CSBS – Fillmore! Episode 5: Red Robins Don’t Fly

CSBS - Fillmore Episode 5

Plot: Ingrid goes undercover as a Red Robin to uncover illegal operations. While Ingrid goes in with the mission in mind, she finds herself slowly getting too comfortable with them.

Breakdown: This episode was a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s very predictable. There’s no mystery as to who the perp is this time because they make it clear from the start, given the plot setup. The only thing we have to go on is wondering if Ingrid will choose to leave the Safety Patrol and become a Red Robin, which is kinda silly because we all know she wouldn’t.

The only reason to have any faltering faith in Ingrid is due to her still being excluded in some areas because she’s the new kid. Despite that, though, it’s not like she hasn’t found a place where she belongs, with the Safety Patrol, so whatever concern might exist is very shaky.

They try to make the play that Valejo is also treating her differently because she’s new, but it’s not a strong enough argument. He doubts her when she’s already undercover, but he doesn’t make his worries known to Ingrid. The only thing he says to her before she leaves is that she might be a bit too green to take on a well-known and long-standing criminal organization such as the Red Robins, which is understandable.

The aspect of Valejo worrying about Ingrid’s loyalties stemming from a similar situation happening with the current Red Robin leader was good, but the payoff was unsatisfactory. Valejo and Malika don’t even speak to each other in this episode, and Malika never turns over a new leaf or anything.

It would’ve been better if she and Fillmore got into it somehow before the case was brought up. They have butted heads on cases before, and Ingrid has been nudging the gray area on morality out in the field in the past already, so it would be very easy to integrate a bit of a fight at this point.

Not much happens to make Fillmore’s faith in Ingrid waver either. She knew they had a lot of cool stuff and missed one meeting with Fillmore. Then he’s suddenly confronting her about not falling in with a bad crowd, even if they offer acceptance, because that type of connection isn’t real. An improvement in that area would have been if they worked in at least one line of Ingrid mentioning how nice they are and how much they like her to solidify her own questionable loyalties.

You could also maybe have Valejo talk to her instead of Fillmore. He’s the one with the concerns and the past with the Red Robins.

There’s a major problem with this episode that was bugging the hell out of me. How can Ingrid even successfully go undercover? She may still be seen as the new kid, but she’s been around X Middle School for a decent amount of time now, and she’s been a Safety Patroller for quite a while. How can one of the biggest criminal organizations in the school not know who she is? Even by name?

It’s especially unbelievable given the current situation. The reason the Safety Patrol is going after the Red Robins is because they accidentally found a huge crate of ribbon candy in the lake and knew it must have been an old haul from the Red Robins – likely taking it from a competitor. Ingrid is the one who handled that discovery. The Red Robins are fully aware of this and even described it as a huge debacle, yet Ingrid’s name never came up? They never uncovered the identities of the Safety Patrollers handling that case?

Rating: 5/10 It’s not a bad case, but the writing could be better and there’s no twist or mystery to make up for the weak spots.

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CSBS – Fillmore! Episode 4

CSBS Fillmore Episode 4
‘Nasium’s Gym’

Plot: The school mascot, a lobster named Lobstee, has been stolen before a big boccie ball game. Without him, the morale for the team will tank and send X Middle School to their first loss against Gilby Middle School in over a decade. Who stole Lobstee and why?

Breakdown: I was a little meh about this episode. It’s another one of those episodes where the major plot point is very silly but not in a particularly funny way. Like, seriously, the team is so down due to their loss of their lobster mascot that they start doing so poorly they have no other choice but to lose horribly?

Wanna know something else? That’s not the first time I’ve heard that plot. I’ve seen that on about five other sitcoms and cartoons. Why is it such a major morale blow for a mascot or whatever important school spirit icon to be lost before a big game? If anything, wouldn’t it make you want to beat the other team even worse considering that mascot thieves are almost always the rival school?

I liked that we got a bit of a glimpse into Fillmore’s home life, though. They even lend another LEO trope to him – having to skimp out on family time because the job comes first. It’s nice to see him have loving parents and not the bad home life you’d expect this ex-troublemaker to have, though that begs the question of what really made Fillmore so ill-mannered before.

I will fully admit that I didn’t catch onto the culprit this time until about two minutes before Fillmore and Ingrid did. Though, being fair, his reasons make no sense.

I first thought it was going to be the obviously fake psychic, Alistair. They put clear focus on him before the crime was ever committed, he comes in on the second act seeming like he’s going to take over the case, but he’s scrapped by the end of act II because, well, they ‘caught’ him.

