CSBS – Rugrats S01 Ep4: Baby Commercial/Little Dude Review

CSBS - Rugrats Ep4 Screen2

Plot: 4A – Baby Commercial: Phil and Lil recall their experiences filming a diaper commercial.

4B – Little Dude: Tommy is brought to be a learning aid at Didi’s high school Home Ec. class.

Breakdown: 4A – Baby Commercial: CSBS - Rugrats Ep4 screen1This is the first episode to mostly center on Phil and Lil, and it’s largely poking fun at the entertainment industry while also having a lot of random slapstick that Rugrats really loved in the early days.

One thing I really remembered about this episode was the director guy, Jonathan’s, obsession with his diaper box pyramid. That detail is mostly unimportant, but the whole time I was rewatching the episode, I was waiting for when we got to the point where he’d yell “MY PYRAMID!” Like the Cabbage Merchant from Avatar the Last Airbender.

Other than that, we have adults either not understanding babies or not giving a single dime store fuck about them. Ya know, the hallmark of all Rugrats episodes.

Here, we have the director guy acting like a one and half year old would know how to take stage directions on his own, Betty handing off Lil to a random slob she doesn’t know, and the random slob instantly placing her on the floor and completely neglecting to watch her because he wants to continue stuffing his face with donuts and being incoherent.

He’s wearing a t-shirt that says ‘Best Boy’ and I never got that joke, nor do I get it now. Is there some joke in the industry that best boys are useless sacks of crap? If you don’t know what a best boy is, they’re basically, what Wiki describes as, the ‘foremans’ of their respective crews, either electric or grips. They’re not the heads of their crews, that would be the gaffer (for electric) and key grip, but they are responsible for a lot of scheduling, hiring and general management. Sounds like they have a pretty important job. Why is the parody of it being portrayed like this? Am I not getting something?

For all of you playing at home, Lil ends up in the goddamn rafters and nearly dies because of course she does.

Then the unsupervised Phil climbs on a camera and drives it around the set, nearly crashing the diaper pyramid down. However, another staple of Rugrats episodes is that all of this chaos usually results in a happy if not unrealistic ending. The advertising execs love the footage of the babies wreaking havoc, and they launch the commercial. Jonathan, having fired the kids and Betty before the execs gave their seal of approval, comes to their house to beg and plead for them to shoot more commercials for them. Betty vehemently refuses because she didn’t like how they were treated, which is probably our first parenting win in this series.

This episode was kinda drab, but it was fun enough to hold my attention.

4B – Little Dude:

CSBS - Rugrats Ep4 Screen4

This is one my absolute favorite early season episodes. It’s extremely cute and funny with many memorable moments, but the highlight is Ramone/Rocko.

Before we get started, does anyone remember that Didi was a high school Home Ec. teacher? It’s really, really easy to forget because they hardly ever talk about it or show her at school. I was a die-hard Rugrats fan for well over a decade and even I barely remembered that she was a teacher.

Anyhoo, Didi brings Tommy to school as a learning aid as she teaches her class how to change a diaper, which I can’t decide if that’s a parenting fail or not. Don’t they usually use baby dolls for this? Isn’t it kinda weird to use an actual baby with an actual poopy diaper? Isn’t it just flatout better to use a baby doll anyway because it’s not like everyone in the class can change Tommy. Not everyone would get a chance to do it themselves.

Like typical teenagers, they can’t bring themselves to change him because ew, but then the coolest guy ever walks in – Ramone also known as Rocko. Ramone looks like a typical ‘cool’ guy. He’s got the leather jacket, the slicked back hair, the sunglasses, the chains etc. But unlike your cliché leather-toting ‘cool’ guy, Ramone actually is incredibly cool. He walks in like a boss, has everyone step aside and changes Tommy flawlessly. Tommy then adorably steals and wears his sunglasses, which Ramone thinks is very cool. I agree, Tommy looks really cool with those glasses on.

Ramone explains that he has a baby brother at home so he’s used to changing diapers. Using his comb, he dubs him ‘Little Dude’ and Tommy instantly takes a shine to him.

Once class is dismissed, some girls convince Didi to let them hang out with Tommy while she’s on her lunch break and she agrees. The girls really like Tommy, but while they’re dealing with some jerk football player they accidentally leave him on the tailgate of a truck that pulls away without them noticing.

I am going to give the girls a break for ignoring Tommy for a bit, but I’m going to ding them for leaving him on the tailgate. He could’ve easily fallen off and gotten severely injured or killed either by wandering off the edge or by the force of the truck pulling away. To their credit, they do quickly realize he’s missing and run all over the place trying to find him, but still.

While wandering, Tommy finds Ramone and picks up the comb he dropped accidentally. He then tries to find Ramone to return it to him. Tommy’s forlorn face when Ramone leaves the room without realizing he’s there is so heartbreaking.

Then we have the epic cafeteria scene where the jerk football player from before and Ramone end up facing off and wiping food on each other after Tommy accidentally gets pudding on the football guy’s jersey. When a full-on food fight breaks out, because cafeteria scene in the 90s, the football jerk angrily picks up Tommy. Ramone instantly stops all of the chaos with a single sentence when he demands the jerk give Tommy to him. He puts Tommy in his leather jacket, leaves the room and instantly allows the food fight to resume as he leaves the doorway.

