Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Day Two - Phineas and Ferb: Season 1, Episode 1, or "I know what we're going to do today!"

While I'm in my thirties, I'd like to think I've remained a child at heart when it comes to enjoying the little things in life. It is with that in mind that I readily admit that I am a fan of several smart kid's shows.

One of them is Phineas and Ferb.

The basic setup relies on two stories that interweave throughout each 15-minute episode.

The prime storyline usually revolves around the eponymous step-brothers, both creative and engineering geniuses, and the crazily over-scaled inventions they create... and their prudish sister who is always trying to get them in trouble for the dangerous and impossible things they get up to.

The B-story that often runs in the background deals with their pet, Perry the Platypus, who is really an anthropomorphic super-spy and is the nemesis of the evil super scientist Dr. Heinz Doofenschmirtz. Dr. D often has some ridiculous scheme to take over the Tri-State Area (where the show most often takes place) and it is Perry's job to thwart him comically.

This first episode, which includes the pilot and the first regular episode bundled together in the show's regular two-segment format, deal with a city-spanning "Best Rollercoaster Ever!" and a birthday trip to Mount Rushmore where the boys plan to give their sister, Candace, a surprise.

Of course the pilot is both inspired and rough, as most tend to be. You can tell the occasional CGI bits immediately as they don't gel quite right with the art style yet, but it doesn't detract from the show. It also contains all the important introductions. Not everyone from the eventual regular cast is introduced yet, though most of the core members are there.

Phineas and Ferb are set up nicely, as is Candace, though you can tell Vincent Martella (who voices Phineas) hadn't reached his majority yet when doing the early episodes. It's something that always bugs me when I go back to the old episodes, but isn't a huge distraction. This is also where Perry, Major Monogram, and Heinz are introduced. The main thing with them in the pilot that makes me happy is that several mainstay gags (like Heinz saying one thing ironically, as super villains are wont to do, then contradicting it) were there from the beginning.

While the rollercoaster bit is decent, especially for a pilot, it also lacks a certain amount of cohesion with the world. Though several series spanning set-up gags (like the, "Aren't you a little young..." bits) are there, the show as a whole has become known for its wacky creativity (see Disco Dancing Queen if you're interested) that just isn't there for the pilot.

The second epsiode, though, you can see the beginnings of that creativity beginning to take hold. This is most evident when it comes to the brief montage as Candace and Mom are walking their way from the gift shop to the viewing platform where the boys spend small moments doing weird things with pickaxes and jackhammers. It's creative, but also sometimes too much of a stretch such that it doesn't seem natural, even through the cartoony physics. The part that loses me is the nose bit with the pickaxes.

Still, it's a fun episode that does several things: reinforces the love/hate relationship (mostly hate) between Heinz and Perry, actually gives a decent introduction to Jeremy* (Candace's main love interest and eventual boyfriend), adds Isabella's Fireside Girls to the background cast, and features Richard O'Brien (of Rocky Horror fame) as Step-father Lawrence.

I also like this episode due to the fact that, even though it was the second episode, it featured Candace's first rare turnaround where she goes from wanting to get her brothers in trouble to thinking the result of their machinations is sweet and worthy of praise. It doesn't happen all that often, maybe less than a dozen times over the whole run of the series, and it shocked me that they did it so quickly into show, but it's still nice.

Overall, the first two episodes of Phineas and Ferb are among the weakest of the series, but still contain a good portion of the spark that interested me in the show to begin with. It's definitely worth having in your queue if you're a fan of quirky and creative television and is especially good for families to enjoy together as there's something there for kids, adults, and adults-who-are-kids-at-heart.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

* - It should be noted that Jeremy is mentioned by Candace in the pilot episode and it is implied that he is the one manning the burger booth the boys and their friends meet during the rollercoaster sequence, but he lacks his typical chill attitude, sounding more like an arrogant teenager in a dull job than the nice guy that regular watchers have come to know and love.

This portrayal shifts dramatically in the second half of the episode. While he has the same character design and is voiced by the same actor, Jeremy is much friendlier and approachable, both in his job and overall.

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