The Looney Tunes Show, Cartoon Network's current series featuring the iconic Warner Bros. characters, is a radical departure from the classic shorts we all know and love. The producers "updated" the characters a bit and placed them in a suburban sitcom setting. The show is popular, but many fans of the classics have been very vocal in their displeasure with it. While the original Looney Tunes are known for physical comedy, slapstick and gags, "The Looney Tunes Show" relies much more on wry, verbal humor and characters finding themselves in awkward situations. It's an interesting approach, but the results are very hit-or-miss.
The show focuses on Bugs Bunny and room mate Daffy Duck, and their escapades in a suburban "Anytown" neighborhood populated by other familiar characters. Yosemite Sam and Granny, among others,
serve as their neighbors. The Tasmanian Devil is Bugs' pet. Porky Pig is Bugs and Daffy's long-suffering pal. The show also features Speedy Gonzales, Foghorn Leghorn, the Goofy Gophers, Sylvester and Tweety, Pete Puma, Marvin Martian, and a host of others in various roles. In addition to the sitcom format, the show also features musical "Merrie Melodies" segments and short CGI Road Runner and Coyote gags.
So just how bad is it? Well, as a show bearing the Looney Tunes name, it does almost nothing to capture the feel of the classics. This can be viewed as a turn-off or refreshing, depending on how you look at it. Some of the episodes are very funny, and it's fun to see the characters interact in a more plot-driven atmosphere. The thing is, without enough slapstick and bombastic energy, this setup gets old after a while. There are times when you just want the characters to flip out and do something, well, looney. There is no dynamite, there are no anvils or mallets, and outside of the CGI Roadrunner segments, nobody chases each other. One welcome exception to this comes in the episode "The Foghorn Leghorn Story", which culminates in an all-out brawl in an antique store between Daffy, Bugs, Foghorn, the Goofy Gophers and Yosemite Sam.
Another frustrating aspect is that the characters rarely go anywhere. It would be one thing if they lived in the suburban setting by default and also had adventures elsewhere, but most of the time they're confined to the same environment. There's only so much fun you can have at Bugs and Daffy's house, the local restaurant, the grocery store, etc. In one episode on this DVD, Bugs and Lola go to France, but it's more of subplot than anything else, and a brief one at that. The Looney Tunes characters were conceived with changing locales and time periods in mind. Bugs comes off as rather bland in this series because he's not challenged by new opponents and new settings, which is part of what made him so much fun to begin with. He can't make a wrong turn at Albuquerque if he never leaves town!
Character-wise, some of the players work in this new setting, and some don't. The focus is wisely placed on Daffy Duck, who is clearly more interesting than Bugs Bunny. The surprising revelation here is that without any real antagonist to threaten him, Bugs (voiced by Jeff Bergman) just doesn't have a lot to do. When he doesn't have a gun in his face, Bugs' life is pretty mundane...he has a nice house, he finds the occasional antique curio buried in the yard, he lives off the royalties of his inventions, and deals with the everyday frustrations of owning a home and having a freeloading room mate and a crazy girlfriend. Occasionally, he has a spat with Yosemite Sam. And generally, he's pretty nonchalant about the whole thing.
Daffy (voiced by Jeff Bergman), on the other hand, is perfectly cast as the most obnoxious, cringe-worthy room mate ever. He is a person we all know and try to avoid whenever possible. He's not the crazy, woo-hooing Daffy of the 1940's, but he's not quite the greedy Daffy of the 50's, either. Here, he is a self-obsessed sociopath who doesn't actively hate anyone, but has zero empathy for them. He's loud, awkward, rude, selfish, and vain. This Daffy will walk all over everyone to get what he wants, and then complain that it's not good enough if he finally gets it. He has an extremely inflated ego and high view of himself, though despite his statements to the contrary, he's completely lost without Bugs. He is a total loser who is aware of his shortcomings but refuses to acknowledge them.
Porky Pig (voiced by Bob Bergen) is pretty close to who he's always been: the likeable, good-natured everyman. He has little confidence and is often the victim of Daffy's mischief.
Yosemite Sam (voiced by Maurice LaMarche), is no longer violent and diabolical, but he still retains his foul temper, selfish nature and stupidity. By calming him down a bit, the creators of the show have surprisingly managed to make Sam more interesting. As the grumpy, weird redneck next door, he is often enraged by the antics of the rabbit and duck next door, but begrudgingly acknowledges that Bugs is a good guy. Still, his temper ensures that he is one of the few characters in the show who can get a rise out of Bugs, and the dynamic between the two is fun.