This guy is too amazing for words.

Tommy is eventually returned to the girls, one of whom instantly falls in mutual love with Ramone at first sight. Aw that’s sweet…Girl, seriously, nab him up. He’ll be an awesome dad. If he treats you anywhere near as well as he treated Tommy here, or even Didi, he was very nice to her too, he’ll be a perfect guy for you.

The girls return Tommy to Didi, who is none the wiser of what happened but is happy to hear the girls learned a lot from their experience with Tommy. Returning Ramone’s comb to him, Ramone lets Tommy keep his sunglasses, which are still super cool, and Ramone bids farewell to the Little Dude.

I left some stuff out for the sake of brevity and because I’d just be ruining jokes for you, but this is a really great episode with some adorable and hilarious moments and a really cool and likable character. I would’ve loved to see Ramone/Rocko return, but alas, he was a one-off.

Parenting Fails

4A – I won’t ding Betty too much for handing off Lil to the Best Boy because she needed to be somewhere to help Phil and she probably just assumed he would be competent enough to hold a baby for five minutes, but I will ding the Best Boy because he didn’t even try to hold her for longer than five seconds. He instantly plopped her on the filthy floor and ignored her. That’s bad enough, but then she ends up climbing into the rafters and nearly falling to her death all because he’s a lazy gluttonous slob. X5

Once Lil has everyone’s attention, literally no one watches Phil, which leaves him open for causing havoc on the ground. He gets ahold of one of the cameras and nearly crashes into the diaper pyramid. X3

4B – Not much here. I’ll ding the tailgate thing (x3), as I said, but considering Didi was trying to teach her students about child care, there were three girls watching him and she was only allowing it for a lunch break, even telling them to find her if he gets fussy, I won’t get on her case.

Tally: 11


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CSBS – Rugrats S01 Ep03: At the Movies/Slumber Party

CSBS - Rugrats Ep3 9

Plot: 3A – At the Movies: The babies are brought to the theater to see their first movie – The Dummi Bears: The World Without Smiles. However, Tommy’s much more interested in seeing the awesome giant green dinosaur, Reptar. Knowing he’s at the theater from seeing a poster for his new movie outside, Tommy and the other babies head off to find him.

3B – Slumber Party: Angelica is invited over to have a slumber party with Tommy. After inconsiderately opening the window during their nap, Tommy falls ill with a fever.

Breakdown: 3A – At the Movies: So, again, I’m not a parent, but I still don’t get the idea behind taking babies to the movies. I’m not talking about parents who bring their small children to movies that are clearly inappropriate for them or don’t bother doing anything about them making a racket during literally any movie – I’m talking about bringing one and two year olds to literally any movie.

The Dummi Bears movie, despite the name being an offshoot of the Gummi Bears, is a parody of the Care Bears, and you can’t get much more saccharine and G rated than the Care Bears. The franchise is obviously centered more on very young kids, but that’s more like three to six year olds not one and two year olds. I’d think kids need to have some sort of solid grasp on language before it’d be worth it to bring them to a movie.

For the kids, you’re basically paying around 40 bucks, not counting snacks and drinks, for bright moving colors to keep their eyeballs engaged for a little over an hour. For the parents, you’re paying the same to sit there bored out of your mind in a room filled with small rowdy children, most of whom won’t sit still or be quiet for the duration of the movie, and similarly disinterested parents.

Not to mention that, surely, one of those babies will need a diaper change in the middle of the film and that has either be annoying to the parents or the babies who may or may not be interested in the movie.

Maybe I’m just ignorant on this topic. I dunno.

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The parents in this circumstance were so engaged in the movie, they didn’t bother checking on their children for over an hour. The children who were literally sitting at their feet. They couldn’t tear their eyes away for a single second….Reminder – they’re watching a Dummi Bears movie.

I’m not one to slam cartoons on the basis of ‘you can’t like this because you’re too old for it’ no matter what age range their demo is – That’s just dumb – but I find it really hard to believe that ALL of the parents were this engaged in a movie that starts with the Dummi Bears shooting happy thought arrows down to the US (And only the US. Everywhere else has to be sad apparently) with the main conflict being the theft of a list of sad children to make happy. Without it, the United States will become the land without smiles.

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Guess they never found the list.

It’s a little understandable that Stu is so into this, I believe it’s been established that he’s a big Dummi Bear fan, but not everyone else. They’re audibly gasping, their eyes are glued to the screen, they’re holding onto each other when the slightest thing happens, Stu nearly broke down in tears. It’s a bit much.

Grandpa Lou is being a little too grumpy about this, but at least he’s acting like most normal adults would when dragged to a toddler movie. And even HE’S too preoccupied either pouting or watching the movie to check on the babies. He just finds them wandering around the lobby later and is like ‘Oh hey, you kids don’t like that garbage either, eh? Let’s get back to our seats.’

Let me also make it clear that the babies are literally right at their feet. They’re not in some movie theater playpen or in seats of their own – they’re put on the floor in front of them….the disgusting sticky movie theater floor. So even when the Rugrats parents (I should call them Rugrents……Hm) are trying to do something nice for their kids, they’re still being irresponsible with them.

