The Couch: Cosmic Quantum Ray

It’s time for another installment of The Couch. Today we look at one of the first shows to air on The Hub, the science themed animated sci-fi comedy Cosmic Quantum Ray.

Cosmic Quantum Ray premiered on October 10, 2010 on Hub Network, and ended on December 9, 2010 with 26 episodes. It was produced by Moonscoop, Mike Young Productions, Method Films, and Telegael Torenta. The series had reruns on The Hub until November 4, 2013.
Although produced by Germany’s KI.KA and France’s M6, the show was written in English, the writing supervised by Head Writers/Co-producers and Emmy winners Pamela Hickey and Dennys McCoy. In 2009, the series beat out Nickelodeon, Disney and Cartoon Network to win the Pulcinella Award for BEST TV SERIES. The series was created by cosmologist Dr. Mani Bhaumik. Hickey and McCoy based all their stories on principles and theories from quantum physics, with Dr. Bhaumik literally providing the math.
 
 
Cosmic Quantum Ray was billed as a bizarre comedy/sci-fi adventure (emphasis on “bizarre comedy”) that, at the end of each episode, explained the quantum physics associated with a story and/or physical gags found within the series.
CQR centered on Everyteen Robbie Shipton, an average kid with an average life and a fairly hot seemingly single real estate agent mom, who through means which were never explained, possessed a shoe box leading to the 9th Dimension (the point in space-time of uncertainty, probability, possibility and chaos wherein we can compare all the possible universes’ histories starting with all the different possible laws of physics and initial conditions, according to some string theorists). Sound weird? Well, Dexter has a super-advanced high-tech science laboratory with TARDIS-like diemsnions within the bowels of his ordinary suburban home, and Lydia Deetz is best friends with a gross con-artist ghost from the Neitherworld. So why not a shoe box leading to the 9th Dimension? Said shoe box is also the home of intergalactic superhero Quantum Ray, leader of a band of sci-fi weirdo do-gooders known as Team Quantum, dedicated to upholding Natural Law throughout the cosmos or something similar, with Robbie in tow as the Eager Young Space Cadet, fighting such space and science themed baddies as a body-snatching spore, a haughty space worm who would make portable wormholes (get it?), a purple skinned mad scientist and his nagging mother who was trapped in the body of a hamster, an indestructible surfer dude who rode a gamma ray powered surfboard and a pair of militant military squirrels. Team Quantum consisted of:
  • Quantum Ray himself is the leader of Team Quantum, but in truth he’s captain of the team in the same manner that Arthur “Big Guy” Carlson was in charge of the radio station on WKRP in Cincinnati. Ray is a big muscular man-child of a superhero, sort of a cross between The Tick and SpongeBob Squarepants. (The latter comparison in particularly ironic, since Ray was also voiced by Tom Kenny). Ray was a cosmic being from the 9th Dimension. He is brave, determined and occasionally clever, though he sometimes comes off as a bit “flaky” or “weird” – but he’s just thinking “differently” than we 3-dimensional creatures, as his mind occupies 6 additional dimensions. He possessed a uniquely bizarre but still kind of kick-ass super power set: As a being from the 9th dimension, not all of Ray’s body can be seen – his elbows, knees and midriff are all in “higher” dimensions (we can’t see them, but Ray can). Ray’s body parts can also be detached at times when called for; he is held together by a cosmic essence of unknown origin that only Ray or other higher dimensional beings can see. As a 9th dimensional man, Ray can also see celestial objects and scientific phenomena that 3-dimensional beings cannot, like P-branes and tesseracts. Ray was also super-strong, able to fly and he could also control and change his atoms into any inorganic material he wants: he can turn to titanium, diamond, rubber, brick, iron, gold, and silver – anything he needs to get the “hero job” done. As a higher dimensional being, Quantum Ray sometimes forgets that not everyone occupies several planes of time, space and reality simultaneously, not everybody’s appendages are modular, and that most people have to obey the basic laws of physics. He referred to Robbie as his “young sidekick” and his tagline was “Halt! In the name of Natural Law!”
  • Atee and Geecee are a pair of super-cute pint-sized, green-skinned, pointy-eared, hovering teenage twin alien honeys from the planet Tooferwun –a planet where everyone is a twin (and you used to wonder where we came from) therefore they count as a single member of Team Quantum. Identical in appearance, the only way to tell them apart was by their costumes and demeanor: Atee, who wore a pink costume, was sweet-voiced and dainty, whereas Geecee, who wore a baby blue costume, was gravelly voiced and scrappy. The twins were the lead-footed pilots of the ship, knowing only 2 speeds: fast and faster. They were also lazy, declining to perform any other duties with their line, “We’re pilots. We don’t do (whatever additional task they were asked to perform).” In addition to the ability to hover and fly (the twins are seen floating more often than walking), the twins have a superpower that only works when they combine their bodies together to form “Double Helix” – a large band of super-strong, super-elastic DNA that can catch, launch or catapult villains, dangerous objects (like out of control meteorites) – or even their fellow teammates. The twins generate their “Double Helix” ability through the soles of their feet as a sort of contrail, and they control the helixes by flying around. The twins’ “Double Helix” power is activated when they touch each other and speak the phrase, “Two for one, we’re double fun! We’re Double Helix!” (It was unclear if this phrase was necessary or just a habit of theirs. Physical contact, however, is required. If the two are out of reach of each other, they are unable to activate their power.) Their one weakness is separation. They are “connected” on a quantum level…should they be separated they would be powerless. And if they are separated for a very long period of time… they could cease to exist as we know them (but being quantum, we’re not quite sure what they would become). Being teenagers, Atee and Geecee seemed to have a mild crush on Robbie, they were definitely ga-ga over his hair, as they tried to touch it, snip it or sample it in just about every episode. Their names didn’t just sound science fiction-y, they were also a reference to the components of a DNA molecule: Adenine Thymine (Atee) and Guanine Cytosine (Geecee).
