Statistics Saturday: Actual Star Trek: The Next Generation Plots That Sound Like Parodies Of Star Trek: The Next Generation Plots


With thanks to my love for noticing this.

  • Aliens replace Captain Picard with a double who’d be perfect if not for his rousing drunken singalongs in the bar.
  • A historian from the future turns out to be a con artist from the past. Picard decides whether to risk saving a planet suffering from too much static electricity.
  • Data practices how to sneeze. Also he has an evil twin.
  • In an alternate timeline the Federation is doomed, but Guinan and Tasha Yar are great friends.
  • The transporter makes Picard twelve years old while space pirates take over the Enterprise.
  • A planet of extremely white scantily-clad sex partners wants to execute Wesley for tripping over a flower.
  • Worf has a crush on some fish-aliens, one of whom is Mick Fleetwood for some reason. Troi’s Mom hits on a holodeck bartender.
  • Riker’s the lead actor in Dr Crusher’s play! Also maybe crazy.
  • Worf gets dizzy whenever he falls into a parallel universe.
  • Dr Crusher gets a Ferengi scientist killed when she incorrectly diagnoses another alien as being dead.
  • Troi shows Mark Twain around the Enterprise. Picard pretends to lead a San Francisco theatrical company. (Emmy Award-winning episode, for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series.)
  • Worf finds a planet where Klingons and Romulans live together peacefully and puts a stop to that. Data has crazypants dreams.
  • Poker night holds the only key to escaping a spacetime anomaly.
  • Data makes friends with a little alien girl over his Space Ham Radio, so they save her planet.
  • It just so happens nobody had ever asked if Data was a person or a thing before making him third-in-command of the Federation flagship.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell three points, then rose three points and dropped another three points, just to see if it could get your attention from all the way over there in your peripheral vision.

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Betty Boop: So who’s this Freddy character anyway?


Last week’s Betty Boop cartoon, Betty Boop’s Life Guard, raised the musical question of “Where’s Freddy?” They put the question in a song that lasted only about two minutes on-screen but which can last in the head for as much as eight years straight. Sorry about that. But at least as good a question is “Who’s this Freddy person again, exactly?”

Freddy, or Fearless Fred, is Betty Boop’s second boyfriend, for a half-dozen cartoons in 1934 and 1935. It’s repeatedly claimed he was created because under the enforced Production Code Betty Boop couldn’t be dating Bimbo — a dog — once she was finally established as human. I suspect that’s not a complete answer, though. If the Fleischers just wanted Betty Boop to pair up with a human, why not Koko the Clown? He was unmistakably human, and had been on screen for fifteen years, and even canoodled a bit with Betty now and then. Or why not humanize Bimbo? Why add a new character?

My suspicion is that Freddy reflects the discovery of personality. Cartoon characters didn’t lack personality before the early 1930s, but they did tend to be less distinct. Bimbo is faintly pleasant, kind of playful, a little mischievous, easily intimidated: what you’d get from a talented high school theater class producing their very own Little Tramp sketch. You see almost the same personality as Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, as Bosko and then Foxy over at Warner Brothers. The biggest difference is in how much the characters seem like blackface jokes.

Soon, though, cartoon characters with personality started taking over. Betty Boop was a forerunner. Goofy appears in 1932; Popeye and his cast in 1933. Donald Duck would appear in 1934. They’re characters of a different order from Bimbo or even Koko. I believe that Fearless Freddy was an attempt to give Betty Boop, and the studio, a credible male lead who has character. And to support this I’d like to show the first cartoon with Fearless Freddy, She Wronged Him Right, which debuted the 5th of January, 1934.

His introductory cartoon is a theatrical performance. Fearless Freddy, Betty Boop, and Heeza Rat play out some versions of themselves. Two of his other appearances, Betty Boop’s Prize Show and No! No! A Thousand Times No!, his final appearance, would use the same framing device. The plot is the grand Spoof Victorian Melodrama of the sort we all thought was done to perfection by Dudley Do-Right. Perhaps it was; but the Spoof Victorian Melodrama was also being done very well in the 1930s, and in the silent movie era, and for that matter by the Victorians themselves.

At some point you have to wonder if the Victorian Melodrama was ever played straight. You wonder more once you learn that silent movie melodrama villains never tied women to railroad tracks. If you see one, it’s from a spoof. This cartoon is part of a curious genre that seems to exist only as a parody. There’s something weird here.

But you can see why a figure like Bimbo just won’t cut it for a Spoof Victorian Melodrama, and why even Koko wouldn’t do. The role has to be cast by someone who looks the part even as he looks ridiculous. Fearless Fred, helplessly dragged behind a horse, can make the best of his plight by declaring “I think I’ll go this way” and make sense. If Bimbo made the same declaration it would sound like the cartoon was nervous about nobody saying anything for too long.