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This is another one of those episodes where even the third-party adults are braindead, deaf and blind. Once the babies leave the theater, they run behind a curtain and I instantly think ‘Wow, better hope no one’s showing a hard R movie in here.’ That didn’t happen, but the first movie they found was right in the middle of an almost disturbingly long kissing scene. Obviously, they’re not really moving much and it’s closed-mouth, but still….that somehow makes it weirder, now that I think about it. They’re blocking the projector, they’re walking over people’s feet and somehow no one’s really paying any mind.

The babies break out of there, being detected by no one except one person who tells them ‘Down in front!’ They then lay waste to the lobby. Two teenage employees (One voiced by Scott Menville, and holy crap was that a weird revelation considering I love Teen Titans) are running the snack bar and they’re too engrossed in their argument to notice the babies. They’re arguing over skateboards because they’re teenagers in the 90s.

I can understand them not seeing the babies wandering around the lobby, but let me give a list of all the stuff the babies do that certainly would have been seen/heard by anyone standing a few feet away.

  • Tommy CLIMBS INTO THE POPCORN MACHINE and digs around for Reptar. Not only is that very dangerous, considering the heat, but that is just disgusting. He’s getting boogers, drool and dirty diaper residue all over the popcorn. They actually mention this later, but the guy says the popcorn tasted like soda pop, which doesn’t make sense because no soda came close to the popcorn machine. I almost want to believe the line was originally that the popcorn tasted like diaper and they rewrote it before recording because that’s a little too gross.
  • Phil and Lil pour soda everywhere (but not in the popcorn machine).
  • Chuckie eats a ton of candy bars and throws a bunch of stuff around.
  • Phil and Lil pour ketchup and mustard everywhere.
  • Lil knocks over a container of straws.

Only when the babies are gone do they finally realize the mess that’s been made.

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The babies then head into the projector room where the guy running the projectors for all of the movies is sitting reading a magazine. Again, so enthralled by it that he doesn’t notice the babies making baby noises or climbing into the viewing ports. He also doesn’t notice them climbing onto the spools, grabbing lines of film, yanking on them and causing a massive mess until the massive mess is way out of control.

He did kinda notice them once. Phil and Lil knocked over a stack of film reel cans, obviously making a very loud clanging noise and that makes him look up from his magazine and glance over only to resume reading a second later….

Tommy says he’s ‘seen this one’ when he looks into the port for the viewing of the Dummi Bears movie, and I’m just like….how? This movie is still in theaters and you’ve never been to a movie before. You are a baby….How have you seen this one?

The kids happily find Reptar, but they only pay him some mind for a minute or so before they want to play on the spinning film reels because they’re babies and that’s how they’d realistically react to a movie.

Once they realized they’ve caused trouble, they leave. Lou finds them in the lobby, thinks nothing of it, and brings them back to their seats…err…floor to try and watch the rest of the movie only to have the film cut off because of the babies’ shenanigans, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. The film should’ve cut out when the babies were messing around in there.

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Apparently, no one got a refund, which is bullshit. You pay for a movie and it cuts out before the end, you either give the customers a refund or some voucher for a free re-viewing of the movie in the future. Stu was upset because they were about to reveal if some girl was going to live or something. Stu….it’s a movie for toddlers….I’d wager she lives.

There was a lot of smack talk against the theater near the end. Lou berated the snack bar employees for the huge mess, even though they were clearly working hard to clean it up and it could’ve been an accident. The couple coming out of the theater were saying it’s the worst theater ever. Didi said they should visit a different theater the next time they go to see a movie.

I’m debating whether this is warranted, because, on one hand, the babies caused all of the problems in the theater, and the business doesn’t deserve to get punished for something they did. On the other hand, they have terrible employees who could have easily stopped all of this had they been even remotely interested in doing their jobs. In addition, they didn’t offer refunds for the movies that were cut off, and that’s all on management.

This episode was pretty decent. There was some good humor and pacing here, even if the logic, or lack thereof, regarding the adults was irksome. Obviously, if you know Rugrats, you know this is a pretty important episode because it’s our proper introduction to Reptar, who is HUGE in the Rugrats universe. The babies will remain Reptar fans for the entirety of the show. He’s a very beloved character to both them and most Rugrats fans. I know I love that big green dinosaur.

3B – Slumber Party: Before we begin, I have a very serious topic I’d like to discuss with you all today.

Namely, WHAT THE UNGODLY HELL IS THIS??!?!

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They just start the episode with an image of this creature that would make Satan seek therapy. Who drew this and why do they want to instill terror upon the viewer? Klasky/Csupo has never been known for great art, but…why? Why did the animators make it look like Cupid’s on bath salts?

Anyhoo, Rugrats was always pretty good at making trippy episodes. This is the first, but definitely not last, instance of one of the babies having weird-ass dreams. Most of them are known for being terrifying in their imagery. This one is rather harmless, though. By far the scariest image in this episode is the Cupid from hell – and that’s not part of the dream!

There’s not much to explain about this episode since it’s a trippy fever dream story. It’s moreso an experience than it is an actual story. The only real notable parts are the parenting fails, which are listed below. I definitely remember this episode, though. Every last bit of it.

The actual story is that Angelica is a miserable bitch. I’m sure that’s news to you She makes fun of Tommy for drinking out of a bottle like a baby when…yeah…yeah, he’s a baby. She dumps her perfectly fine dinner onto the floor when Didi pays more attention to a now-ill Tommy than her. What’s worse is that she made her cousin sick and simply doesn’t care.

