Anonus Watches Fish Police

edited 2014-09-24 00:32:42 in Liveblogs
In 1989, the fledgling Fox network struck gold with The Simpsons, which needs no introduction. At the time, though, it was groundbreaking - un-slick, un-corporate in its feel, very different from any other cartoon on the air at the time. It paved the way in challenging the notion that animation was just for kids, for it had intelligence and a cynical sense of humor, and it wasn't a product of any of the cartoon mills that churned out cartoons like commodities.

A few years later, one of the aforementioned cartoon mills, the once-mighty Hanna-Barbera, developed a cartoon based on the comic Fish Police and sold it to CBS. H-B was experiencing creative doldrums at the time - the studio was coming off of the ill-fated Yo Yogi!, a failed attempt to update several of the studio's classic characters for the '90s that ended up dinging their commercial viability badly. The studio hadn't developed a hit cartoon since The Smurfs, which was based on a property the studio didn't even create or own. For a studio that was once a hitmaker (e.g. Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!), this was a sad turn of events. Fish Police is an infamous flop, and I'm here to see if it's really that bad.

Comments

  • I've learned to tolerate drama...except on the boat
    (as an aside: yes, I am aware that The Flintstones was an adult cartoon at its outset, but over the course of its run it got softer and softer in its tone. It is still considered family viewing, but it didn't do nearly as much to challenge the cartoons-are-just-for-kids mentality as The Simpsons did)
  • I've learned to tolerate drama...except on the boat
    The show's very first episode opens with, of course, the show's intro. The show's actors - even the unknown-to-average-people voice acting giant Frank Welker - are all listed here, as is the theme song's composer, James Horner. I imagine this is meant to give the show a more "cinematic" feeling. Inspector Gil, the show's title character, narrates, "if New York is the melting pot, then Fish City can only be described as the bouillabaisse. Trust me. Being a good cop in a bad town can be murder." Gil enters the police station, and we pan up to the show's logo.

    Now onto the actual episode. We see a casino called "Shell Shack", whose sign is panned down from as the episode's title, "THE SHELL GAME" fades in. A crowd of fish reporters hover around a corpse outline, and Inspector Gil knocks several of them out of the way. He displays his badge, a little starfish, in a moment reminiscent of The Flintstones's prehistoric animal technology. He introduces himself in a moment calling attention to the wonky sound mixing - Hanna-Barbera has long been infamous for miserliness, but they seemed to REALLY be pinching pennies in the early '90s.
  • I've learned to tolerate drama...except on the boat
    The show's backgrounds and character designs are technically competent. They do look typical of cartoon mill product of the era, and miss part of The Simpsons's appeal.
  • I've learned to tolerate drama...except on the boat
    We get a series of bad fish puns, and we see the murder victim in a can of sardines. He's been hit with a brick, and a table, and a lead pipe, and a bullet from a .32 automatic. Gil says "so you suspect foul play" to the coroner, and he retorts with "no, natural causes."

    Man this show is boring. These fish people are technically competent but hideous.
  • I've learned to tolerate drama...except on the boat
    As the police fish moves away from the sardine can, a taxi cab zooms by, turns, and crashes into two other cars. Out comes its driver, a crab. The animation of the taxi cab zooming and crashing is not very well-timed.

    The crab opens one of the back doors. Out comes a female fish, Angel, who is supposed to be sexy. Gil rambles some more inner monologue - during which the murder victim, Clams Casino, is identified by his name. On Angel, "a great detective once said, 'she's the kind of fish you took home to mother. If mother didn't like her, the hell with mother.' Angel used to work for me, sort of a Fish Friday, but trust me, she always had plenty left over for Saturday and Sunday."

    This show is trash. I'm sorry, H-B, but you dun goofed here.
  • edited 2014-09-24 01:07:49
    I've learned to tolerate drama...except on the boat
    I imagine the original comic was either not that great to begin with or hacked to hell into its final slightly-edgier Saturday morning cartoon form.

    The crab goes on a tirade about how "calimari", who has grabbed Angel and whisked her into the Shell Shack, had something to do with Clams's death, and should be taken downtown so he can be grilled. God I hate all the fish puns in this thing. This is seriously what Hanna-Barbera came up with as an "adult" cartoon? To steal a turn of phrase from an early (and overly harsh) critic of The Flintstones, Quick Draw McGraw is more adult than this.
  • she's the kind of fish you took home to mother. If mother didn't like her, the hell with mother

    Nah, this is actually a decent line, as long as you replace fish with dame
  • I've learned to tolerate drama...except on the boat
    I have no idea why the mixing on the voice tracks is so poor. They have a noticeable echo effect, and it makes the show feel chintzy - not as if the material is great anyway, but it's just that much worse thanks to this.

