By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
And apart from the pot, and some unusually clever, gag-enhancing camerawork, there's not much new: The pilot was a variation on a Wonder Years episode, some of the naughtier jokes have an almost contractual tang (Fox will be Fox), and if you haven't seen these characters elsewhere 50 times before, you've been trying hard not to look - but I don't mind it at all. The universally charming younger cast members may be forgiven their anomalous post-Bicentennial speech patterns and body language, as most of them weren't yet born in 1976, the year the show takes place; Grace and Prepon have believable, attractive chemistry; and Tanya Roberts, once a Charlie's Angel and now a sexy mother, is funnier even than the idea of casting her. And, really, what else are you going to do between The Simpsons and The X-Files? Get stoned?
Sentimentally as plausible as That '70s Show, though it is an actual cartoon and set in a world of living machines in which the merest toothbrush is sentient, is Rolie Polie Olie, a new computer-animated series produced for the Disney Channel by Canada's Nelvana Ltd. in concert with France's Metal Hurlant. Brightly colored and psychedelically luminous, the show concerns the ordinary adventures of 6-year-old Polie Olie and his robot nuclear family, his dog, Spot, and a lot of especially helpful furniture, and is designed and co-commanded by William Joyce, author and illustrator of Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures With the Family Lazardo and A Day With Wilbur Robinson; like those books, it is steeped in '30s style, from its retro-futuristic design and "boy howdy" lingo to its early-swing soundtrack and Betty Boop anthropomorphism. (There are Disney references as well: Olie's two-button shorts; a recurring white-glove motif.) The final look of the show, perhaps because of the exigencies and effects of digital animation, is less suggestive of Joyce's own line and palette then it is of a cross between the work of David "Miss Spider" Kirk and Rodney Alan Greenblat, with perhaps a touch of the Timbertoes, but that is hardly a bad thing.
"Happiness," sang Donovan back before the day, "runs in a circular motion," which might be the motto of this curvy, sphereocentric, computer-plotted world, spatially persuasive and geometrically consistent, well-cushioned and wonderfully benign. Though the playlets are not empty of tension, they pose no problems that can't be resolved in the space of a seven-minute episode (three of which make a show), and though the stories are modest - like chapters in a kids' primer in which the possibilities of plot are limited by the extent of the vocabulary - they are, under the extraterrestrial trimmings, true to simple kid stuff and family dynamics, notwithstanding a certain Ward-June creepiness about the parental units. The pictures, meanwhile, pulse with peripheral action, and what would be the camera - if a camera came into the process at all - gyres and gimbles through artificial real space with balletic grace, executing tracking shots Martin Scorsese sees only in his dreams. The giant brains of the 30th century may look back and shrug, but permit me, please, my primitive amazement.
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