Animating Halloween: Recess – Terrifying Tales of Recess

AHRTTOR

Plot: Butch tells some scary stories just in time for Halloween.

Breakdown: Alright, Recess! Yet another nostalgia bomb for me. I loved Recess. It’s one of those shows where I think it started and ended very strongly. They even got their own movie, which I hope to review sometime. Today, however, we’ll be addressing their Halloween special, Terrifying Tales of Recess.

I love a good horror anthology, as you can likely tell. But does Recess really have it in it to tell funny spooky stories?

As bookends to each story is Butch, Third Street’s resident story teller and bearer of bad news, addressing the audience with some information on each story. The first story is Children of the Corn Chip, which is about a ‘mystery’ involving a shop keeper getting attacked by a monster. TJ and the others have to determine who the monster is, what caused the transformation and stop the monster before it turns everyone else into monsters.

This was….kinda lame. It would’ve been better if they didn’t show the monster was Corn Chip Girl at the start and that the tainted item was corn chips. They could’ve just had the shopkeeper talk about some untested food and then Galileo (Gretchen’s computer) could reveal that the item was corn chips, leading them to Corn Chip Girl. It’s just not a mystery story with any sort of twist if you show us who and what it is at the very first scene.

Well, I guess there is a twist….Gus damn near murders Corn Chip Girl by knocking her off the roof. He tries to explain that monsters turn back to normal when they’re up that high and falling or something (it’s very poorly explained) and that he knew Mikey would catch her, but 1) They never explain well why he figured the height or fall would turn her back and 2) there’s no way he could’ve been entirely certain that Mikey would catch her. Geez.

The second segment is called When Bikes Attack. It’s about Mikey’s beloved bike, Pegasus, coming to life in a thunderstorm, angered that Mikey left it out in the rain. This is a pretty entertaining story and it doesn’t even have a happy ending like the first one basically did. The situation is more ‘frightening’ and out of control, and there are more funny moments.

I don’t have much else to say about besides that, so let’s move on to the final story, which is Night of the Living Finsters. This story centers around a hole that the Diggers dug. Seeing them run out of the hole screaming, Lawson dares Vince to spend the night in the hole all alone. Unable to refuse a dare, Vince does it (though how he’d prove it, I don’t know). TJ and the others arrive to support him, but since the rules of the dare were that Vince had to be alone, he triggers what is basically playground rule-breaking mojo.

The ground shakes and reveals the underground graveyard of Ms. Finsters ancestors, who all come back to life and chase the kids through the school. It ends in that familiar ‘it was all a dream?’ and then ‘dunanana, it wasn’t’

This was an alright story. It was a tiny bit scary-ish, but it didn’t really have any particularly funny moments.

All in all, this was a fairly entertaining Halloween special but I think Recess could’ve done a bit better. Maybe it’s just not suited to the anthology format and needed a full episode of just one story?

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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

CSBS – Fillmore! Episode 2

CSBS Fillmore Episode 2

Plot: X-Middle School is undergoing the arduous test of the Satty-9, and it’s been tearing the students apart. Some protest the test’s existence, other freak out over the their performance and Ingrid, despite her certain high score, undergoes an internal struggle of the true importance of the Satty-9. So many students have skills, knowledge and creativity that simply cannot be measured in the multiple choice nightmare. When the completed tests are suddenly stolen by someone in the school mascot’s uniform, Ingrid finds herself contemplating whether it’s for the best.

Breakdown: I remember this being one of my favorite episodes when I was a kid, and I have a deeper respect for this episode now that I’ve gone through several CATs and the SATs. I never stressed much over the CATs but the SATs were a nightmare for me. Everyone crams and stresses over their grade, and a surprising amount feel like that one number score will be a defining characteristic stuck to their lives. It’s hard to have that moment of reflection where you say ‘Whatever happens, this doesn’t reflect my actual intelligence or worth as a person.’

I also appreciate that Ingrid was the one struggling with this, because typically genius characters don’t find tests to be such a big deal, no matter their weight. They seem relatively blind to the hardships and stresses of the non-geniused students around them. Ingrid sees and appreciates the various kinds of skills and talents that everyone has around her and feels bad that the test doesn’t care about intelligence or achievements in these realms, no matter how much these same students prepare for it.

Her moment of faltering was truly just one moment, but it was a pretty powerful one.

Fillmore: “The Satty-9 may be beat, but there’s a right way to fight it. Protests. Giant banners. Editorials. Hard jams with even harder rhymes. Going the other way’s a sucker move. We have a job. We don’t make the rules.”

Ingrid: “I only forgot that for a second.”

Fillmore: “But Ingrid….you forgot that.”

I’ll also give this episode props because I honestly didn’t catch on to who the perp was. Like so many instances, I figured it was a person who only ended up being the second-to-last suspect. And I will admit, it was pretty clever the way they set it up. We even get some pretty funny jokes and references. I honestly don’t remember Fillmore ever including a Pokemon reference, but there it was.

This episode was also a nice build on Fillmore and Ingrid’s friendship. Fillmore doesn’t chew Ingrid out for what she did. He understands her feelings and leads her to a place where she’ll learn the lesson on her own. Plus, that scooter and helmet are awesome. Damn, I wish I had a Razor scooter when I was a kid. Stupid kids getting hurt making my paranoid parents say no.

Rating: 9.5/10

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