  • Bucketworth was a bronze plated sentient robot and the brains of the team. Luminously intelligent, educated and refined, he was designed with a mustache, bow tie and a monocle from which he could project holographic images. Bucketworth acted as the sarcastic Mr. Spock to Ray’s clueless captain Kirk. While he possessed no super powers (beyond being a self-aware robot) he possessed a genius level IQ, and could invent handy devices and impeccable strategies to win the day. Bucketworth also delivered the science lessons at the conclusion of each episode. Ever the refined gentleman, he always referred to Robbie as ‘Robert’ and Ray as ‘Raymond’.
  • Robbie Shipton himself acted as Ray’s protege and the show’s audience avatar. He had no super powers, but provided common sense and oasis of calm within the group. While in ‘space hero’ mode, Robbie’s outfit switched to a snazzy navy blue and gold space suit with pointed shoulder blades and his glasses would mysteriously disappear.
Robbie had another distinction: he was the only member of Team Quantum who had a secret identity. Robbie led the obligatory double life on Earth, and all of the episodes would somehow involve his high school and the usual string of colorful high-school characters: Lucas, the uptight overachieving nerd, Allison, the cute but annoyingly preachy vegan/animal rights activist, Scott Stotz, the jock jerk, Scott’s hulking goonish cronies Dustin and Justin, who never spoke but whose ‘dialogue’ usually consisted of them giggling like Beavis and Butthead, and Chip Monohan, the school mascot who never took off his squirrel costume (the show’s producers seemed to have a “thing” for squirrels, since a pair of squirrels were also among the show’s recurring villains). Chip also holds the distinction of being the only cast member outside of Team Quantum to have appeared in every episode of the series. So Robbie and crew had to spend many an episode making up hee-larious excuses for all of the bizarre events that went on around them, and the other kids just thought Robbie was a weirdo geek who made up loony space stories.
Cosmic Quantum Ray wasn’t a bad show by any means; it was pretty fun, and I did learn some cool science stuff from it (it was from CQR that I learned what a quantum computer is, what qubits are and it’s what got me interested in string theory), but in short order, it did become a bit repetitive, what with the heroes facing the same revolving door of villains every time, and how each episode had to somehow involve Robbie’s school, invariably leading to another character discovering the truth about Robbie’s outer space escapades and exclaiming, “My gosh! Those stories you tell! They’re TRUE!!” only to get their memories erased (usually by Bucketworth) again and again and again. This happened so frequently that one episode even turned it into an in-universe joke. I would’ve liked to have seen a few episodes in which Robbie’s school chums were altogether missing, which took place completely in space and where they dealt with no villains at all; surely there were enough scienctific and astronomical themed disasters and anomalies which would’ve made for interesting stories without the constant need of a costumed antagonist and adherence to the standard “wash, rinse, repeat” formula. And I REALLY would’ve liked to have seen another character learn the truth about Team Quantum and NOT get their minds wiped at the end. I’ve never liked that “I am/have/can do something really cool, but have to keep it a secret from everybody” trope, especially when no reason is given for why everything must be a big secret. I can understand keeping the existence of aliens a secret from the feds; you don’t want your homies getting locked up and dissected (indeed, the gang did go to Area 51 in one episode and nearly met with such a fate), but I think you can at least let family and close friends in on it. I especially didn’t see why Robbie’s mom Debbie couldn’t have known about it; she actually found out about Team Quantum in 2 episodes, “What’s Up with Gravity?” and “Unreal Estate”, and each time she found out, she seemed okay with it, in fact at the end of the former episode she confides in her son that she really liked Team Quantum, so she obviously wasn’t going to blow the whistle on them, so why did she have to get her mind erased? You’d think having a parent in your corner would work to your advantage; she could cover for you when people start to ask why you keeping missing class or whatever. Not to mention Debbie got her Crowning Moment of Awesome in her first appearance by stating that she’d totally mess up any villain who screwed with her kid, and later does it! any lady who can pull a villain’s lower lip up over her head–literally!–is A-OK in my book.
You go, Mom.

More Hub PM Pondering

The following is in response to a thread which came up recently in the Toon Zone Entertainment Forum titled  “Other Sitcoms That Should Air on The Hub”. I’m just going to post my 2 cents on the subject here. To avoid confusion, all of the posts from the thread itself will be typed in italic, while my responses will be typed in purple. The OP begins the discussion with:

What do you guys think? I’d hypothetically say something like “Seinfeld” or “Family Matters”.

