Hasslein Blog: GUEST BLOG: Cubing—The Looney Tunes Show


Hasslein Blog

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

GUEST BLOG: Cubing—The Looney Tunes Show

Once again, we turn the conch over to writer Duy Tano, of The Comics Cube!, a popular blog covering the comic book industry. This time, Duy has agreed to write a really serious piece for us about a really serious novel he read over Christmas, and we can't wait to see what he has to say!

I was considering writing this really serious piece for Rich on this really serious novel I read over Christmas, but you know what, I'm just gonna talk about Looney Tunes.

[ED. NOTE: Dammit! —Rich]

The Looney Tunes Show is a cartoon sitcom that is currently 14 episodes into its second season, unless Rich decides to hold off on posting this and they air more episodes in the meantime, in which case, what're you doing to me, Rich? Have I not served my time? Did I not atone for my past sins? Have I not repented enough for the time you and I stole that—

Um, anyway, moving on...

The Looney Tunes Show is a cartoon sitcom that is currently 14 episodes into its second season. The basic premise is simple: Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are housemates. Or, more specifically, Daffy Duck has been freeloading for five years off of Bugs Bunny, who is independently wealthy. That's the premise of the show—two guys who by any stretch of the imagination shouldn't even be friends or share a roof. I know that some hardcore Looney Tunes fans (yes, I just typed out "hardcore Looney Tunes fans") disapprove strongly of this basic premise, but that's just the nature of comedy; the basic premise can be absurd or ridiculous, because it leads to conflict and comedy.

The Looney Tunes Show takes a bit of getting used to, especially if your main exposure to Bugs Bunny and the gang is the short seven-minute features they made from the 30s to the 60s. That shouldn't come as a surprise, since what's funny in seven minutes isn't necessarily sustainable for 20, not to mention the fact that humor sensibilities have changed since then. Slapstick and a joke like "Rabbit season!" / "Duck season!", as seen in the classic "Rabbit Seasoning," works perfectly for a short feature, but the joke would run too long if they went further with it. So, a sitcom model was adapted for this show and the jokes are slapstick, situational, and verbal.

It's really funny, and every episode has a point to make, even if none of the characters actually learn anything. The first episode, titled "Best Friends," sees Bugs and Daffy go on a game show called "Besties," where they have to answer questions about each other in order to win. Up against Mac and Tosh, the inseparable and overly polite gophers, Bugs realizes they have no chance because Daffy doesn't actually know anything about him (even going so far as to believe that Bugs comes from the planet Krypton, with that sequence complete with John Williams' Superman music and a bunny Marlon Brando). This puts Bugs in a bad mood, and causes Daffy (with some advice from Speedy Gonzales) to try to be a better friend, and of course it doesn't work, because Daffy's really, really bad at it, so finally Bugs tells him to quit it. "Daffy, you're a mean-spirited, self-absorbed, disturbed little weirdo. But for whatever reason, you're my best friend." The point is there: You can't change your friends, but you can be honest with them... especially friends as close as Mac and Tosh (who value each other's interests even to the detriment of all others). Almost every episode is like this, in the sense that yes, it can make a point, but they're first and foremost entertaining, and the characters learn nothing from them.

The next episodes take some time setting up the supporting cast, with the fourth episode, "Fish and Visitors," featuring Yosemite Sam (their next-door neighbor) moving in with them for a while and, as you can imagine, being the worst possible house guest you can imagine. In an effort to get rid of him, Bugs and Daffy throw a big party, but it backfires because Sam apparently loves karaoke, and he ends up singing "The Flame" by Cheap Trick!.

Porky Pig is the most important character on the show next to Bugs and Daffy, and serves as Daffy's well-meaning but unsuspecting sidekick. He's infinitely more practical and successful than Daffy, but he's just so impressionable and wants to have friends so much that he'll go along with whatever Daffy suggests, even if it's something ridiculous like being Daffy's 24/7 bodyguard (which happens after Daffy's purse gets stolen in "It's a Handbag").

