Freakazoid!

Tagged: TV

US animated tv series (1995-1997; vt Steven Spielberg Presents Freakazoid!). Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation. Created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. Developed by Tom Ruegger. Executive producer Steven Spielberg. Directors include Rich Arons, Ronaldo Carmen, Jack Heiter, Scott Jeralds, Eric Radomski and Peter Shin. Writers include Paul Dini, John McCann, Tom Ruegger and Paul Rugg. Voice cast includes Jeff Bennett, David Kaufman, Tress MacNeille, Paul Rugg and David Warner. 24 22-minute episodes. Colour.

Teenager Dexter Douglas (Kaufman) is a Computer nerd and so, this being the nineties, has no friends or romantic relationships; on the plus side, after accidental absorption by the Internet, he can transform into Freakazoid (Rugg) by saying "Freak Out". Freakazoid is a blue-skinned Superhero in red long johns and jagged black hair with white streaks: his Superpowers include speed, strength and athleticism, but his strongest suit is extreme verbosity. Sometimes channelling Jerry Lewis, Freakazoid spends a lot of time wisecracking, uttering non-sequiturs, breaking the fourth wall, commenting on events (particularly if he feels the plot is relying on Clichés) and haranguing or chatting with the villains – he's also easily distracted (on one occasion forgetting the story's ending). Fortunately, being good-natured at heart, he only occasionally enters smart-alec territory. The episodes often end with the Villains defeated and Freakazoid flying off, or rather running off making flying noises, as flight is not actually one of his powers.

Various super-Villains appear, including Cave Guy (Bennett), a well-spoken, New Yorker-reading caveman (see Anthropology); Cobra Queen (MacNeille), a snake woman, transformed after pilfering an "experimental beauty lotion that had been left in the sun too long" and, most frequently, Mad Scientist The Lobe (Warner), whose entire head is a brain: he can also create balloon animals, offering a child one of "Diprotodon optatum, an extinct burrowing giant marsupial" (though the burrowing part is probably incorrect).

Stories feature UFOs; Time Travel; Aliens; Robots; Werewolves; entering Cyberspace; Virtual Reality; evil Clones; Invisibility and Telekinesis. Parodies include The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951); Jonny Quest (1964-1965); Quantum Leap (1989-1993); E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982); 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); Batman; and Astro Boy (1963-1966). The first season had occasional segments without Freakazoid, the most memorable featuring British superhero Lord Bravery (Bennett, doing a Basil Fawlty impression).

Originally planned as a comedy/drama, the latter element was dropped during development. As with its stablemates Animaniacs (1993-1998) and Pinky & The Brain (1995-1998), the programme's target audience was children. All three also appealed to older viewers; however, whilst the first two still won over their intended demographic, Freakazoid! did not; the ratings suffered and so – despite an Emmy win – it had only two seasons. The humour could be hit or miss, but this was a likable, amusing show.

Though superhero and SF tropes are regularly sent up, the genres are treated affectionately. When Cave Guy flees into a SF Convention, he is shocked to his WASP core: "Oh dear, a Klingon-English Dictionary – you made up a little language based on a tv show? That's not right." (See Linguistics; Star Trek.) At another convention a pestered Freakazoid grabs a familiar face browsing the comic books and offers him as a bribe: "How about your very own Harlan Ellison?". [SP]

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