To which, my brother Damon responded with:

I’d personally like to see The Hub expand its’ horizons to air more than just domestic sitcoms at night, honestly. I’d like to see more sketch and alternative comedies such as SCTV, MST3K, Fernwood/America 2-Night, The Best of Saturday Night Live, The Monkees, Get Smart!, Police Squad!, Mad Movies with the L.A. Connection, etc. Heck, even The Muppet Show, The Jim Henson Hour or Muppets Tonight would make for some nice variety, although the former would probably look horribly dated now.

 
Now, I realize that this will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, but I agree with Damon. I really think that The Hub is severely limiting itself by airing nothing but family-friendly sitcom reruns. They could be doing so much more at night, especially during the hours after 10 PM, after the kids have gone to bed. Channels like Nick at Nite and TBS pretty much have the sitcoms covered, so why not do something a little different on The Hub?

In any case, Seinfeld isn’t a family show, and neither is MST3K, really (especially in later seasons where I understand that they talk about some stuff that wouldn’t exactly be appropriate for a family show).

 

You keep saying that, but I’ve actually seen all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes that were produced for the Sci-Fi Channel, and they weren’t any more raunchy than the that ones made for Comedy Central. The randiest MST3K has ever gotten was in the 1996 theatrical movie, which contained more curse words in the wise cracks than in the average TV episode. Also, unlike you, I’ve actually seen all of the MST3K episodes made for Sci-Fi Channel; I’m not just making assumptions based on something that a little bird told me. If you haven’t actually seen the later seasons of MST3K, then you’re not in a position to determine whether the show is appropriate for family viewing or not. At least see the episodes for yourself before making pat judgments about them. I personally think that MST3K or Rifftrax would make a great addition to The Hub’s PM lineup, and it would certainly add some much needed variety to the channel’s night time schedule.

Police Squad? Considering it was later adapted into the Naked Gun movies, probably not.

Why not? Police Squad originally aired on prime-time and even ran on Nick at Nite for a brief time. If Nickelodeon could air Police Squad, then I see no reason why the series can’t or shouldn’t air on The Hub. And again, we’re not talking about running Police Squad! right after My little Pony. We’re talking about airing the series at night, after the kids have gone to bed, so where’s the harm in that? Plus, kids saw the Naked Gun movies also.

The Hub may have not been using their tagline “a network for kids and their families” for some time now, but that’s what this network still is: “a network for kids and their families”, and I don’t want them to start subverting that, or themselves (by, among other things, resorting to various technicalities) just to cater to only what some older viewers want to see.

 
Again, I fail to see the problem with “catering to what older viewers want to see” during the hours of the night when kids aren’t watching TV. It just doesn’t make sense for The Hub to run kid-friendly programming all night long. Adults want to be entertained also. Most kids’ networks stop programming for children in the evenings because ad buyers don’t want to support anything in those hours, and I don’t understand why it’s OK for Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network to program for adults at night, but it’s somehow not OK for The Hub to do the same. Why should a network risk losing viewers by being forced to placate to an audience that isn’t there just to satisfy some imaginary ideal? I honestly and truly don’t understand this logic.

Seinfeld? What next, Friends? The Big Bang Theory, perhaps (not that I watch any of those three shows, but I know they aren’t family shows)?

You know what I love about you? It’s how with you, everything is always so black-and-white, and gray doesn’t exist at all. With you, it’s either Sesame Street or South Park with absolutely nothing in between. The difference between you and I is that we have different ideas of what does or doesn’t constitute a subversion. You see The Hub airing anything edgier than say, Leave It to Beaver as a subversion, whereas I believe that a middle ground exists and The Hub should try to meet that need.
I’ve never watched Friends myself, and TBS currently owns the broadcasting rights to The Big Bang Theory. As for the prospect of either series being shown on The Hub, I wouldn’t be against that, but I really feel that The Hub needs to expand it’s horizons beyond just airing sitcom reruns. And so what if they’re not family shows? No one’s suggesting that The Hub run Seinfeld on weekday afternoons right after Transformers Rescue Bots. Again, we’re talking about late nights, after the kids have gone to bed. It shouldn’t matter one whit if the content isn’t appropriate for children if said shows are airing at a time when kids aren’t watching TV anyway.

