strip Poker) compete for a night out with a genuine, orange-hot-pants-and-tight-tee-clad waitress from one of America’s finest wings ’n’ beer chains featuring orange-hot-pants-and-tight-tank-clad waitresses. Not to alienate the female viewing audience, as if that were suddenly a concern, Who Wants To Date a Hooters Girl? sports the all-inclusive promo line, “Where a guy gets the girl, and every girl gets a laugh.”
Who Wants To Stalk a Shoney’s Server? can’t be far off.