Granny (voiced, as always, by June Foray) is the scatterbrained old lady down the street, living with her pets, Sylvester and Tweety, and is generally kind to Bugs and Daffy when most people are annoyed by them. In the episode "Eligible Bachelors", she attends a charity date auction and places the only bid for Daffy, enlisting his help in cleaning her attic while she tells him stories of her days as a WAAC spy in World War II. It is revealed why she has the Eiffel tower in her yard, and that Tweety is much older than we've been lead to believe. While giving Granny a backstory and some depth is inspired, it's frustrating to see Sylvester and Tweety as, essentially, incidental characters in the background. More recent episodes have explored the cat and bird a little more, but they're not present in this batch.
Foghorn Leghorn (Jeff Bergman) is a successful businessman with a love of motivational platitudes and a misguided faith that Daffy Duck actually has potential.
The overly-polite Goofy Gophers, Mac and Tosh (brilliantly voiced by Rob Paulsen and Jess Harnell with a flair that would make Mel Blanc and Stan Freberg proud), own an antique shop and advise characters on etiquette. They're always smiling...and they are friendly even when punching each other in the face.
Then there's the surprise of the show: Lola Bunny. No longer the aloof jock of "Space Jam", Lola is retooled here as a ditzy girly-girl who obsesses over Bugs. As Bugs explains in one of the musical "Merrie Melodies", Lola is a "very pretty lady", but she's "crazy, crazy, crazy!" Bugs likes her, but her stalker-like behavior creeps him out. Kristen Wiig's inspired voice work on Lola makes her one of the funniest characters on the show and a real scene-stealer.
Daffy is given a new girlfriend character named Tina. She's a sarcastic female duck with a New York accent (voiced by Jennifer Esposito) who works at the local copy shop and sees Daffy as a "project". She isn't particularly interesting, but also hasn't been around long enough to develop much of a personality.
The non-sitcom element of the show, the Merrie Melodies and Road Runner cartoons, are little more than filler, and they feel like it. The "Melodies" are little musical vignettes that sometimes work and sometimes don't. They can be the funniest part of the show, but the bad ones can make you groan. The Road Runner bits have some clever gag ideas, but are poorly timed, way too short and unappealingly designed. Wile E. Coyote, in particular, has been oversimplified and given a huge head and feet to go with a tiny, short body. He looks awkward, as does the CGI animation. These cartoons are not to be confused with the far superior recent theatrical CGI Road Runner shorts. No attempt has been made to retain the style of the Chuck Jones classics, and worst of all, they're slow as molasses. While most are only a minute or two long, watching one feels like an eternity. It's hard to screw up a Road Runner cartoon, but this show finally found a way. These cartoons SUCK.
The animation in the main part of the show is well done, and most of the new character designs work well when the animators adhere to them. The exception is Bugs, who just doesn't look like himself...particularly with his big head, stubby torso and strange feet. He's also colored with a shade of gray that looks purple much of the time. Bugs aside, the characters are expressive and the animation is decent.
The music in the opening titles, "Merrie Melodies" and "Road Runner" shorts is fantastic, but unfortunately underused elsewhere. There are many points in the show that have characters talking with no background music at all, and when the music IS there, it doesn't really enhance the action or comment on it the way Carl Stalling's scores in the classics did. It feels as if the orchestra did the great, jazzy renditions of "The Merry Go Round Broke Down" and the Road Runner TV show theme, and then just phoned the rest in.
The "Season 1, Volume 3" DVD itself doesn't have enough material on it for the viewer who has never seen the show to get a fully accurate look at it. With only 4 episodes and no bonus features, it doesn't provide enough bang for the buck. It feels like a cheat for Warner Bros. to release only 4 episodes at a time on full-price, single-disc compilations.
Overall, The Looney Tunes Show is entertaining and can be very funny, but it shoots itself in the foot by relying on a sitcom format which limits the potential we know these characters have. The voices are good, the animation is passable, the music and plots are lacking. If you're interested in seeing a different twist on the Looney Tunes characters and have an open mind, you might enjoy the show on Cartoon Network...but it's not a masterpiece of animated television, and definitely not worth wasting your money to own on expensive single-disc DVDs with only 4 episodes apiece.
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