Tag Archives: Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon vs. Disney: Who’s the Family TV Champion?

It’s mid-March, which means everybody has gone bracket-mad, and you can’t throw a rock without hitting a website that’s running some sort of nutty WHO IS THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME face-off series. Not that I’m complaining, necessarily — pop culture cage matches are fun, and anyway, we’re going to get in on the action by helping out with this year’s KidVid Tournament. And sometimes these things are good for discussion, too. Case in point: The Hunt for America’s Finest Cable Channel, currently going on over at TV.com.

Over the weekend, the tournament arrived at the kiddie part of the dial and asked readers the all-important question: What’s the Best Children’s Network? Of course, this being one small part of a much larger contest, you only have two channels to choose from: Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. Which made me wonder — how many of us are really choosing between those channels on a regular basis?

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I wonder not only because there are plenty of other options to choose from on the TV dial, but we have a lot of other choices in general — Netflix, Apple, and Amazon will give you whatever you’re in the mood for by the byte, and if you use those options in conjunction with programming stored on your DVR, then you may not even be aware which channels are responsible for your children’s favorite shows. Put another way: we sort of create our own channels at this point, don’t we?

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This isn’t an indictment of TV.com’s tournament, just an observation and a way of asking you for your thoughts. Do you have a Nick vs. Disney preference, or are you digitally sampling from the PBS/Hub/CN/Nick/Disney/whatever buffet?

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DVD Review: “CatDog Season One, Part One”

CatDog Season One

Shout! Factory

Kids don’t like weirdness in other kids; they hate it and will fiercely beat it out of each other. They do, however, love and prefer their entertainment to be weird and zany, but palatably cartoony, as possible. This is why kids love cartoons, and why Nickelodeon has done so well with its in-house Nick Toons line in the ‘90s — bizarre cartoons in which creators were left free to create shows as oddball and even dark as they wanted, so long as they were still technically appropriate for children. The first three Nick Toons, debuting in 1991, were Doug (with its multi-colored people and mouth-noise soundtrack), Rugrats (seen from the extremely hazy and unreliable viewpoint of babies), and Ren and Stimpy (not appropriate for children whatsoever). More followed throughout the ’90s, such as Angry Beavers and The Wild Thornberrys, allowing Nickelodeon to fine-tune the weirdness while still making them marketable to kids.

CatDog represents a triumph of the weird meets the fun. It’s about conjoined twin brothers, a two-headed, apparently non-defecating animal, in which half was a cat and half was a dog. And they hated each other, but were forced to get along. So that’s a frequent semi-message. But really, the show was an excuse for classic voice actors to shine and for writers to make subtle jokes about how weird this situation really is, and how it could have possibly have come to be.

Out now on DVD from Shout! Factory, noble guardians and rescuers of overlooked pop culture, is the first half of the first season of CatDog, from 1998. It seems like a test of the market, to oil the nostalgia machine for this Nickelodeon product the way Teen Nick’s “The ‘90s Are All That” has revived interest with the adults who watched Nickelodeon shows when they were kids. The CatDog love seems to be there — as I write this, I’m watching Billy Bob Thornton on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, who casually mentioned that prior to his work on Puss in Boots, his major voice acting work was in CatDog, which got a huge round of cheers from the studio audience.

CatDog is a little bit lost in the canon of ‘90s cartoons, but it’s a great collection of fun cartoon tropes, closer to old Looney Tunes or Tex Avery stuff more than it is to cynical ‘90s cartoons, what with its direct opposites working together, exaggerated reaction shots, and easily fooled villains. Simply put, it’s about Cat, who is prim and proper, because he’s a cat, and his body-mate brother Dog, who is excitable and id-driven, as he’s a dog. They’re like an old-timey comedy team that hates each other slightly more than they love each other, and that pays off when the two-headed creature fights each other, or itself, as it were. CatDog’s voice pedigree is especially impressive, with names notable to animation nerds: Jim Cummings (the voice of Winnie the Pooh) plays Cat, Tom Kenny (the voice of Spongebob) plays Dog, and other voice actors include Carlos Alazraqui, Billy West, and Maria Bamford.

Another good thing about having kids: if you don’t like the pop culture of the current era, you can expose them to stuff that you liked. Show them CatDog if you’re sick of them watching the same Spongebob episodes for the umpeenth time. It’s just as wacky, knows what kids like, and gives it to them on their own level, if not a little above their level.

DVD Review: “The Penguins of Madagascar-Operation: DVD Premiere”

Who could have imagined that the Penguin characters from the two Madagascar film would spin off to their own animated series so successfully? In both films, the characters were essentially comic relief, thrown in as a “C” story that pretty much had nothing with the main plots until they show up at the end to rejoin the rest of the escaped zoo animals. Yet, in their own show, the penguins not only carry the show, but they are funny and enjoyable for parents and kids alike.

The Nickelodeon series has been on the air nearly a year now and it’s a big hit for the network. So, in true fashion of the marketing savvy network, Nickelodeon has released Operation: DVD Premiere, the first “feature length” DVD with over two hours of entertainment. The DVD is a collection of some of the Penguins best adventures, as well as a brand new, never-before-seen special, “Dr. Blowhole’s Revenge,” and two never- before-seen episodes, “Truth Ache” and “Command Crisis.” On a side note, I know that Nick plans to air “Dr. Blowhole’s Revenge” on President’s Day. I don’t understand the logic in advertising something as “never-before-seen” for just one week before putting in on television. I digress.

The set up for the show is simple: The Penguins, that is Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private, are back living at the New York City Zoo. Even though they are residents in the zoo, that doesn’t mean they’re confined behind bars. Instead, they have plenty of crazy adventures within the zoo and outside it. Along for the fun are three characters they never lived in the zoo in the films: King Julien, the insane lemur, originally voiced by Sacha Baren Cohen, by on television capably handled by Danny Jacobs, Maurice, an aye aye who is Julien’s trusty servant, and Mort, the accident mouse lemur who is the brunt of Julien’s contempt.

Supporting characters on hand to fill the absence of the main Madagascar characters include Marlene, an otter whose character is solely new to the series, plus Mason and Phil, the two chimpanzees from the films.

“Dr. Blowhole’s Revenge” is a funny, “save the world” adventure that finds the Penguins pitted against the evil Dr. Blowhole, an angry dolphin who gets around on a Segway. Dr. Blowhole plans to melt the North Pole in order to flood the earth as payback to humans for making him perform tricks in a ring of fire. Making matters worse for the Penguins is the fact that Julien has teamed up with Blowhole. The nefarious Blowhole is voiced by guest-star Neil Patrick Harris (who seems to be everywhere these days) and he has a good time with the role. Like most animation being produced these days, the adult behind the creation of the show often slip in a little bit of safe grown-up humor to make the show enjoyable for parents, as well as their kids.

The other two episodes, “Truth Ache” and “Command Crisis” fit right in with the seven other episodes included on this DVD, all of which have previously aired on Nickelodeon. As for bonus features, they aren’t much. But you shouldn’t expect too much when you’re buying TV episodes on a single disc like this one, anyway. There are trailers for upcoming Dreamworks animated features, Nick animated show and a couple of online games. Like I said, it isn’t much. Still, if you have a Penguin or King Julien fan in your house (child or adult) then this DVD is a worthwhile investment.