It turns out that Harrison, a journalist whose sole job is to report on Alistair’s predictions and the stories that follow, was the culprit all along. He had been feeding Alistair emails ‘predicting’ events that he was causing so he could literally make headlines. Alistair gets the fame and Harrison gets a quick beeline to the editor-in-chief job. However, Harrison clearly expressed disdain at his job earlier in the episode. He stated that he wanted to write articles that would change lives and impact people, but he’s stuck writing column after column of stories about a psychic making predictions, which, when you think about it, is really the same article over and over.

“Alistair predicted (event) and it happened. By Harrison.”

If his job was so menial and his columns were so, if you’ll forgive the pun, predictable, why would doing all this be a straight shot to the editor-in-chief job?

The climax was….good. Even if the chase kinda fizzles out and the revelation of Alistair getting his ‘powers’ back was silly even for this show. Neither Ingrid nor Fillmore believe in his abilities, but they make it a point to show Alistair continuously having ‘visions’ and following a path outside of school to Lobstee’s exact location.

The main lesson of the episode was in both Harrison and Alistair, in that they were both so obsessed with obtaining their goals that they were more than willing to scam people and cause harm to others and the school. Alistair even quits pursuing his dream of being a great psychic because of it all. Taking the silliness of his ‘powers’ out of the equation, and while they don’t outright say it, he started losing his ‘powers’ when he started using them for personal gain, IE making a career out of it. He gained them back when he used them for good again, IE Finding Lobstee. That is a rather adult lesson to learn, and it’s easily applicable to kids. Some people get very caught up in pursuing their career goals or just goals in general that they don’t care who they hurt as long as they achieve them.

All in all, it’s an okay episode built around a tired as hell plot, but with a clever twist, nice background on Fillmore and a good life lesson.

As a final note, Harrison, you stupid son of a bitch, why the hell were you speaking your next ‘predictive’ email to Alistair out loud in the announcement booth during the game? I know there’s that dumb TV logic of ‘someone obviously talking to themselves and no one else can hear them because I said so’ but come on.

Rating: 7/10

CSBS – Fillmore! Episode 3

CSBS Fillmore episode 3

Plot: While Fillmore deals with a troublemaker named Tony Clementina, all of the books in the library get mysteriously stolen. One bit of evidence points to Clementina, and Fillmore is compelled to believe he’s the culprit. But is he really a lost cause?

Breakdown: The crime this week is pretty outlandish, even for Fillmore. Are you seriously telling me a librarian was so obliviously lost in a book that they didn’t realize every book in the library was being checked out? If they did it book by book, that must’ve taken hours.

Also, the culprit is incredibly obvious from the get-go once you meet him because he’s a bit overly dramatic in his reaction to the crime. Much like the first episode where the culprit is obviously the person who seemingly cares most about what was damaged or stolen.

His plan didn’t even make full sense. He complains about never being able to read the best books in the library because they’re always checked out. He wanted to keep all of the books, especially the best ones, for himself. But how did he plan it to take out the good books too as this mass and sudden book heist was happening if those particular books are always checked out?

There’s also the school-yard forensics going on. Fillmore has had a touch of forensics in their episodes so far, but this one was the first to really get down into it. And I gotta say, this is where any intelligent viewer would constantly call BS. I can handle the inconsistencies, oddities and outlandish goings on in regards to the crimes because that’s what they intend on doing, but a lot of this stuff is hard to swallow.

For instance, I get that Ingrid is a genius, but she can identify custard under a microscope, especially when it’s a year old? She can also microscopically tell the difference between two different salt samples from various brands of pretzels?

Also, they have fingerprinting. This isn’t really entirely out there because, for the most part, a good chunk of actual fingerprinting is done by hand in a visual inspection, so a kid might have the know-how to pull it off, which Tehama seems to be.

Despite realistically having Ingrid struggle for a while to lift the fingerprint properly (even though, after all of those attempts on that mug, all of the prints must’ve been destroyed by the time she was actually able to get one) they have her instantly, and from a distance, match the fingerprint of Fillmore’s with the fingerprint on a soda rocket she found in the gym’s ceiling. I’m not expecting forensic precision and accuracy with a cartoon, especially one that is obviously embellishing on numerous aspects of school life for the sake of making a police setting possible, but it still catches my eye.

Which brings us to the subplot. While the Safety Patrollers are chasing Clementina for an unrelated crime, Ingrid notices a soda can rocket lodged in the ceiling of the gym. Without telling Fillmore, she requests that it be taken down so she can examine it. She discovers that there is custard residue on it and asks around if there have been any incidents involving custard recently. Tehama says that last year, before Ingrid transferred, one of the faculty members was trying to break the world record for largest bowl of custard. As he was trying to empty the last small bowl into the big bowl, the platform the big bowl was sitting on gave way, causing a huge custard flood in the gym.