I would suggest older black and white sitcoms from the 1950s, but that would really be pushing it…

 
Ehh…..No offense, but I don’t think that would be a good idea at all. You’d have an easier time trying to split an atom than trying to get today’s generation of kids to watch something in black-and-white, and that 1950s stuff is cornball. My parents grew up with those shows and I’m 44. That stuff was considered to be old hat during my childhood, and I really don’t think that’s the image that Hasbro wants to create for it’s channel. I don’t think that Hasbro wants The Hub to be thought of as the “Jitterbug” of cable channels. The only b&w show that might be worth airing on The Hub is possibly The 3 Stooges, since the recent (2012) movie may have spawned a renewed interest in the franchise.
*************************************************************************************
Anyways, this is how I would program The Hub’s PM lineup:
I would designate the hours between 7 PM and 10 PM as Family Time. That’s when the family-friendly shows such as Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Family Ties, Mork & Mindy, ALF and The Facts of Life would air. As well as some non-sitcom programs such as Carol Burnett & Friends, The Monkees, The Muppet Show/Muppets Tonight/The Jim Henson Show, Police Squad! Carson’s Comedy Classics, etc.
The hours from 10 PM and onward would be designated as Adult Time. The kids have gone to bed and now The Hub’s line up would get a tad “naughtier”, and by this I don’t mean the likes of South Park, Drawn Together or The Whitest Kids U Know. But rather, I mean just airing some less family-oriented programs such as The Best of Saturday Night, SCTV, Mystery Science Theater 3000/Rifftrax, The Red Green Show, Mad Movies with the LA Connection. Perhaps even some of the former Adult Swim acquisitions such as Home Movies, Baby Blues, Mission Hill and The Oblongs, all of which originally aired in prime-time. Hey, while were at it, why not import some British comedies like Red Dwarf, Black Adder, French & Saunders, My Hero or Monty Python’s Flying Circus?
****************************************************************************
I’d watch a lineup like that. How about you?

Talkin’ Nerdy: Hub Needs Moms

Today on Talkin’ Nerdy I’d like to discuss something which has getting up my craw for some time now, and is really just part of a darker, more disturbing trend that’s been grinding my gears for much of my creative life:  namely, the trend of leaving mother characters out of the fun in fiction, specifically the curious lack of mothers on notable Hub shows.

For instance, take Transformers Rescue Bots….please. OK, that was kind of a cheap shot, but when I first heard about this show and it was compared to the likes of Marvel’s Super Hero Squad Show, I actually thought TRB was going to be lighthearted wacky spoof show a la SHS or Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Instead, we get this somewhat stale show meant to teach kids about safety and clearly and very visibly intended to sell a new wave of Transformers toys to prepubescent boys. Look, I have nothing against safety and lessons about safety; heck, as a kid I received an Officer Friendly coloring book and I liked it well enough, and I understand that it’s show business and many of The Hub’s shows are designed to sell toys, but I have a greater appreciation for the ones that at least try to entertain me a bit in the process of pounding lessons into my head and coaxing me to buy stuff. Rescue Bots‘ biggest crime is that it’s just dull.

It’s second biggest crime is the point of this discussion: OK, the premise of TRB is that these 4 Transformers land on an island town somewhere in Maine called Griffin Rock, where a group of Autobots named Heatwave, Boulder, Blades and Chase respond to Optimus Prime’s message for any active Autobots in space to arrive to Earth. Coming out of a long stasis, learning what became of Cybertron and that they are the only Rescue-Bot team remaining, they are partnered with the Burns family composed of first response rescuers. Together, they learn teamwork and heroism alongside their human friends as they deal with various disasters. Each bot is paired with a different family member relating to what type of vehicle they are: Chase turns into a police car and so is partnered with dad Chief Charlie Burns, Heatwave turns into a fire engine and is partnered with firefighting son Kade Burns, Boulder turns into bulldozer and is partnered with construction engineer son Graham Burns, and Blades turns into a rescue helicopter and is partnered with helicopter pilot daughter Dani Burns. The youngest member of the family, the very blond Cody Burns, is the bland kid protagonist of the show. What’s wrong with this picture? Where’s Mama Burns? Forget where is she, who is she? They never mention a mother or her whereabouts. If Charlie’s a widower or a divorcee, then it must have just happened, since Cody doesn’t appear to be any older than 10. But why does the Burns family not have a mother? Would it have killed the show’s writers to include a mom as part of the team? Actually, from a marketing standpoint, I think I know why: Transformers Rescue Bots is aimed primarily at young boys, who by and large think “girls are icky”, and only a boy with mountain-sized self-esteem would be willing to own a Rescue Bot piloted by a mom. I think the only reason they have a daughter character is to avoid pressure from women’s groups. This show is so overtly boy-centric that the only 2 female characters of any importance on TRB have the androgynous names Dani and Frankie. So while I can see why there’s no Mom Burns, I still think it’s bullocks. If you’re going to put a daughter on the team, then you might as well have a mom. And for anyone who says that moms don’t make good action heroes, Helen Parr/Elastigirl from The Incredibles and Drew Saturday from The Secret Saturdays say hi. Heck, even the Bionic Six had a mom, and she was actually one of the heroes, she didn’t just stay home and bake cookies while the rest of the family was out saving the world.

 

The Transformers Rescue Bots family. But where’s Mom? Is she vacationing on Cyberton or did she just sample some of Sam Witwicky’s college roommate’s brownies??

But, wait: Cody’s platonic little friend Francine “Frankie” Greene doesn’t have a mother either. She has a dad, Doc Greene, but again, no sight, sign or mention of a mom. What the what, Hub? Do the producers of this show have some kind of mother-phobia or something? I could probably see 1 motherless family on the show, but 2? Really?? To add insult to injury, one episode featured a lady scientist whom Doc Greene seemed to have a thing for, and those feelings seemed to be mutual. OK, so it’s all right to have potential girlfriends dangled before the audience’s eyes, but moms are a big no-no? WTH? If the writers are going to give Doc a potential girlfriend, they could’ve just given him a wife to start with, and been done with it.