And there are other characters on this show—some radically reimagined, like single hypnotherist mom Witch Lezah and successful business mogul Foghorn Leghorn; some new, like Tina Russo, Daffy's girlfriend; and some who are pretty much their classic selves put in a new situation, like Speedy Gonzales, who runs the local pizza store, Pizzarriba—but, for my money, no one tops this cartoon's version of Lola Bunny. Reimagined as an airy, flighty, stalkerish character whose thoughts and logic are all over the place (but Bugs still dates her and is still inexplicably attracted to her), Lola Bunny may be the funniest character I've been exposed to for a long while. At one point, while she was giving one of her long monologues that don't really go anywhere, I remarked to my wife that wow, it must be really hard to write for Lola, because it's non-sequitur after non-sequitur, and when handled carelessly, that's easy to screw up. But no, Lola cracks me up almost every time she's on screen. This, seriously, may be the most laugh-out-loud thing I've seen in a long, long time:

Lola is Bugs' girlfriend, but I find the funniest scenes and episodes of the show tend to be the ones where she's paired up with Daffy, probably because they're both screw-ups in completely different ways and it can only lead to more trouble, and partly because Daffy is often presented as the worst character on this show, and here he is, partnered with the one character who can drag him down even further.

I think if I had to sum up the show really quickly, it would be "Looney Tunes meets Seinfeld," because I genuinely see the fingerprints of Seinfeld (my all-time favorite TV show) all over this cartoon, from the main characters (one could say that Bugs, being the levelheaded one and prone to making the sarcastic and witty remarks, is Jerry Seinfeld, while Daffy, whose situations lead to a lot of the conflicts, and is funny on his own but is probably the first one you'd get sick of during a marathon, is George Costanza, for example) to the structure of the stories (like Seinfeld, The Looney Tunes Show tends to have circular references, where the resolution of one subplot reflects what's going on in the main plot).

But I think that's, in the end, not doing it justice. The Looney Tunes Show is very much its own thing, and stands on its own merits. And of course, because it's a cartoon that's halfway nonsensical and with un-aging characters, it can be even more absurd. In one episode, Daffy's parade float (he drives a parade float that's shaped like a big version of himself) gets wrecked, so he cries in his room for a number of years (we actually see the seasons pass), until Bugs decides to calm him down. When he does, Daffy reveals that he knew that if he cried hard enough, Bugs would build him a new parade float. When Bugs reveals that he didn't and asks Daffy what he needs a parade float for in the first place, Daffy's reply is simple: "You're my best friend. You know me better than anyone. You see what a horrible person I am. That's why I have to drive a parade float."

I don't think you need to even be familiar with the characters beforehand to find it entertaining, though it does enhance it for those times that the show references the old versions, going "old school," as it were. In the seventh episode, "Casa de Calma," Daffy tries to get close to an actress while he and Bugs are at the beach, and the actress' bodyguard just cuts him off at every turn, with visual jokes that kind of harken back to classics like Ali Baba Bunny. And my favorite episode might be "Customer Service," in which Bugs Bunny is tortured by Cecil the Turtle, a customer service representative who decides to randomly cut off Bugs' cable on the day of the NBA Finals. For the first half of the episode, Bugs doesn't even know what he's dealing with. Finally, in anger, he puts the phone down, and utters the words, "Of course you realize... this means war!" It's the first time he says it in 33 episodes—and the episodes are good enough that you don't even realize that he never says it or "What's up, Doc?" (unless he's talking to a doctor)—so when he does say it, it's got a real effect. It stands on its own, but if you're a longtime Bugs Bunny fan, then the effect is compounded.

The Looney Tunes Show isn't perfect. For the first season, they incorporated two extra features into just about every episode: Merrie Melodies, which are short music videos featuring some of the characters, and a 3D Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote short. Very few of the Merrie Melodies were actually funny, and virtually none of the Road Runner ones were. I guess that was the popular reaction, because they're pretty much done away with in Season 2. Also, a lot of episodes center around Daffy Duck and his antics. This is fair, because Daffy as a main character is entertaining on his own, while Bugs depends too much on his co-stars (compare Duck Amuck with Rabbit Rampage, for example), but Daffy Duck is a character created for short seven-minute stories, and 20 minutes centering around him may be a bit much.

Still, they're funny, they're entertaining, they're hilarious, and they can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. A while back, I wrote on the Cube about Carl Barks' and Don Rosa's work on Disney's Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck, and I started wondering why the Looney Tunes characters didn't have an equivalent, in terms of longer-form stories enjoyable for both kids and adults (sorry, Space Jam, I do love you), and then realized that it was happening right now. It's just happening on TV, in 20-minute stretches. And it's called, simply enough, The Looney Tunes Show.

Duy Tano is a popular Internet blogger and comic book expert. Check out his blog, The Comics Cube!, at www.comicscube.com, which tackles all sorts of different topics for all sorts of different forms of sequential art. Superhero comics, indie comix, komiks, manga, BD—you name it, it's a valid topic for discussion.

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