I was going to make the argument that she didn’t realize the cold would make Tommy sick – she is just three after all – but nope. All signs point to her knowing she made Tommy sick by opening the window and she not only doesn’t care, but she threatens Tommy if he…I dunno what. He can’t tell his parents it was her, so her threat seems unnecessary.

If that’s not bad enough, she blames Phil and Lil for giving it to him, then she blames Chuckie claiming he probably came over and opened his window.

And then she claims Tommy’s faking it…

Angelica also takes every opportunity to vie for Didi’s attention at the dinner table when she knows Tommy’s getting sick and Angelica knows she made him that way. This is where the dinner dumping happens.

Oh well, at least she gets plenty of comeuppance through Tommy barfing all over her. She also gets a slightly nice moment when she flatters Tommy by complimenting his barfing ability. That’s something, I guess.

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While there were some annoying aspects to this episode, it’s otherwise a very sweet story. I’ll definitely take a moment where the parents are being kind and caring to help contrast all the times they’re insanely negligent.

And, really, it is sweet, especially at the end where we see all of the adults sleeping in Tommy’s room (Didi sleeping on Stu’s lap) and even Angelica gets some more subtle shade when we see her sucking her thumb as she sleeps. Hehe, the little hypocrite. (Funny how the one person missing from the previous episode was Angelica considering she’s wearing a Dummi Bears shirt.)

Angelica may be a nightmare, and she may have caused Tommy distress, but she didn’t ruin this cute little acid trip of an episode.

Ratings:

3A – 7/10

3B – 7.5/10

Parenting Fails

3ANone of the parents notice their children are missing from the theater at any point…when they were right at their feet….and they were watching a Dummi Bears movie. I’m gonna count five for this because it’s too dumb.

They put their babies on the floor of a movie theater in the first place….x2 because gross and there’s no reason for this. Everyone else is in seats. Come on – they can at least sit in your laps.

Grandpa Lou thinking nothing of the babies wandering around the lobby, clearly coming from some place that is not their theater.

3B – The window in Tommy’s room not only doesn’t have any baby-proofed lock on it, but it’s also simply not regularly locked and is at a low enough height for a three year old to open it easily.

No one checked on the kids for the duration of their several hour long nap?

Oh dear god, the scene where they’re talking about what to do about Tommy’s illness. At first, it’s not bad because they just want to take his temperature and call a doctor, but then Lou suggests a cure that is never adequately explained. He talks about getting a sock as big as Tommy’s head (?!) and holding him upside down (?!?!?!?) while feeding him applesauce. This “cure” was something he did to Drew and Stu when they were kids. I’m going to give him an overdue parenting fail for that.

This would just be the crazy ramblings of an old coot, and they compound this thought by rolling their eyes at it, but Didi suggested they actually try it! What the hell are you smoking, woman!? x3

Even if this wasn’t just a stupid and possibly harmful thing to do, how does she think feeding him applesauce upside down will bring down his fever?

Speaking of Didi, she, of course, breaks out the damn Lipschitz books. What’s his remedy? Putting a radio under his pillow….Because…that’s how you treat a fever, apparently. Since they don’t have one small enough, they read that they can also sing him a lullaby….Uhm…Didi, are you looking at the section for making a baby sleep and not the one for treating a fever or other illness? Because a lullaby will not treat your son’s fever.

He hasn’t been having trouble going to sleep, why are you trying to treat your son’s illness via song? You’re not a bard.

And…really, if she was looking up ways to make him sleep…why is a lullaby so novel? Did you really need to read that in a Lipschitz book?

Admittedly, the lullaby is quite nice and it’s a sweet moment for them as a family so bit of a parenting win here.

Tally: 12

Next Episode…

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AVAHS – Rugrats: Let It Snow Review

AVAHS - Rugrats Let It Snow

Plot: Grandpa Lou is setting up things early for Christmas card photos since they always get done too late. With all of the Christmas stuff in the house, the babies believe it’s Christmas and that Santa forgot about it. They decide to do whatever it takes to remind Santa that it’s Christmas so all of the babies of the world will be able to get presents.

Breakdown: Even though this episode doesn’t take place at Christmas (It’s August) and it’s only a half-episode instead of taking up the full half-hour, it’s still pretty much a Christmas special – a very wholesome one indeed.

I spent more time smiling at the innocence and naivete of the babies in this episode than I remember doing in a long time. I guess that makes sense because this episode doesn’t have Angelica in it to ruin it for me or them.

The story is very cute and believable, and there are several instances of great humor in this episode. I think the way they ‘made snow’ was kinda convoluted, but it’s not that bad. And the resolution was also very believable and cute.

As a final note, the Pickles’ kitchen is either drawn way too big in this episode or it’s a lot larger than I remember. I know it’s a kitchen and dining room combined, but it’s massive.

Overall, this episode won’t blow you away but it’s a pretty good Christmas special that, if nothing else, will put a smile on your face a few times.


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CSBS – Rugrats S01 Ep02

Rugrats episode 2 title

Plot: 2A – Barbecue Story: The adults are having a barbecue, and Angelica sends Tommy’s ball flying into the neighbor’s yard. Tommy sets off on a mission to get it back.