The Hub’s “Moms are kryptonite” mentality unfortunately isn’t restricted to 1 show on the network. Another guilty party in this alarming trend is Littlest Pet Shop. I actually like LPS so it pains to have to put this show on my hit list, but they’re guilty of the same crime: its’ protagonist, Blythe Baxter, lives with her dad, your typical goofball father Roger Baxter, but Mrs. Baxter is nowhere to be seen and is never mentioned, not even in passing. Even during a series of flashbacks in the “So You Skink You Can Dance”, we see little Blythe and her dad interacting, but still no mom to be seen or heard from anywhere. So was Blythe grown in a test tube or what?? I can at least understand why the Burns family on TRB doesn’t have a mother, though its one of the things I hate most about the show, but I at least get why from a marketing standpoint. Littlest Pet Shop, by contrast, is based on a toy line aimed squarely, if not exclusively, at girls, so I really don’t get why Blythe couldn’t have 2 parents on the show. Part of the reason why Roger is so frequently annoying is that there’s no contrast; the household needs a somewhat more competent parent to provide a counterbalance to Roger’s goofiness. It’s like having the Odd Couple with only Oscar. Heck, I would even take a goofy embarrassing mom over no mom at all. And what’s more, the show’s rivals/frenemy characters, Whitney and Britney Biskit, likewise don’t have a mother. They’re constantly mentioning their father, Fisher Biskit, whose even made a couple of appearances on the show, but again no mother. At first I though maybe Mrs. Biskit was just perpetually off-camera, but then the episode “Bakers and Flakers” aired, and the only parent to show up at the school bake-off was Fisher, basically confirming that the Biskits are likewise motherless.*

The closest thing Littlest Pet Shop has to a mother figure is the character of Blythe’s friend Youngmee Song’s Aunt Christie, but as her title implies, Christie is Youngmee’s aunt, not her mother. Though given her quasi-maternal relationship with her niece and also how so far we have yet to see any of Youngmee’s other adult relatives, the LPS writers could have easily made Christie Youngmee’s mom and it wouldn’t have altered the stories in any way. But apparently protagonists on Hub shows can’t have moms or else it would split the Earth in two. Even an upcoming Hub acquisition, Wizards VS Aliens, features a lead character who lives with his dad and grandma. So grandmothers are OK, but mothers? That’s the line, right? Got it, Hub.

 

Roger Baxter and his daughter Blythe, who was sculpted from magical clay on the island of Themyscira. Hey, show me where Blythe’s mom is and I’ll take it back.

I’m just going to say this right now, if you haven’t guessed already: I hate single fathers in fiction. The Dead/Missing Mom trope is one of my least favorite cliches in fiction, and it’s one I’ve vowed to never employ as a writer. Why, you may ask? I can’t provide a better answer than Jason, who when asked the same question, responded with this: “Because I like marriage humor and MILFs, and with single dads, you don’t get either.” I can’t speak for Transformers Rescue Bots, as I don’t proactively follow that show nor do I regularly converse with its’ fans, but I know that I’m not the only one who’s been asking about the identity or whereabouts of Blythe’s mother. It’s probably a subject that the show’s writers have no plans of ever addressing unless they’re pressured to by fans, similar to the question of whatever happened to Chuckie’s mother on Rugrats; the producers largely ignored this question but fans persisted in asking about it, so the producers were finally forced to acknowledge it and change the status quo accordingly, first with a Mother’s Day special, then by making it the plot of the 3rd movie. I don’t know if LPS needs to go that far, but it wouldn’t kill them to address it at least once, like, say, have Blythe lament “I miss Mom” in some given scene. Of course, if they had given Blythe a mom in the first place, they wouldn’t have to do anything.

Finally, I’d like to give an honorable mention to Dreamworks’ The Croods. It remains to be seen how well this movie will perform at the box office, but I’ll give Dreamworks one iota of credit in regards to the mother of the cave family, Ugga, namely, that they actually have a mother! In far too many animated family movies of this ilk, the mother is just straight-up dead before the movie even starts, but Dreamworks avoided that cliche here, and for that, I’m grateful. If we can see this tired old trope continue to get snuffed out over time, I’ll be a happier camper.

*ADDENDUM: In the subsequent seasons since this article was written, Hasbro has since rectified their ‘no mother’ situation on Littlest Pet Shop at least. Season 4 featured the first ever on-camera mention of Blythe’s mom Betty, and in an admittedly clever bit of comedy, in this same season it was also revealed that Whittany and Brittany Biskit also indeed have a mother. Furthermore, the writers turned the Biskits’ mom Eliza’s sudden appearance into an in-universe joke, implying that Eliza Biskit had been there all along and we the audience had simply never seen her before. Jason plans on doing a full retrospective on LPS’ 4th (and evidently, final) season sometime after season 4 is complete, but in the meantime…

Eliza_Biskit

Good on ya, Hasbro. Well played.