The stage-set framing adds some weirdness to the look of the cartoon. Sets slide in and out, and people walk on the sets within a fixed proscenium. It’s more fun to watch than it probably would have been without the stage convention. Betty Boop’s Prize Show and No! No! A Thousand Times No! have even more fun with using stage mechanics to suggest complicated lines of motion and that’s a fun, dizzying, hypnotic illusion.

Outside his roles as a stage character Fearless Fred would play a lifeguard, a soldier (against an army of giant mosquitoes), and a traffic cop. They’re not far off the Spoof Victorian Melodrama hero-role and he’s affably not-quite-ept in them all. While he’s not as strong a character as (say) Wimpy, or even Gabby (from the Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels and some spinoff cartoons), he’s a good step forward. He doesn’t steal a scene from Betty Boop, but it’s at least thinkable that he might.

Popeye: Close Encounters of the Third Spinach


Previously:


I’d wanted to continue my little thread of Popeye-In-Space cartoons, but couldn’t think of another Famous Studios or, better, Fleischer Studios cartoon where he went into space. But then I remembered Famous, Fleischer, and even King Features weren’t all the animators of Popeye.

From 1978 to 1983 Popeye was a Saturday morning cartoon, as the All-New Popeye Hour and then The Popeye and Olive Show (a half-hour). In my youth I trusted that this was just as the world should be: of course they were regularly making new Popeye cartoons. In hindsight I realize this was part of Popeye‘s recessional from pop culture; after this (and of course the Robert Altman movie), there just wasn’t much left. A series called Popeye and Son was made in the late 80s, but I never saw an episode, and only ever encountered it as a video CD in Singapore. The comic strip was very briefly controversial when Bobby London did a string of abortion-touching jokes that would have been a dull week in Doonesbury, and since then despite occasional noble or crazy attempts to bring it back, the franchise has been mostly something for comic strip collectors or T-shirts you get at the boardwalk.

I haven’t seen episodes of the show since, well, eating Popeye’s fried chicken while in Singapore — the Popeye’s in the airport was regularly showing episodes on the TV, so the kids had something to watch — or the early 80s and so none came to mind, but an episode guide identified one that had to be space-related, and thus, I went looking for “Close Encounters Of The Third Spinach”. The only version I could find of it is dubbed into Finnish because, of course. Why not? I’m including it anyway because I think there’s enough to watch in the animation itself that it’s not distracting to have to guess at what the characters are saying to one another.

As the title implies — and why not “Close Encounters Of The Spinach Kind”, anyway? — this cartoon is a parody of Star Wars. I still think that’s neat, though; in the past 35 years the parody or homage or imitation of Star Wars has practically become a genre in itself, and seeing how it was done before most of those parodies were is enlightening — for example, while the trash compactor scene makes the cut, there’s nothing even remotely near the trench run. I can’t imagine a cartoon making that decision about what to do and what not to today.

I also like the casting: Poopdeck Pappy makes a sensible Obi-Wan, and Wimpy in the Han Solo role is a good joke. Because of the dubbing I am not sure who’s cast as the robot. The obvious candidates would be Swee’pea and Eugene the Jeep, and while Eugene makes the more logical choice for the kind of magical otherworldly creature that the robot has to be, he’s not really one to deliver dialogue. On the other hand, that also makes Eugene an even more natural R2.

As for the animation, well, the character designs are good enough, and many of the settings, particularly the Bluto/Death Star, are amusing. But the animation is the routine circa-1980 Hanna-Barbera staging, competently done without ever really excelling. It’s not a disaster, but it is coasting on one’s built-up love for Popeye (and, I guess, Star Wars) for its appeal. Popeye In Space should be more inspired.

Finley Peter Dunne: “Sherlock Holmes”


Here’s a bit from Finley Peter Dunne — Mister Dooley — in Observations By Mr. Dooley. It amuses me, besides its basic funniness, for spoofing the Sherlock Holmes stories right about when they were still being written. I can’t find just when this particular essay was composed, but the book was published in 1902 or possibly 1903.

Dorsey an’ Dugan are havin’ throuble,” said Mr. Hennessy.

“What about?” asked Mr. Dooley.

“Dorsey,” said Mr. Hennessy, “says Dugan stole his dog. They had a party at Dorsey’s an’ Dorsey heerd a noise in th’ back yard an’ wint out an’ see Dugan makin’ off with his bull tarryer.”

“Ye say he see him do it?”

“Yis, he see him do it.”

“Well,” said Mr. Dooley, “‘twud baffle th’ injinooty iv a Sherlock Holmes.”

“Who’s Sherlock Holmes?”

Continue reading “Finley Peter Dunne: “Sherlock Holmes””