Cathode Ray Mission: KUNG FU DINO POSSE (2010)

CanTV expert Cameron Archer navigates the often inhospitable landscape of Canadian television for the CATHODE RAY MISSION, our regular blog column that highlights some of Canadian television’s most offbeat offerings.

I don’t usually talk about recent Canadian shows for this column, since they either aren’t obscure yet, haven’t proven their worth to a worldwide audience or simply don’t belong on Canuxploitation. However, KUNG FU DINO POSSE (CITV, 2010- ) does — it’s a Canadian cartoon that is persona non grata to Canadian television, despite recieving many tax credits. Sadly, KUNG FU DINO POSSE,  which has a 2009 copyright date, is worse than its name implies.

The Basic Formula

Four anthropomorphic dinosaurs — tyrannohuman Kane (Matthew Gorman), tricerahuman Lucy (Laura Kolisnyk), pteranohuman Jet (Brent Hirose), and stegohuman Chow (Nolan Balzer) — are revived in a present-day city. They know kung fu (of course), and they live and work in a museum. Two humans, Edgar Chudley (Simon Miron) and Polly (Amy Tang), help the Kung Fu Dino Posse in their battles against the evil Skor (Carey Smith) and Skrap (Kevin Michele) .

The overall premise is a variation on EXTREME DINOSAURS (syndicated, 1996) and DINO SQUAD (CBS/KEWLopolis, 2007-09), in which good dinosaurs fight a villain, usually a raptor. For KUNG FU DINO POSSE, the lead villains, Skor and Skrap, are called “raptors”, but they’re actually dilophohumans. No matter, KUNG FU DINO POSSE throws lampshades on things like “accuracy.”

The Weird Bits

It’s a TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (Syndicated, 1987-93; CBS, 1990-96; 4Kids TV/The CW4Kids, 2003-09; Nickelodeon, 2012- ) variant, in 2009. The show’s creator is Peter M. Lenkov, who’s better known in television for the HAWAII FIVE-0 revival (CBS, 2010- ), and CSI: NY (CBS, 2004- ). Lenkov’s other recent cartoon is METAJETS, which Teletoon officially debuted in fall 2011. While METAJETS has bounced on and off Teletoon’s schedule for a few years, no one in Canada has touched KUNG FU DINO POSSE. It’s never a good sign when a completed show — of forty episodes — can’t find an immediate home in its originating country.

From what I’ve seen of KUNG FU DINO POSSE  (i.e., one and a half episodes; any more would be torture) it’s a show that knows it’s stupid. Unfortunately, KUNG FU DINO POSSE lets you know how postmodern it is, as the show constantly sends itself up. KUNG FU DINO POSSE covers up its brainfarts by coughing every single minute.

Let’s Attempt to Watch

First up is a Cookie Jar Entertainment teaser for the series. Keep in mind, this show compares itself to TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES and JUSTICE LEAGUE (Cartoon Network, 2001-04; Cartoon Network, 2004-06 as JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED). KUNG FU DINO POSSE throws rocks at men with machine guns.

In the next clip, take note of the choppy animation. That’s not YouTube dropping frames. Dutchboyasaurus–see what I mean about the send-ups? Imagine this five-minute clip expanded to four times its length. That’s KUNG FU DINO POSSE. I realize this is entertainment for grade-school children, but KUNG FU DINO POSSE will likely hold up the way HAMMERMAN (ABC, 1991) holds up in 2012.

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Cathode Ray Mission: THE JELLYBEAN ODYSSEY/THE ODYSSEY (1992-1994)

CanTV expert Cameron Archer navigates the often inhospitable landscape of Canadian television for the CATHODE RAY MISSION, our regular blog column that highlights some of Canadian television’s most offbeat offerings.

CBC fielded a unique children’s television series in 1992. It was an ambitious, intelligently-written series — intellectual enough for adults to enjoy, yet action-oriented enough to keep viewer interest. It stood in diametrical opposition from fare like BABAR (CBC, 1989-91), THE RACCOONS (1985-91) and STREET CENTS (1989-2006.)

Also, it focused around a coma victim’s fantasy life.

That reads like the most obvious candidate for cancellation, doesn’t it? Usually, it would be, but THE ODYSSEY (CBC, 1992-94) is not the average CBC children’s series.

The Basic Formula

In the pilot, initially titled THE JELLYBEAN ODYSSEY, main character Jay Ziegler (Illya Woloshyn) offers his father’s telescope as a membership fee to join a club of kids that meets in a tree fort. The tree fort club’s bullying leader, Keith (Tony Sampson), denies Jay membership but takes the telescope anyways. With the aid of disabled friend Donna (Ashleigh Aston Moore d/b/a Ashley Rogers)–whom he snubbed in order to enter the tree-fort club–Jay attempts to retrieve his father’s telescope but instead falls out of the tree,  hits his head, and lapses into a coma.