What the Hub?!

THIS JUST IN: Disney Channel and Disney X-D Networks executive Nikki Reed has been named Senior Vice President, Programming & Development for The Hub Network, the fastest growing children’s cable network, it was announced today by Margaret Loesch, President & CEO of The Hub, to whom she will report. The Hub Network is a joint venture of Discovery Communications and Hasbro, Inc. 

Ms. Reed succeeds Donna Ebbs who served as The Hub’s first programming chief and helped launch the network in October 2010. Ms. Ebbs has transitioned to a new role as a consultant and an executive producer for The Hub and is responsible for pursuing and developing several new properties and securing unique production opportunities for the network.

“Nikki Reed’s background as both a producer and an executive at top-level entertainment companies like Disney, NBC Universal, and Touchstone Television makes her the perfect person to lead our development and programming during this unprecedented time of growth for The Hub,” said Ms. Loesch. “Donna Ebbs built an incredible creative team that helped shape The Hub in its first two years on the air. Moving forward, Nikki’s experience and creativity is the right blend to lead this team as we grow The Hub into the primary destination for programming that children and their parents watch together.”


“The Hub is in a period of tremendous growth as it becomes a leader in the kids and family space,” said Ms. Reed. “Our goal is to utilize my relationships with writers, producers and talent to grow The Hub’s existing slate of programming and enhance it with more live-action series. I am excited to work with Margaret and The Hub team to carry out the creative vision to make smart, entertaining shows that appeal to both children and their parents.”

Ms. Reed is responsible for planning, directing and executing the network’s programming strategy, as well as working with Ms. Loesch and the network’s senior management team on creative development and overall strategic planning and direction.


Ms. Reed has more than 15 years of experience developing feature films and television series, including live-action series geared towards kids, tweens and families on Disney Channel and Disney X-D, as well as numerous platforms around the world. Among the series she developed at Disney are “Jessie,” “Austin and Ally,” “Dog with a Blog,” “Lab Rats,” and “Crash and Bernstein.”

Prior to joining Disney, Ms. Reed was the Vice President of Current and Development at Universal Cable Productions. She also spent five years as a development executive for executive producer Barry Kemp’s Bungalow 78 Productions while it was based at Touchstone Television. Previously, she served as Vice President of Development for director Jon Turteltaub’s Junction Entertainment for Disney Studios. There she spearheaded the development of the feature films “National Treasure” starring Nicholas Cage and “The Kid” starring Bruce Willis. In 2005, Ms. Reed served as an executive producer on the feature film “Invincible” starring Mark Wahlberg.

Naturally, upon hearing this news, people on the interwebz are having a hissy-fit because they’re afraid that a former Disney Channel exec taking the reins of The Hub’s programming will mean that the channel’s entire lineup, animated hits and all, will be nerfed in favor of live-action teencoms like Dog with a Blog and Good Luck Charlie. Personally, I’m taking a cautious “wait and see” approach to this. Why? Here’s my take:

While it is a potentially off-putting truism that Ms. Reed’s history is predominantly in live-action and she’s coming to The Hub, a channel largely dominated by animation currently, I honestly don’t think that the toy-based animated shows are in any danger. As I pointed out in “A Failure to Communicate…and See the Truth”, The Hub is first and foremost a toy company. The whole reason Hasbro launched this whole venture with Discovery Communications in the first place was so they could have a launchpad for shows and movies based on their cadre of toy and game franchises, so the likes of My Little Pony, Pound Puppies, Littlest Pet Shop, Transformers Prime, Transformers Rescue Bots and the like aren’t going anywhere. Those shows are the main reason why The Hub exists; they earn great ratings, and more importantly in Hasbro’s eyes, they drive toy sales. My guess is that the reasoning behind this move is that The Hub is trying to bring in more viewers and is trying to find some more solid rating grabbers to increase their audience, but they’re not likely to alienate their current audience since they are still dedicated to toys. This could, mind you, could mean that the channel may be relying less on acquired 3rd party reruns like Animaniacs and The Super Hero Squad Show, which wouldn’t really be such a bad thing, at least not to me; I already own the A! DVDs and SHS has looped all of its’ episodes a few times already. As for the prospect of  “focusing on live-action series”, well that depends on the type of shows Ms. Reed has in mind and where and how much of them she plans to implement; while it’s true that I consider shows such as Good Luck Charlie, Dog with a Blog and Shake it Up to be twaddle and an entire schedule of those kinds of sitcoms would indeed be terrible for a good network, a smattering of a few of them here and there around the schedule wouldn’t be that bad, provided The Hub’s original vision isn’t lost and these live-action shows (whatever they end up being) don’t take over the channel. It would be a heck of a lot better than just looping the same 5 movies over and over again every month. While I personally can’t stomach most of Disney Channel’s live-action ventures, the sad truth is that they do put butts into seats, and if the addition of such shows were to bring more permanent viewers to The Hub, that would mean higher ratings and more money, money which could conceivably be used to produce more original series for the channel, both animated as well as live-action, hopefully.

