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Earthworm Jim

Entry updated 21 March 2022. Tagged: TV.

US animated tv series (1995-1996). AKOM, Flextech Television Limited, Universal Animation Studios. Created by Doug TenNapel, based on the 1994 platform game (see Videogames) of the same name. Directors include Pam Garry, Graham Morris, Sue Peters and Bill Reed. Most episodes written by Doug Langdale. Voice cast includes Charlie Adler, Jeff Bennett, Dan Castellaneta, Jim Cummings, Edward Hibbert, Andrea Martin and Kath Soucie. Twenty-three 21 minute episodes. Colour.

An empty spacesuit falls from the sky onto a worm: once inside it grows to human size and intelligence. This is Earthworm Jim (Castellaneta), a Superhero who now fights evil across the galaxy; his sidekick is Peter Puppy (Bennett), a humanoid dog, liable to grow into a Monster in times of stress. Jim battles various supervillains, including Evil The Cat (Hibbert), Professor Monkey-For-A-Head (Adler), Bob the Killer Goldfish (Cummings) and The Evil Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-Filled, Malformed Slug-For-A-Butt (Martin). The latter's sister, the considerably more fetching Princess What's-Her-Name (Soucie), is a warrior and Jim's friend (he would prefix that with "girl"; she would not). We eventually learn that Jim's suit was built by Professor Monkey-For-A-Head for The Evil Queen, but was dropped in transit.

Stories are Absurdist, with Jim battling Aliens, monsters and psychotic end-tables. In one episode Evil the Cat frees the most powerful creature in the universe from Jim's snow globe collection; though called The Nameless Beast, he does have a name: Rosebud ("I know, I know, I look more like a Throkktar or a Galgemort the Destroyer ... but there you are, what's a beast to do?"). Evil the Cat, interrupting Rosebud's trivial anecdotes, instructs him to destroy the universe – though, learning of free will, Rosebud decides not to. Jim's snow globe collection is sentient and explains to him that this universe exists within a giant snow globe; and the universe holding that is contained within another snow globe, and so on (see Cosmology). It is one of the more unlikely works to draw inspiration from Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941). One of Bob the Killer Goldfish's Inventions "suck[s] the Evolutionary energy out of anyone and transfer[s] it right into me": that is, the victim will suffer Devolution while Bob leaps a few steps up the evolutionary ladder. Other stories include Black Holes, Miniaturization, Time Travel via the time sewer, the destruction of the universe stymied by bureaucracy, a reference to The Shadow, and a Parallel World based on the film The Wizard of Oz (1939) (see L Frank Baum), which also throws in a reference to The Seventh Seal (1956). Each episode ends with a cow falling on someone. The narrator (Bennett) sounds like John Cleese (see Monty Python's Flying Circus).

The show's strength is its dialogue: heroes declaim "eat dirt, detestable nemesis of virtue!"; a villain laments he "should have been a florist, like mother wanted", Asked what he will do once his ambition of destroying the universe is fulfilled, Evil the Cat ponders in his educated English accent: "Haven't really thought about it actually – gloat, I suppose; cackle wickedly amid the ashes, that sort of thing." The fourth wall is regularly broken; when Evil the Cat and Malice the Dog need the Hatpin of Destiny: "How will we ever find it?" Narrator: "Meanwhile, Earthworm Jim and Peter Puppy find a very unusual hatpin in their attic." Malice (overhearing): "That was easy." At another time the show's budget runs out and it is reduced to line drawings. Though the second season certainly has its moments, the first is the funniest. [SP]


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