Friday, May 31, 2013

TV Show Review: Rocky and Bullwinkle - Season 4

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Puns and silliness reign
Cons: Only if you don't love puns and silliness
The Bottom Line:
Nothing serious
Just lots of good clean laughs and
Puns puns puns puns puns

Return of the Pun as Season 4 Finally Hits DVD

It's been five years since we last got a season set of Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends, and I'd just about given up hope that we'd ever get season 4.  But I finally got my wish, and I've laughed my way through this set.

This half hour TV cartoon from the 1960's features puns, puns, and more puns.  Trust me, if you don't like puns, you need to pass right by this set.  There is nothing of interest to you here.  But if you love a good pun as much as I do, you'll love every silly minute of this show.

Each show had five segments.  The first and last are the continuing adventures of Rocky and Flying Squirrel and his best friend Bullwinkle J. Moose as they get caught in life and death situations fighting Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale.  These stories are serialized, so you'll want to keep watching so you can find out what happens to them next.  All told, we get five complete stories in this set.  They include:

Painting Thief - Boris and Natasha rob a French museum of their paintings.  To elude capture, they mail the paintings to Bullwinkle, who then gets discovered as the next great artist.

Guns of Abalone - Boris is firing at random on the world until they deliver Moose and Squirrel.  But our heroes are already on the way, if they can survive gun fire and sinking ships.

The Treasure of Monte Zoom - Boris is on the trail of a treasure buried on the bottom of a lake near Frostbite Falls.  And the way to find it?  Drain the lake.

Goof Gas Attack - Boris has invented a substance that makes genius complete idiots.  But it doesn't affect the already stupid, so the government calls on Bullwinkle to foil the villain.

Banana Formula - Bullwinkle is stalked by Boris after eating a banana with the formula to the new explosive Hushaboom.

These stories are played for puns and groaners more than anything else, so at times the story takes some turns that are illogical even for a cartoon featuring talking animals in a world otherwise populated with humans.  But when I let that go and just enjoy the ride, I find myself laughing hysterically and the antics of the characters.  And I love the fact that they break the rules, talking to the audience and including the narrator in the action all the time.

Each half hour episode always starts and ends with a segment in whatever the current story is.  Up second is either Fractured Fairytales of Aesop and Son.  Either way, you get a fractured tale that bears little resemblance to anything you might be familiar with.  Again, the silly and puns reign.

The middle segment is Bullwinkle's Corner, devoted to poetry readings, or Mr. Know-It-All, in which Bullwinkle shows you how not to do something.  These segments were often a disappointment to me because I recognized quite a few of them from previous seasons.  It's too bad they couldn't come up with some new material.  Not that I wasn't laughing again.  These are funny no matter how many times you've seen them.

Finally, we end with Peabody's Improbable History or Dudley Do-Right.  Peabody is a dog who has invented a time machine to introduce his boy Sherman to history.  And it's a good thing since Peabody always has to save the day and set history on the right track.  Even one time when he's home sick in bed they need his suggestions.  Dudley Do-Right is a spoof of melodramas as Canadian Mountie Dudley tries to finally defeat his arch nemesis Snidely Whiplash.  I think Dudley is the least punny thing you'll find here, although they are so silly they are still very funny.

If you sit down looking for the animation we get today, you'll be highly disappointed.  It's low budget quality.  It's not bad, but it's not great, even for that time.

But the joy of the show is the jokes.  I can't stop laughing at the antics of the characters or the puns they come up with.  And their self-referencal humor just adds to the fun.

The show does contain some references to life in the 60's, especially with Boris and Natasha obviously being Eastern European villains with faint communist ideologies.  Today's kids won't get all the jokes, but they will still appreciate much of the action.

There were only 19 half hour episodes in season 4, so we get two discs here.  The price actually reflects that quite nicely, not being nearly as high as the earlier seasons were when I got them years ago.  And that's all we get.  There are no extras.  There is an episode guide on a piece of paper that floats free in the case.  I hope I don't lose mine.  Also of note, there is a mostly clear R&B logo at the start of each segment that stays for about 30 seconds.  Yes, I wish it weren't there, but it isn't a surprise since it's been on the other sets as well.

I know there are still more episodes of this great show out there, so I hope we see another release soon.  But until then, I'm glad I finally got to enjoy Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends season 4.

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