Tehama points Ingrid in the direction of Fillmore since the brand of soda used in the rocket was only sold in Cleveland, where Fillmore used to live before they moved to wherever this takes place.

She matches Fillmore’s print to one lifted from the rocket, but keeps her findings to herself. However, she finds herself annoyed when he treats Clementina as a ‘lost cause’ when that’s exactly what many people thought, and some still think, of Fillmore back in his troublemaking days.

Fillmore realizes what Ingrid found out and explains what happened. He didn’t cause the custard spill. That truly was an accident caused by a buckling platform.

However, the rocket was his attempt to try to make the spill happen. The platform was already falling when he shot it off, and the angle of the wood sent the rocket into the ceiling, where it stayed for a year. He was caught sometime later on an unrelated but serious charge and the Safety Patroller who nabbed him gave him an ultimatum – either help him with a case or spend the rest of the school year in detention. He decided to help and turned over a new leaf as a Safety Patroller.

We never learn the name of the Safety Patroller who helped him out, but it’s a decent backstory for Fillmore either way.

I will say that Fillmore is being kinda out of character in this episode. He’s usually not so dismissive of the criminals he deals with. Hell, he had faith in a kid who was so bad that he was isolated from the other kids and had to take his classes in a special prison cell with no one else in the room. Yet he’s now completely ignoring a plethora of hard evidence that full-out proves Clementina didn’t do it just because of one piece of easily planted circumstantial evidence and Fillmore’s seeming vendetta against him. It’s just not like Fillmore is all.

It’s also a bit weird how quickly Clementina turned around. Fillmore changed his ways because someone showed him a better path. Clementina went from a complete asshole criminal who only cared about money and prestige to someone who willingly wants to help the Safety Patrol without even being asked. Fillmore didn’t show him any better way before this point. They were butting heads the whole time up until the climax.

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This episode is just a big mixed bag. I liked the glimpse into Fillmore’s backstory and the case was alright, but I don’t think they did enough with Clementina to really draw the parallels enough for this to be that impacting on Fillmore or the audience. The culprit was pretty obvious, especially since there were far fewer red herrings than normal (let’s see, it’s either the obvious guy everyone’s pointing the finger at immediately or the only other child character who has been prevalent so far. Hm.)

The crime itself was just a bit too far out there to be plausible unless X Middle School has the dumbest librarian ever.

In addition, the forensics stuff is mostly a bit too tough to swallow if you know anything about forensics, though it really is one of those things you just have to let slide for entertainment value. I know I just thought it was cool when I was a kid (and, hell, it sparked an interest in forensics so much that my focus for my degree was forensic psychology) And Fillmore’s on the OOC side in this episode.

Rating: 7/10

Cartoons Step-By-Step: Fillmore! Episode 1

fillmore-ep-1-screen

Plot: When the brand new high-tech bathroom stalls are riddled with graffiti by someone calling themselves ‘Stainless’, Fillmore and Ingrid have to enter the world of artists and taggers to find out who the culprit is.

Breakdown: I absolutely love procedural dramas. NCIS, CSI, Castle, Criminal Minds, Bones etc etc etc., and I can thank Fillmore! For spawning that love.

Fillmore first aired on ABC’s One Saturday Morning as a school-themed parody of old 1970’s cop shows with the safety patrol replacing the cops. Think Recess if it was at a slightly higher age range and was a procedural drama. It was sadly canceled after a mere two seasons due to low ratings, even though the 26 episode run is essentially one season. Rumor also has it that the tone was a bit too serious and ‘dark’ for the ABC cartoon lineup. Pfft. What could possibly be dark about a show created by Scott Gimple?…….the executive producer of The Walking Dead……

Jokes aside, this show serious? Have they never heard of parodies? Yes, the subject matter they’re parodying is kinda mature, but they’re adapting it towards a tween audience. The stuff they cover in the series is ridiculous kid and school stuff presented in a serious manner; one of the main reasons why it’s funny.

I loved the hell out of Fillmore! And couldn’t have been sadder when it was canceled. It’s even worse considering that the show isn’t even available on VHS or DVD. Everything about it was just so cool and funny. I loved how over exaggerated and film-noir-ish it was. The characters were great, the setting was great, the theme song was one of the best cartoon theme songs ever, and the writing was spot-on with only some minor cheese here and there. Well, now that I’m older and analyzing the show thoroughly, how does it really stand up?