Also keep in mind that it’s not a given that Ms. Reed will simply try to copy the sort of shows that got made under her watch at Disney here, as that may not prove to be the best strategy. Hasbro undoubtedly wants The Hub wants to carve out its’ own niche, not be thought of as Disney Channel 2.

What I really hope this means is that The Hub will finally be spicing up their nighttime lineup. I’ve mentioned this a few times already here, but The Hub’s PM schedule sucks noodles. I never watch The Hub at night because absolutely nothing that The Hub runs at night interests me in the slightest. Shortly before this announcement, The Hub released the news that they would be acquiring reruns of Who’s the Boss? in April. My reaction: “Another old fluffy family sitcom from 20+ years ago. Yay.” The Hub could be doing so much more than just trying to ape early 90’s Nick @ Nite. On this someone remarked: The Hub is trying to follow in the footsteps of Nick at Nite and have their prime time line-up consist of type of programming that their adult viewers remembered watching when they were kids/teens (be it live action shows on syndication or hit cartoons of the 1980’s and 1990’s).” Yeah, here’s the thing about that: animated shows aside, I never watched this crap when I was a teen. I thought shows like The Facts of Life, Family Ties and Who’s the Boss? were trite when they were new. You know what I watched as a teenager? The Young Ones, Red Dwarf, SCTV, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Black Adder, French & Saunders. The only network sitcoms I watched during that time were Newhart and Night Court. I see so much wasted potential on the PM Hub; Hasbro could be offering so much of a variety: not just my idea of alternative comedy (though I still think that’s a great idea), but also new game shows, new action/adventure shows, sketch/variety, etc. I’m not saying that The Hub should abandon the old sitcoms if they’re pulling in ratings, but why should that be the only thing they run at night? Like I mentioned in “Point and Laugh at Retro-Snobbery”, classic TV is nice and all, but it doesn’t equal huge ratings, and The Hub knows this, hence whey they’re mking this move in the first place. If Ms. Reed can inject some much needed life in The Hub’s nighttime schedule, then I welcome our new overlord.

Basically, I have to see what’s to come before I start playing Taps for this channel just yet. I really need to see what sort of shows get ordered and the pilots which get greenlit before I can say conclusively whether this is a regrettable move or not. As long as the likes of The Aquabats Super Show! and Littlest Pet Shop remain intact, I’m fine with it.

LPS Progress Report (Plus Other Assorted Hub Ramblings)

We’ve been doing a lot of Hub entries lately, haven’t we? Guess the network’s climbing up there.

Just thought I’d blow off a little steam about some of The Hub’s recent doings as of late. First, a little follow-up to my earlier entry on Littlest Pet Shop.

LPS Title Card

I still contend that so far I’m enjoying LPS’s debut season more than the 3rd season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (and on a side note, I’m getting a wee bit tired of folks putting MLP on a pedestal; it’s a decent show, undoubtedly the first time there’s ever really been anything Pony related worth giving a frak about, but really, the show just won the lottery, there are other decent shows on the shows on the network which are just as good as MLP, if not better, so it’s really time for folks to stop acting like MLP: FiM is the single greatest show on The Hub and the best thing to happen since Jiffy-Pop), but for all of its’ strengths, the show still seems unable to escape MLP’s shadow, which is unfortunate. Maybe some tweaks need to be made to LPS in order to give it more breakout potential. If I may make a few suggestions:

Perhaps every show need not consist of a single 22-minute episode like MLP does. People tend to overlook the fact that LPS is actually a mash-up of 2 separate franchises, Blythe and Littlest Pet Shop; perhaps the show’s stories should reflect this. Maybe instead of a single half-hour story each week, they could do two 10-minute shorts or three 7-minute shorts: say, 1 short which focuses on both Blythe and the Pets in tandem, 1 short which focuses squarely on the Pets with little or no participation from Blythe or the humans and 1 short which focuses largely if not exclusively on Blythe and her human co-stars. Sort of like the old Linus the Lionhearted show for those of you who are fossils like me and are old enough to remember (or even know of) that.

Another thing regarding LPS: the characters need to be strengthened and given more to do generally. I realize this is no easy task, since the show’s cast is relatively large, which is one reason why I feel the show should at least consider breaking the stories into segments as opposed to a single half-hour episode each week. The Pets’ characters are fine, they just need more to do and more air time to do it in. (Another side-note: it’s obvious that the recent addition of the Sweet Shop next door and the new characters attached to that are clearly a marketing tool to have another wave of toys to sell, but since LPS is a toy-driven show, it’s to be expected.) The human characters are the ones which really need more polishing and fleshing out. Out of the human characters, Youngmee has probably flourished the most, though that’s not saying much. She’s gotten more camera time than any of Blythe’s other friends, and she’s tied to the Sweet Shop, which gives her more opportunities to stand out than anyone else. She still needs some more defining traits other than being cute and a good friend to Blythe; she’s on the Mathletes team, so we can assume she’s smart, why not expand on that? Sue hasn’t had any standout roles since “Russel Up Some Fun”, and so far Jasper hasn’t had any real plots or subplots devoted to him. If I can make a suggestion, writers, whatever you decide to do with Jasper, please DON’T ship him with one of the girls. I like that he’s a boy and one of Blythe’s friends, but not a boyfriend to any of them, I say keep it that way. (Sue hit Jasper twice in “Topped with Buttercream”, and the 2 of them entered the story together, so I’m sure somewhere in cyberspace some shippertard is already typing fanfics pairing those 2 characters off, but I really hope nothing like that ever actually happens on the show.)