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Cathode Ray Mission: THREE DEAD TROLLS IN A BAGGIE (1992)

 CanTV expert Cameron Archer navigates the often inhospitable landscape of Canadian television for the CATHODE RAY MISSION, our regular blog column that highlights some of Canadian television’s most offbeat offerings.

So, you’re a sketch comedy troupe. You’re not from Toronto, Vancouver or Newfoundland, yet you’ve found your way onto a national network, CBC Television. You’re even part of CBC Television’s efforts to prove it knows comedy beyond CBC Radio stalwarts like ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FARCE and DOUBLE EXPOSURE, and failed sitcoms like MOSQUITO LAKE. Sound outlandish? It wasn’t such a far-fetched idea near the end of February 1992, when THREE DEAD TROLLS IN A BAGGIE (CBC, 1992) debuted.

The basic formula
THREE DEAD TROLLS IN A BAGGIE  is essentially the Edmonton version of THE KIDS IN THE HALL (CBC, 1988-94). The troupe performs risqué humour in the KitH style. Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie are longstanding Edmonton fringe theatre regulars, so CBC obviously expected THREE DEAD TROLLS to succeed.

Each episode consists of sketches, musical bits, and monochromatic blue transitions, as performed by troupe members here are Neil Grahn, Joe Bird, Wes Borg, and Cathleen Rootsaert. “Mr.” Frank van Keeken is an added attraction…inasmuch as van Keeken was an attraction, in 1992.

The weird bits
This was the era of THE KIDS IN THE HALL, CODCO and COMICS! In that light, there’s nothing weird about this show. THREE DEAD TROLLS IN A BAGGIE has a heavy fringe flavour, and is about in line with what CBC Television aired in 1992.

At the same time, 1992-era CBC looks strange in 2012. Granted, Lorne Michaels outright handed CBC THE KIDS IN THE HALL, and CODCO‘s roots date back to the early 1970s, but CBC actually built around those two shows. I miss that era. I accept that it’s not coming back.

Let’s Watch
“Part two” of the second episode.THREE DEAD TROLLS, by and large, is studio-bound. Compared to THE KIDS IN THE HALL, which benefits from Lorne Michaels’ backing, and elaborately-produced location segments, THREE DEAD TROLLS is a lower-budget affair.


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Cathode Ray Mission: OVIDE AND THE GANG (1987-88)

While we here at Canuxploitation have always been firmly focused on theatrical tax shelter oddities and straight-to-video schlock, we’ve always had a soft spot for our film industry’s small screen cousin, the often inhospitable landscape of Canadian television.  That’s why we’re introducing CATHODE RAY MISSION, a new column by CanTV expert Cameron Archer, whose boob tube scribblings have appeared on sites including TV, eh? , Canadian Animation Resources and other assorted publications (including his own blog). Each entry of CATHODE RAY MISSION will highlight some of Canadian television’s more offbeat offerings, featuring video, commentary and lots of bad memories dredged up from the bottom of your consciousness.

OVIDE AND THE GANG (1987-88), like many Canadian animated television cartoons of its era, was shuttered to weekend television’s non-peak hours during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Unlike Cookie Jar and Nelvana, who can easily fling C.L.Y.D.E., MY PET MONSTER, and THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN on This TV, qubo and/or Teletoon Retro, CinéGroupe’s productions are harder to come by in reruns.

Maybe that’s just as well. OVIDE AND THE GANG (LA BANDE À OVIDE in French-speaking areas, like Quebec) — was an odd platypus. The Canada/Belgium co-production was created by Belgian cartoonist Bernard Godisiabois, better known by his pseudonym Godi, and fellow Belgian Nicolas Broca. Nic Broca, a cartoonist and animator, helped develop 1980s Hanna-Barbera/SEPP cartoon property, THE SNORKS.

The Basic Formula
A typical OVIDE AND THE GANG episode features Ovide, a blue platypus in a green hat. Ovide and his friends – Saffron the fatter yellow platypus/cook, Groaner the white toucan/pun-lover, and Polo the red lizard/janitor–live in Paradise, an ersatz Australia. Ovide’s main enemy is Cy Sly, the purple python who wants to take over Paradise for…greed’s sake, I suppose. Cy’s motives are never quite clear.

Addle-brained henchman Bobo hangs around with Cy, calling Cy “boss.” Wikipedia identifies Bobo as a Keel-billed toucan, though I have my doubts. Koala versions of the three wise monkeys, named Doe, Rae, and Mi in the English dub (Ko, A and La in the French dub), appear on the show sometimes. Literal woodworm Woody pisses Polo enough for Polo to futilely chase after it. Later episodes establish Matilda, a boomerang-wielding kangaroo.

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