The Aquabats Super Show debuts this morning on The Hub.
It’s really impossible to overstate just how much damage was done to the brains of kids who were raised on live-action TV of the ‘70s.
The crazy stuff they served up to us back then…look, I hate to sound like an old hippie, but I was there, man, and if you didn’t live through it, you just can’t understand. You can, however, get a pretty good idea of the way they warped our brains if you check out the website ‘70s Live Action Kids Vid, which offers one of the more definitive looks into the material that warped our pop-culture sensibilities, delving beyond the work of Sid & Marty Krofft and into the series presented by the various pretenders to their live-action TV throne. Trust me: if you’re not familiar with this stuff, then you really owe it to yourself to give the material a onceover before checking out The Hub’s new Saturday morning series, The Aquabats! Super Show!
Maybe you’re already familiar with the Aquabats and their onstage superhero schtick—they have, after all, been around since 1994—but you may not realize that their frontman, The MC Bat Commander, is actually Christian Jacobs, otherwise known as the co-creator of Yo Gabba Gabba! (You also may not know that, as a teenage actor, he was the kid whose eye Annie Potts missed by half an inch with a staple in Pretty in Pink. But I digress.) Word on the street is that it’s been Jacobs’ dream to do an Aquabats TV series for many, many years now, but it’s taken until the ridiculous success of Yo Gabba Gabba! for him to be able to turn that dream into a reality.
First, a roll call: in addition to the aforementioned MC Bat Commander, there’s also Crash McLarson (Chad Larson), whose size increases whenever he grows unduly emotional, Ricky Fitness (Richard Falomir), who’s in tip-top shape and can run faster than the average member of a third-wave ska band, the brilliantly-named EagleBones Falconhawk (Ian Fowles), who can fire lasers from his guitar, and, last but certainly not least, Jimmy the Robot (James R. Briggs, Jr.), the resident mechanical man of the group.
It’s clear from the very first episode of The Aquabats! Super Show! that Jacobs and his creative team know exactly what sensibilities they’re trying to put front and center, and those sensibilities are, for lack of a better phrase, Aquabatshit crazy. It also seems that the format is already nailed down for the long haul: n addition to the main live-action adventure by the Aquabats, which is over and done in 30 minutes, there’s also an ongoing animated adventure that’s serialized, with each segment ending in a cliffhanger, plus a brief animated segment featuring the little dude from the Aquabats’ logo, and even a fake commercial. In short, the series is a loving homage to basically everything ever done by the brothers Krofft, right down to a guest appearance by Rip Taylor as a genie (and the first one to tell me why that’s so goddamned perfect wins a big thumbs-up), except it’s delivered at a faster clip to appeal to today’s kids while featuring a quirky sense of humor that’s at times more in line with an Adult Swim series.
Offering up too many spoilers for The Aquabats! Super Show! in advance of its premiere would ruin half the fun of watching the events of the episode unfold in front of you, but suffice it to say that the show adeptly flips from humor to melodrama to action, providing some awesomely cheap special effects (two words: giant ants), goofy songs (expect to hear “Burger Rain” on a regular basis in the very near future), and gags that range from slapstick to sublime. No, the jokes don’t all work for adults—it’s hard to imagine anyone over the age of 10 not feeling guilty for laughing when the MC Bat Commander says, “Speak English,” and Jimmy responds in a bad British accent—but there’s so much here that both kids and parents will be able to enjoy the proceedings on their own respective levels and rarely find themselves bored.
It may have been a long time coming for The Aquabats! Super Show! to come to fruition, but for viewers with an appreciation of kitschy fun, it’s been worth the wait. For the first time in a long time, even irresponsible fortysomethings will have a good reason to get up by 11 AM on Saturday mornings.
- There’s a great running joke throughout the first episode about how the MC Bat Commander is obsessed with food to the point where he almost lets his comrades fall to the forces of the dreaded ManAnt, finally screaming, ““It's like no one wants me to eat! I'm starving, okay?”
- Speaking of ManAnt, he’s as despicable a villain as ever matched wits with Electra-Woman and/or Dyna-Girl, speaking in super-villain clichés at every opportunity. My favorite: when one of his giant ants turns against him, he howls, “You idiot! I was going to give you world domination!” Plus, he’s voiced by Mr. Lawrence!
- In regards to the first episode’s fake commercial, my daughter’s partial to the Pink Lady. I’m a big fan of the Grizz myself. If only Harry Hiders were real…
- Rip Taylor remains awesome even at age 78. (“See you, loser!”)
- The way the Aquabats’ animated adventure is introduced reminds me of the way Fat Albert and the gang used to suddenly rush to watch The Brown Hornet.
- I won’t spoil it, but I’ll just say that, as ever, callbacks to the most famous line from Planet of the Apes are always funny. ALWAYS.