Here’s the thing; before Fillmore! I had never really watched many police shows or movies. I was a tweenage girl at the time this came out. I was more preoccupied with anime, drawing, cartoons and boy bands. Even then, I still loved this show. Now that I have plenty of police and forensic shows and movies under my belt, I actually find this even more entertaining because I can tell what they’re spoofing at pretty much every corner. I can’t tell all the references, but I can definitely play ‘spot the trope spoof’

For instance, the crime itself is kinda played off like finding a murder scene where the murderer, who coins his own name through his signature, writes on the walls in blood….err, red marker.

In order to solve this crime, Fillmore and Ingrid recruit a master tagger and artist who is basically one big serial killer spoof. He’s kept under total detention lockdown every day after he went on a tagging spree. He’s held in solitary confinement with all writing instruments taken away from him, which must make his schoolwork a nightmare. He’s incredibly knowledgeable on his craft and loves teasing Fillmore and Ingrid with answers that he knows but refuses to share since that would just be no fun.

Fillmore and Ingrid are even police drama tropes. Fillmore is a former juvenile delinquent who became the safety patrol’s top investigator. He sips hot chocolate, makes witty one-liners, has incredible insight and is sometimes a ‘loose cannon’ who struggles with his past.

Ingrid is a new kid in school, new as Fillmore’s partner too, who is also a genius with a photographic memory, making her a fantastic researcher and sleuth. She has a goth look about her, but they don’t do anything with it. Unlike a lot of veteran cop/rookie pairings, Ingrid and Fillmore actually get along very well, which is more of a play on how procedural dramas are now with ‘tension’ between the leads a la Bones, CSI, NCIS, Law and Order SVU.

Of course, you also have to have the boss of the whole operation, in this case the Jr. Safety Commissioner Vellejo, who is usually there to scold Fillmore and Ingrid for any damage they cause while trying to catch perps and to put a fire under their asses to get the case solved quicker.

You even have the ‘politician’ or ‘District Attorney’ trope in Ms. Folsom, who is usually constantly stressing about the cases in order to keep up appearances and maintain the safety and integrity of the school. She’s also on the safety patrol’s asses to get the cases wrapped up quickly and cleanly.

We’ve got red herrings, evidence analysis, slight hints here and there throughout the episode as to who the perp really is. It is a bit easy to figure out who the culprit is if you pay attention, but it is a tween show.

This episode has always been one of my favorites because of how they portray Randall Julian, the ‘serial killer tagger’ who helps Fillmore and Ingrid, the fact that art is the main theme here and how well it sets up the series as a whole, all the while emerging you quite well in the fun world they have set up, distracting you from how silly it actually is and making it seem very cool…

Seriously, take yourself out of the show for a minute andsoak in the story; they’re hunting down someone who is drawing on bathroom stalls with a marker while getting help from a sociopathic macaroni artist turned tagger with the ‘street name’ of Flava Sava with their prime suspects being a guy who likes to draw toilets and pour paint on himself, a guy whose newest masterpiece is coloring in a black dot with 1000 layers of ink and a hippie girl who poops outside because she hates unnatural things.

Also, I won’t spoil who the culprit is, but let’s just say that the actual perp is even weirder that these three.

The action is also usually creative and fun, but there’s one thing you have to keep in mind when the culprit is revealed. It doesn’t matter how far or fast they run; they’re at school. They can’t leave school grounds and even if they don’t catch them, you can just as easily contact their parents. Really the only reason Fillmore and Ingrid need to catch the perps themselves is because Folsom is too fed up with the lack of progress in the case and threatens to shut down the safety patrol nearly every episode if they don’t have the perp by the final bell or within a day or so.

The final standoff between Fillmore and Randall Julian was also great. Hell, it was better than his confrontation with the actual perp. To be honest, the entire thing with Randall was better than the actual plot. As a bonus, Randall is voiced by Josh Peck. And yes, it is trippy.

While we’re on the topic of the voice work, which is great, Fillmore is voiced by Orlando Brown, who does a great job bringing that classic attitude and coolness to the character. Ingrid is voiced by Tara Strong, who I don’t believe needs an introduction. And Anza, one of the background safety patrollers, is voiced by Danny Tamberelli, and if you recognize that name, you get an Internet hug.

All in all, this episode was really great and I loved every minute of it. It’s just subtle enough to be a slight challenge to viewers to figure out what’s really going on while not being so complicated or even unfair in its storytelling that the viewer would have difficulty following along. The characters are all very likable, even most of the suspects and perps, and this series really did just get even better to me after I watched those procedural dramas.

Here’s to another 25 episodes, but is there a rat within this lost gem?

Rating: 9.5/10