Speaking of relationships, please, please, PLEASE, writers, hook Blythe’s dad Roger up with somebody! Reveal Blythe’s mother or give her a stepmother. Something. Anything! I have no problem with dumb dads generally, they’re OK in small doses, but the recent episode “Helicopter Dad” proves that a little Roger goes a LONG way, and I think one reason why he’s so unbearable is that he has no one to counterbalance his goofiness. It’s like having the Odd Couple with only Oscar. the fact that Blythe’s mom is MIA is indeed one of the things I hate most about this show, especially since there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it, and I’d really like to see that rectified. Here’s a crazy suggestion: why not have Roger and Youngmee’s aunt Christie hook up? Not only would Roger get a romantic partner and Blythe get a much-needed mother figure, but that would technically make Blythe and Youngmee cousins, which could make for some interesting story ideas. Just a thought.

Another recent event on The Hub is the addition of Huckleberry Pie to Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures. As has been the case since the 5th TV special back in the ancient 1980’s, Huck is the only major male character in a predominantly girl-populated franchise, so as such there was a lot of hulabaloo surrounding his debut, not to mention his Justin Bieber-inspired look, viz:

huckleberry-pie

Oh, you were expecting a “Bieber sucks!” joke here, right? Sorry, not gonna happen. I’ve personally never heard any of Bieber’s music and couldn’t tell you the name of a single one of his songs, so while some folks tear their hair out at the very mention of the kid’s name, I can go about my life unaffected by Biebermania, so I honestly don’t care about the Biebs-inspired design. From an artistic standpoint, it’s an OK design, so no complaints from me about that. Whatever works. No, my issue with this version of Huckleberry Pie isn’t that he’s got the Bieb’s hairstyle or even that he’s a boy on a girls’ show, it’s that he’s, well…kind of boring. Huck here has no standout traits or attributes other than possessing a Y chromosome and being a nice kid who’s eager to please (assuming he is a kid; age-wise, it’s hard to know what to make of the Berry Bitty Gang: they look like children yet they have jobs, operate vehicles and live on their own without adults. Perhaps they just stop aging physically after a certain age, like the elves in Lord of the Rings), but to be fair, the girls are equally kind of dull and interchangeable. I actually prefer the 2003 version of Huck, pictured here:
…’cause he had an actual character, not to mention a boss board.
Finally, the Hub recently announced a “big event” coming to Thursday nights said to tie in with the recent Oscars. It turned out to be a fake awards show devoted to their old broadcasting sitcom showings: Happy Days, Mork & Mindy, Family Ties, et al, and kicking off something called “You Rule Thursdays”, in which viewers get to choose shows they watch on the network during the Thursday primetime hours of 9 p.m. – midnight ET. This week, following a special programming block featuring past Academy Awards® winners in popular Hub sitcoms, viewers will go to http://hubworld.com/YouRule to vote on the shows that will air Thursday, March 7. Each week will be themed with a different common element that links Hub shows, including “Mork and Mindy,” “Happy Days,” “The Facts of Life,” and “Family Ties.”
Oh, joy.
Well, I have to say, that’s disappointing. Here I was hoping that The Hub was finally going to spread their chops and expand their nighttime schedule beyond this sitcom rerun stuff. Before I get ambushed by Retro fans, I have nothing against Retro (though I’ve never been a nostalgic person and only about 10% of the old shows I grew up watching have any replay value to me, especially the stuff from the broadcast networks), but I don’t think I’m out of line for thinking that the Hub could be doing so much more at night than just airing reruns of old broadcast TV shows from the 70’s and 80’s. If this is working for The Hub, I can’t argue with success, but if you’re really going to try and be early 90’s Nick at Nite during the prime time hours, can’t we at least get some better shows? Just offer something a little more off the beaten path besides generic family sitcoms. The Adam West Batman show was a good start, why not expand upon that? How about showing The Monkees, Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, The Super Mario Brothers Super Show!, H.R. Pufenstuf, Lidsville, The Bugaloos, Land of the Lost, The Krofft Supershow, Far Out Space Nuts, Saved by the Bell, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, The Muppet Show/MuppeTelevision/Muppets Tonight, The Tick, Get Smart!, Weird Science, Police Squad!, My Hero, Fawlty Towers, Fernwood 2-Nite, The Best of Saturday Night Live, SCTV, The Red Green Show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, WKRP in Cincinnati, Night Court, heck, even Candid Camera, Carol Burnett and Friends or TV’s Blooper and Practical Jokes would be a nice alternative to the nonstop domcoms. If The Hub’s PM schedule really must consist of old shows, can’t they at least be good, eclectic old shows?
And I know some people will disagree with me, but I still contend that Mystery Science Theater 3000 would be a great fit for The Hub’s nighttime lineup.