Cartoon Graveyard: Feet of Clay

December 30, 2009

Why animate? Why make the decision that a movie, TV show, music video or what-have-you needs to be presented through drawings, stop-motion, or CGI? There are plenty of reasons one might choose – visual styles and images that can’t be plausibly created in live action, striking a certain silly tone, wanting to make sure your younger actors don’t age out of their characters. But all too often it comes down to a less-than-compelling reason: because it’s cheap. Why pay for actors, sets, and props when you can just hire an animation studio to make the whole thing? Alas, cheapness is the only plausible reason for the existence of this week’s entry, which gives new meaning to the word “inessential.”

Title: Glenn Martin, D.D.S.
Network: Nickelodeon (Nick at Nite)
Premise: Boring family has boring adventures in their boring RV.

I fear I’ve tipped my hand a bit. Let me start again from a more neutral position. This show is about the titular dentist, who embarks on a cross-country road trip with his family, including his irritable wife, wussy son and argh I can’t do this. I’m running into the same problem I had with 6teen: the characters are so bland and one-note that I can barely remember anything about them. Look, do you remember the Robin Williams movie RV? Probably not, but even having never seen it I can pretty much predict that Glenn Martin, D.D.S. is like a claymation serialization of that movie. Will I bother to find out if I’m right? Hell no. That’s how little I care about this show.

Glenn Martin the movie, probably.

What’s more interesting to me is the aura of mystery that surrounds this show’s very existence. Why would Nick at Nite want an original series? Why now? Why this? Why a dentist in an RV? It’s baffling. Nick at Nite has always survived, nay thrived, on the predictable but comforting sitcom reruns of yesteryear. It’s what you watch when you’re old and nostalgic, or young and hungover. But all of a sudden they’re running Malcolm in the Middle and Everybody Hates Chris, which may not be revolutionary but are at least a bit more surreal than the channel is used to. And out of freaking nowhere comes a claymation series that the network is actually promoting as its own show. Maybe they thought they’d pull an AMC and shock the world with their excellent original series surrounding their usual hooey. Of course, the idea that a predictable sitcom about a dysfunctional clay family would be their (or anyone’s) Mad Men is ridiculous (look at me, I’m ridiculing it!) yet there it sits, running regularly after Nickelodeon signs off. It’s a conundrum.

Even more confusing: that title. Who in their right mind thinks that prominently identifying the main character as a dentist is going to draw people into a show? Though I guess if the rest of the title is just “Glenn Martin,” then anything short of a coat of beige paint is going to liven it up. I’ve never understood the point of titling a show with just its main character’s name, but it worked for Perry Mason and Barney Miller, so what do I know? Incidentally, typing Glenn Martin and Barney Miller in quick succession gets me ever closer to mistaking this show for a claymation Glenn Miller show, which would be awesome. But I digress. The point is, the occupation of dentistry might make for a funny sitcom, but it almost never comes up in the show, other than as an excuse for the family RV to have humorously oversized dental equipment on top. In most cases, mentioning an occupation in the title of a piece of entertainment entails dealing with that occupation in some depth, such as House, M.D., or Ninja Assassin, or Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector. But no. If anyone is actually craving a claymation sitcom about a wacky dentist, they’re going to be sorely disappointed.

If this looks like something you want to stare at for a half-hour, more power to you.

All in all, this really isn’t a bad show. It’s got jokes, even if most of them are recycled or just not funny. It’s not offensive or insulting. It’s just not significant in any way other than the strangeness of its existence at all. So if you want to laugh half-heartedly at an utterly conventional sitcom populated by really ugly claymation chracters, be my guest.

Final Judgment: Maybe this isn’t such a bad fit for Nick at Nite after all.


One comment

  1. Why? Because this show was created by Michael Eisner, and if you are Michael Eisner, you don’t have to answer that question when you pitch your show. You just say, “We are doing this,” and it happens. Writers get hired and your thoughts become a thing. The show was made independently because Eisner said so, then sold to a network from sheer force of will. Because if you are Michael Eisner, eventually someone will buy your show that exists because you decreed it. And if no one else wants your show, Nick at Nite will take it because it exists and has been made and someone has to buy Michael Eisner’s show, after all he made it already.

    Nothing wrong with shows named after the character though. Beats a lame pun every time. It doesn’t try too hard. If the show is good, the title will seem fine.

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