2B – Waiter, There’s a Baby in my Soup: Stu and Didi are forced to bring Tommy to a fancy dinner with a man who is listening to Stu’s presentation on why he should market his toys.

Breakdown:

2A – Something I kinda dread about rewatching this series as an adult is knowing there will be many moments that will make me cringe in how possibly horrifying the real-world result could’ve been.

Case and point, this segment.

During a barbecue, Angelica, being a bitch, decides to swat Tommy’s ball into the neighbor’s yard for kicks. Tommy breaks into the neighbor’s yard to retrieve it and is forced to go over a secondary fence into an area meant for a vicious guard dog. The dog very nearly (and, if you watch closely, honestly should have) mauls Tommy to death, until he’s suddenly saved by Spike.

Spike returns Tommy to the barbecue and is rewarded with a plate of burnt burgers.

At face value, this is an alright episode. Not the funniest in the world, and there are several annoying aspects I’ll get to in a minute, but it’s decent.

However, as an adult…..I’ve read several news stories about little kids being mauled by dogs, sometimes to death and others severely injured with many scars and deformities left behind. I could not stop myself from imagining Tommy getting viciously attacked by this dog.

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When Tommy’s parents discover him missing, I thought they’d hear his panicked cries and rescue him, but no. They never hear his cries nor discover where he went. Despite being just next door, Spike is the only one who hears poor Tommy and comes to the rescue. Granted, this scene is one awesome Spike moment. He is a total dog badass here, but Jesus Christ, these parents will never not win the worst parents ever award.

To put more clarity on this situation, when Tommy was crying in his playpen after Angelica swatted his ball, every single adult there diverted their attention to Tommy. When he’s screaming and wailing in terror with a huge bulldog snapping his teeth mere inches from his face, everyone besides Spike suddenly becomes deaf.

The ending is a very sweet moment between Tommy and Spike, but the rest of the episode just leaves me feeling uneasy.

The aforementioned annoying aspects come in Angelica and Chuckie. Angelica never gets any comeuppance for what she did, even though her actions very nearly lead to her cousin’s death. Chuckie has a moment of complaining that seemed more whiny than he normally is, mostly because he’s blaming his misfortunes on Tommy when he didn’t force him to come along.

2B – As big of a Rugrats nut as I was when I was a kid, I did have those episodes I didn’t care for. This is one of them. However, back then, my reasoning was entirely for the obnoxious antics of Mr. Mucklehoney. Nowadays, adult me can see that this whole episode doesn’t work.

It’s main premise is built on sand. Didi and Stu are ‘forced’ to bring Tommy to a fancy restaurant because their babysitter canceled last minute, Grandpa Lou is on a bowling date, and they have a presentation with Mr. Mucklehoney – an obnoxious prankster who is constantly laughing.

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ShutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupSHUTUP!

Oh, excuse me, I mean Stu has a presentation with Mr. Mucklehoney. Didi has no purpose here.

This whole plot could’ve been avoided had Didi just stayed home with Tommy. What’s more disruptive? Stating a superfluous third party couldn’t attend a dinner because she had to watch their infant son or bringing a one year old to a fancy restaurant? Keep in mind, Tommy himself is being obnoxious in this episode. When they find out their babysitter needs to cancel, Tommy is on the floor having strewn all of the pots and pans in the kitchen on the floor and dumped a garbage can full of trash all over himself, the floor and the pans.

People find babies in cheap family restaurants to be an annoyance, but bringing a one year old to a fancy restaurant? When you have a very good reason not to? And when you’re having dinner with someone very important? Come on.

What’s even worse is that they set up an out and don’t take it just so it can be more believable when Tommy manages to escape. Didi gets a call from Grandpa Lou right before they order. He needs a ride home because he had a fight with his date and she was his ride. Didi agrees and is about to take Tommy, who is drumming on the dinnerware with a fork and spoon, with her because she realizes he’s being a nuisance. However, Mr. Mucklehoney offers to have the two of them watch him and she’s just like ‘alright’ and even gives the spoon back to Tommy so he can continue being loud and irritating to everyone around them.

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Of course, Tommy quickly slips out of his high chair and, of course, Stu is none the wiser. He slips into the kitchen and, I might need to add a ‘third-party adult fail’ section because not a damn person in that kitchen realizes a baby is crawling around on the countertops making a mess and destroying stuff. I feel really bad for the people who get that cream pie filled with silverware. Thank God Tommy never reached the stove. He fell into a bowl of pasta – he could’ve easily fallen into a pot of boiling water.

When he gets back to the table, he’s superheated Mucklehoney’s soup, bubblegum’d his shoes to the table, tied Stu’s shoes to the table and caused the entire table to topple over on top of Mucklehoney.

And, of course, Mr. Mucklehoney is one of those sitcom schmucks who has all this crap happen to him and, because it would be unfair to have Stu suffer for Tommy’s actions, he loves the crazy antics Stu has caused and offers him a job.

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This episode is poorly written and riddled with plot conveniences. You can practically see them drawing a map to the plot they were trying to get to. “Okay, how about we have Tommy let loose in a restaurant making all sorts of trouble? We’ll work out the details of how this happens right before we animate it. No storyboards. They’re a hassle.”

