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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS FREAKAZOID!: SEASON TWO"


 
The animated series Freakazoid was cancelled after just two seasons on the air, despite having a loyal fan base devoted to its ADD-style of mile-a-minute humor. The program relished the chance to break the already lenient rules of animation. Taking the proud anarchic spirit of classic Warner Brothers Looney Tunes to its most extreme, Freakazoid was perennially ahead of its time. The first season was released on DVD last year, and the second season is in stores now - and it's even better.

The series centers around teenage nerd Dexter Douglas, who is sucked into some kind of weird cyber-storm that turns him into the hyperactive titular superhero. Whereas Season One tended to be a bit episodic (with other features squeezed in between Freakazoid segments), Season Two gives us more complete story lines. Or, at least as complete as this series ever tried to be. The joy of Freakazoid is that the plots are little more than hooks on which to hang a series of loopy jokes, pop culture references, and non sequiters.

Consider the first episode on the DVD, in which Freakazoid is zapped with an electric television signal, courtesy of the villain known as "The Lobe." Whenever he attempts to morph back into Dexter, he ends up becoming some television personality - such as Oprah Winfrey - instead. Capping the joke: Dexter is trying to enjoy a date with his unsuspecting girlfriend Steff at the same time. The you-never-know-what's-going-to-happen-next vibe of the episode is indicative of the series in general.

Another show starts off with a hilarious parody of The Godfather. Some might say that such jokes went over the heads of children in the audience, but I can list a bunch of cultural things I actually learned about from watching WB cartoons. "The Barber of Seville" comes instantly to mind as I recall a famous Bugs Bunny toon.

The zany antics (there's no other, more appropriate term) build all the way to the finale, a spoof of Amadeus in which a jealous Lobe kidnaps "This Old House" carpenter Norm Abram and forces him to build a wooden contraption to do away with Freakazoid once and for all. How can you not love a cartoon that dares to riff on Amadeus? Now, that's what I call "hip."

Freakazoid: Second Two is funnier, wittier, and more delightfully absurd than its already-outrageous predecessor. The program aired in the late 90's, never quite catching on, despite having the words "Steven Spielberg Presents" before the title. A show such as this would likely thrive today on something like the Cartoon Network Adult Swim block of programming. While the number of episodes created was small, DVD offers a chance for this groundbreaking animated show to finally find an appreciative audience.

DVD Features:

The DVD contains all eleven episodes, as well as some cool bonus material. "Liebeslied fur Normadeus" is a 20-minute feature in which the show's creators and crew discuss the final episode and also the circumstances under which the program was cancelled. While they maintain a sense of humor about it now, you can still tell that the disappointment is close to the surface. There's also a hilarious story about how Norm Abram's cameo came as a result of a bet within the network as to which show could find the most obscure guest star.

Also on the disc is "A Full Season's Worth of Commentaries (in Five Minutes or Less)" - short remembrances of famous episodes from the creators. Last, but not least, is composer Richard Stone's original demo tape of music for the "Bonjour Lobey" episode in which you get to hear more of the Emmy winner's work.

Purchase it online here

Steven Spielberg Presents Freakazoid!: Season Two - Own it on DVD

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