    Gil demands that the bouncer bring Calimari out to be taken to the police station for questioning. He then swims over to another area and finds fin-prints that he feels to belong to a 52-year-old female. His assistant, Tab, was introduced earlier and reappears here to collect the evidence. For some reason, Gil and Tab tend to speak in unison. Unfortunately, Tab collects Gil's badge as well, and swims off with the evidence. How does scooping up sand as evidence work? Does it have DNA in it or something?
  • I've learned to tolerate drama...except on the boat

    she's the kind of fish you took home to mother. If mother didn't like her, the hell with mother

    Nah, this is actually a decent line, as long as you replace fish with dame

    It just feels out of place in this show, a Saturday morning cartoon trying feebly to be mature
  • edited 2014-09-24 01:18:20
    This case is closed.
    Anonus said:

    I have no idea why the mixing on the voice tracks is so poor. They have a noticeable echo effect, and it makes the show feel chintzy - not as if the material is great anyway, but it's just that much worse thanks to this.

    I noticed that too when I was watching it. It makes even the lines that could be funny come off as cold and distant.
  • edited 2014-09-24 01:24:35
    I've learned to tolerate drama...except on the boat
    So we cut to a scene where Calimari and his bouncer have the crab bound and gagged and conspire to boil him alive. In that pose, the crab looks a lot like Sebastian from The Little Mermaid. H-B has been known to crib from pop culture to varying degrees, but come on.

    We transition to Pearl's Diner. Gil's inner monologue tells us that, although he has feelings for Pearl, the fact that Pearl wants to marry him is bad, as he only wants her part-time. John Ritter didn't do a very good job as the voice of Gil. His voice isn't very distinct - the best cartoon voices are distinct and immediately recognizable. This show wasn't bound to be a classic anyway, but this is one of the factors that did it in.

    The animation as Pearl chastises Gil is kind of jerky at times - not to mention Pearl having an awkward design. This thing looks eerily like a forebear of Shark Tale. The echo on the voice tracks seems to have stopped.
  • I've learned to tolerate drama...except on the boat
    Gil can't articulate how he feels about Pearl, but all the great couples talk like him, he says - Fred and Wilma (the long H-B tradition of self-shout-outs continues here), Kermit and Miss Piggy, Rocky and Bullwinkle (uh)...

    The crab bursts into the diner, shouting at his driver as he enters. Pearl asks "how does he stay so cheery," to which Gil responds "high-fiber diet." Gil asks Crab (his name is Crab) what he thinks of the murder of Clams Casino, which is in a newspaper. Gil has pointed at the picture of Angel, and Crab responds that if he thought about that, he wouldn't be able to walk sideways for a month (lol boner).
  • YOUR TELEPHONE IS LINKED TO MY WEAPON SYSTEMS
    Clams Casino
    w...what
  • I've learned to tolerate drama...except on the boat
    Crab tells us that 20 years prior, Clams ran a racket with Calimari, and that Angel's probably got something to do with Clams's murder. Pearl accuses Gil of having had sexual relations with Angel, but Gil replies that he and Angel are just pals, buddies, amigos, a bit of dialogue that sounds stunningly like a latter-day animated movie. The low point that Hanna-Barbera hit in the early '90s is now par for the course for American animated cinema. That's horrifying.
  • edited 2014-09-24 01:44:16
    I've learned to tolerate drama...except on the boat
    At the police station, a clerk picks up the phone and asks the caller what makes them think their husband's dead. They got into bed and there was no response - the police department's gonna need a lot more than that (lol hoary domestic humor). She suggests to the caller that she reach for his wallet - if he doesn't move, she's a widow. I am seriously writing this down?

    Tad, it turns out his name is, delivers a disguise to an undercover cop, an inflatable clamshell with eyes. The characters' heads bob when they speak. It was an innovation Hanna-Barbera themselves introduced to keep their limited animation interesting in the early years of the studio, but this trope has lurched on for decades, even as more liveliness was introduced to TV animation, for god knows what reason. Its presence here is kind of jarring, honestly.
  • I've learned to tolerate drama...except on the boat
    The police chief is in his office, drinking coffee, which he gags on. Turns out he was gagging on a half-used cigar, which he decides to resume smoking. Gil's come in late - the chief is counting on him to catch those who murder innocent fish. He also shouldn't come in late even one more time, for he will get cranky if he does. His wife doesn't like him being cranky, his kids don't like him being cranky, Gil's co-workers don't like him being cranky...

    The chief slams his door, revealing his name to be Abalone. I cannot say this enough, this is a dull fucking show.
  • THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS
    Wow, SpongeBob sounds more adult than this. :(
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