Not to mention, Tommy just doesn’t work well on his own. Rugrats always worked best when the babies were playing off of each other. Even if the plot is obviously focused on one character, you need at least one or two more to make the story as a whole work. Tommy is completely on his own here. There’s not even any minor Angelica cameo. Not to mention, they seem like they upped his annoying level so they could get more comedy out of him.

Ratings:

2A – 6/10

2B – 2/10

Parenting Fails

2A – No one notices or cares that Angelica took Tommy’s ball and threw it over the fence. Even if it’s understandable to maybe not catch her taunting him with it, surely someone had to have seen her throw the thing.

No one notices them breaking out of their playpen, even though they’re all in the side yard, nor do they see the babies escaping into the neighbor’s yard.

If you have babies or pets, don’t leave loose or broken boards in your fence.

I applaud the neighbor for having a second fence within his fence for his vicious dog, but I’ll add some neighbor fails for making this fence all of a foot and a half tall (the babies can get over it just by giving each other a little boost.) and chaining the large and very strong dog to a rickety dog house that is half-assedly nailed to boards in the ground.

It takes them way too long to notice the babies missing, especially considering the babies were looking in the neighbor’s first yard for quite a while.

No one hears Tommy’s terrified cries merely a yard away.

X10 fails just because I can’t get the image of Tommy being mauled out of my head. The fact that their dog was a better parent here than anyone else is ridiculous.

2B – Nobody notices that Tommy is playing with the toilet – a possible drowning hazard because it’s one of those toilets that seems to hold three gallons of water in the bowl.

Nobody notices that Tommy spreads out all of the pots and pans in the kitchen on the floor. Even if you can say they didn’t see it, there’s no way they didn’t hear it because that would be insanely loud.

Nobody notices that Tommy knocks the garbage over.

When they do notice, they don’t give a crap.

Gonna count them bringing Tommy to this meeting as a fail. If they really had no choice, I’d understand, but not only is Didi a perfectly good option, they don’t even consider contacting any of the other parents to see if they can do it. Any adult should know that bringing a baby to a fancy restaurant is inconsiderate. And this is coming from someone who’s never had a child or been to a particularly fancy restaurant. Unless you have the most angelic baby in the world, or they’re comatose, they’re going to cry, smell and be obnoxious. They even show how annoyingly he’s behaving before they even leave, and he wastes no time before he starts drumming on his dinnerware.

Didi leaving Tommy alone with these two.

Stu not noticing Tommy has escaped. He is literally seated a foot away from him.

If I don’t have a ‘third party adult’ tally, we’re skipping six points.

Tally: 26

What the…They’re Babies!

Outside of the babies easily scaling that fence, there wasn’t much in this area for either episode.

Next Episode…..

….Previous Episode

AVAHS – Rugrats: Babies in Toyland Part 2

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Plot: The adults are snowed in at a 19th century cabin. The babies are battling in The Nutcracker and trying desperately to make Dil’s first Christmas a good one so he’ll have more Christmases in the future. Angelica is hellbent on getting Santa’s toys all for herself. Is anyone going to have a good Christmas?

Breakdown: This review didn’t need to be two parts, but if they’re going to stretch out the special and yuk out some bonus points, I’m gonna.

This episode starts with five minutes worth of two things – Angelica being a thieving bratty bitch and the babies taking part in a mechanical representation of The Nutcracker.

Angelica grabs an armful of cookies that were meant to be taken one by one by the children listening to the carolers and they don’t do a damn thing about it. She took all of them yet no one even calls out to her to stop. Someone loses their snow hat in front of her so she just decides it’s hers now, even though that hat shouldn’t really fit her. Then she jumps into a group of carolers singing her rendition of ‘Joy to the World’ where she inserts herself as the main focus of the song. Yes, Angelica is now literally comparing herself to Jesus. Maybe not intentionally, but it’s there.

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I don’t understand why she’s screwing around so much. The only reason I can figure is that they want to keep showing Angelica being a witch so we’ll better understand why she’s supposedly not on Santa’s nice list…………………………….but……come on. Even people who have never seen a frame of Rugrats know that Angelica’s one of the most notoriously bratty bully characters to ever be shown in any form of media. She has her moments where she thaws her heart, but there is never any question that she is mostly a terrible and selfish person.

Even so, couldn’t they have put this in the first episode? She sent the babies off on a wild goose chase so she could find Santa’s toys first, yet she’s not even actively looking for them until she runs into the babies again.

Speaking of the babies, there’s not much to say about them for a while. Like I said, they accidentally partake in a mechanical rendition of The Nutcracker and all sorts of shenanigans happen. Some of it’s a little funny, but it’s still mostly padding. There’s also one aspect I don’t understand about it.

They’re first being ‘attacked’ by the Nutcracker and are saved by the Mouse King and his soldiers, but when Kimi decides they should fight too, she immediately decides to kick the crap out of one of the mice soldiers. I know they’re animatronics who aren’t taking sides, but from their perspective, Kimi is beating up someone who just saved them.

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I owe you my life, and an asskicking!

Then it turns around and the Mouse King is attacking them, but the Nutcracker saves them and winks at them. I don’t understand.

Once we get to the actual plot, Angelica has an acid trip after she breaks into a fake Santa’s Workshop. Nothing says ‘I deserve presents’ like breaking and entering. She imagines the workshop is real, along with the toy reindeer Santa handed her, named Prancey, and the employee elf from earlier, Hermie, being a real elf. He breaks the news to her that she’s not getting any presents since she’s not on the nice list and even Prancey abandons her after she called him a dumb toy.

We get an alright, but incredibly forgettable song called “Treat Each Day Like Christmas (And Your World’s a Holiday)” where Angelica learns to not be a bitch, I guess. The problem I have with this song is that it’s not really treating Angelica to be a better person on the grounds of just being a better person – it’s basically telling her to be a better person or you end up with no presents. Which is already pretty pointless because she already did get a present – the aforementioned reindeer doll Prancey. She didn’t like it at first, but obviously grew to like it. So, yes, if you’re a bratty little sack of reindeer crap, you do indeed get presents. Maybe not the one you wanted, but it’s far better than–

Hermie: “We give the good kids lots of toys and give the bad ones lice!”

Yeah, lice……Wait, what?

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Prancey is adorable, though….Man, I’m sure on a reindeer cuteness kick lately.

Plus, she’s guaranteed to get a bunch of stuff ‘from Santa’ from her parents.

Back with the adults, their plot literally resolves itself off-screen. They’re still trapped, but they learned to stop fighting, stop being angry about missing Christmas with the kids, stop worrying that they’re going to die from lack of oxygen, enjoy the rustic charm of the cabin, focus less on the Mega Corp stuff and commercialism of Christmas and have a nice Christmas together all doing various things like baking, making popcorn garland, decorating the tree and doing origami…..off-screen. Too bad every single scene in these two episodes has been everything but padding or else they could’ve had time to show all that.

They seem like they might get back to being Christmas grumps when Chaz accidentally sets off the sprinkler system and soaks everyone and everything, but, like before, when they return to the scene later, everything is mostly dry and they’re right back to singing carols and enjoying the holiday. They keep cutting out the most important parts of this subplot. It’s driving me nuts.

In the actual plot for the babies, they’re lead by a goat to a nativity scene, which in my opinion, is pretty much the only part of this special worth its salt. The babies all feel bad for the baby Jesus because he looks cold and itchy, barely clothed in a bed of hay. Though I don’t know why they’re not questioning why this baby is sleeping with his eyes wide open and isn’t moving at all.

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Baby Jesus went on to become a wonderful mime.

They believe Mary, Joseph and the wise men are all hoping the baby has a good first Christmas or else he won’t get any others, like Dil. In an effort to give him some semblance of a good first Christmas, they give the baby Jesus the special Christmas gifts they got from the Nutcracker battle. As soon as I saw they kept those things, I knew they’d reincorporate them, but the way they went about getting them and the fact that the items are totally random pieces of trash makes it seem like this was thrown together sloppily.

Lil gives her ribbon that she got from a ballerina robot, Phil gives a shoe that he took from that same robot, Chuckie gives the big walnut he got from the Nutcracker, Kimi gives a bell she got from the Mouse King and even Dil gives the hat that he got when it flew off of Angelica’s head (the same one she essentially stole).

Then the Jesus doll smiles.

……This is meant to be really cute and endearing and everything….but this is kinda creepy. Rugrats is known for the babies taking normal things and perceiving them as living or something else because they have such an active imagination. The Nutcracker battle, for example, kept switching back and forth between watching the robots fight to watching a real battle between mice and nutcrackers.

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They’re doing this with the Jesus doll…..but I just can’t shake off the creepy feeling. It’s not like they’re imagining the baby Jesus as a living, breathing baby now, fussing around like Dil does – they’re imagining the same doll just with a smile now. The smiling doll is cute, but the shift is what makes it creepy. It doesn’t even make sense with the way their imaginations work.

I will give this scene major props, though. They manage to make a mostly endearing and adorable scene of pure good will, kindness and charity, involving a nativity scene, and not shoving anything overtly Christmas-y or even religious down our throats – and this is coming from a Christian who loves having schmaltzy Christmas-y messages shoved down my throat.

With Lou, he takes up the Santa role since the last one quit, and pathetically dresses up for the job with nothing but his regular attire plus a Santa hat and a beard that is way too loose-fitting. It’s hanging so low on his face, it would never fool even the youngest child. He is being a good Santa, though, so I’ll give him that. He hears that six babies are riding a goat to the nativity scene so he rushes out on a sleigh and retrieves them.

Close by, he spots the cabin the others are trapped in and I almost facepalmed when I saw it from the outside.

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The snow is somehow only piled up around the cabin despite the snow machines being a fair distance away from it and the snow being spread out in a circular pattern. The only way to achieve this effect would be if there was only one snow machine and it was on the roof of the cabin.

They also don’t bother trying to open the window to climb out despite the fact that the snow barely reaches halfway up the window.

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In the end, Chuckie says Dil had a pretty good Christmas with or without presents because they had a lot of fun together. Angelica shows back up and somehow has a sack of gifts despite not being given one at the end of the ‘it totally happened’ acid trip. She kept the elf hat, but there was no sack of gifts. Angelica happily gives the babies their gifts. Chuckie gets a new snowsuit, complete with his trademark Saturn design, because his old one ripped during the Nutcracker battle. Kimi gets a glockenspiel….and she somehow calls it that instead of a xylophone, which is weird.

Yeah, they’re different, but most kids wouldn’t know the difference and much more commonly know the xylophone. How they mutter mispronounced words all the time but she manages to say ‘glockenspiel’ nearly perfectly is almost comical. Phil gets a new pair of snow boots. Lil gets a magic princess wand.

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Tommy doesn’t want to open his gift until Dil does (Tommy, you really are the best big brother) However, there’s, for some reason, nothing for Dil. I’m confused. If this bag is from Santa, there’s no reason why Dil wouldn’t get a gift. His name is even confirmed to be on the list from Angelica’s acid trip. If the bag is just something she put together herself, she wouldn’t say it’s from Santa and would’ve remembered Dil. Unless Santa wanted Angelica to give up her reindeer doll to make her story arc come to a head, I dunno.

Angelica tearfully yet happily gives Dil the doll and then prompts Tommy to open his gift. He says he already got his gift since all he wanted was for Dil to have a good Christmas. Then he offers his gift to Angelica since she doesn’t have a gift (you’re killing me, Tommy.) Angelica rejects it and tells him to open it. It’s a new camera, which may or may not be an intentional nudge at his future film career in All Grown Up. It’s a regular photo camera, not a video camera, so I can’t be certain.

The kids are reunited with the parents and they spend the rest of Christmas eve hanging out in the cabin.

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The end.

———————————-

This special really didn’t need to be two parts, but at least most of part two was pretty good. Most of the plot with the adults didn’t have enough development on screen to have a strong impact, but it got the message across effectively enough.

The storyline with Angelica was poorly handled. Not only does she pull a complete 180 just because a song basically told her to be nice, but she magically gains a sack of toys from nowhere so we can wrap up the plot better. It is implied that the acid trip dream was real since she still had the elf hat and Santa does his tropey fly overhead in the last shot of the episode, but how and why did the warehouse instantly change back and forth to the mechanical representation? Please don’t say ‘magic’.

Like I mentioned, there was never any part where Angelica is handed a sack of toys and told to go deliver them for Santa or even saying ‘you’ll know what to do’. She just gets a sack of toys from nowhere and claims it’s from Santa.

Angelica was being a selfless girl at the end, especially giving up her reindeer for Dil and refusing to accept Tommy’s present as her own, but it loses a bit of its impact when you remember her parents will just shower her with everything she ever dreamed of at home. She doesn’t know that, so maybe it redeems her, but it was still a bit of a sloppy way of quickly changing her ways, which won’t even matter because Angelica is still a huge bitch after this even in All Grown Up.

The plotline with the babies was a good deal of padding, but for the most part the threads of it held together pretty well, even if I think it was also handled a tad sloppily. I did really enjoy the nativity scene…scene. It was definitely the best part of the episode, particularly with how unique it is. I can’t think of any Christmas special that has a scene even remotely similar to that. It was a very sweet and cute segment that didn’t seem forced or preachy. They weren’t even really giving their stuff over because it was Christmas, they legitimately felt bad for the baby.

All in all, this was an enjoyable Christmas special, but nothing fantastic. It had its funny lines and moments, but not enough to truly make the episode a must watch on Chrsitmas. It also had its touching moments, but only in part two. Tommy in particular is being a big sweetheart.

In all honestly, part two can be watched almost entirely on its own and it’s instantly made into a much better special. You could easily cut some fat from this and insert some exposition from part one to clean this up. The special is certainly worth watching, but it’s so hard to justify the 44 minute long cumulative runtime.

AVAHS – Rugrats: Babies in Toyland Part 1

AVAHS - Rugrats babies in toyland part 1

Plot: Charlotte has become the new CEO of Megacorp, and Stu has been contracted out to design and build a massive mechanical Christmas wonderland. Everyone is invited to come down on Christmas and enjoy the attractions in a private gathering before the kids are able to meet Santa. However, Angelica’s on a Christmas warpath to meet Santa first and demand all of the good presents before anyone else can get one. Tommy’s more preoccupied with making Dil’s first Christmas a great one, but Angelica tricks them into believing that Dil will never have another good Christmas if he doesn’t get a good present from Santa in his first year. They’re not that worried until Angelica drives Santa into quitting. Is Christmas ruined for everyone?

Breakdown: Babies in Toyland was a special I watched but wasn’t all that interested in. Despite being a Rugrats nut for most of my childhood, I admit, I never got too into the later seasons. Right about when they got a new theme song was when I started to fade out. I believe that was when I started getting more interested in Pokemon and anime as a whole.

Plus, it was getting that ‘we’re clearly running on fumes’ stink. That smell usually comes from the inclusion of many new characters. Dil was an alright addition and gave more depth to Tommy’s character. Kimi was also alright, but really seemed like a female Tommy. They didn’t really utilize her much as a new layer to Chuckie’s character in making him a brother. Kira never added anything to show besides making Chuckie’s life a little less sad, neither did Spike and Fifi’s puppies or Lulu. Before I rewatched this special, I legit forgot that Lulu even existed.

For some reason, Babies in Toyland is a two-parter Rugrats special, which I can’t make sense of. Rugrats has a decent library of holiday specials, all of which are better than this episode and all of which are merely one episode (technically two since Rugrats was usually split up into eleven minute segments. Meaning this special is actually taking up four ‘episodes’.) Considering this was right when Rugrats was starting to teeter off in popularity, I have to wonder why they’d give them a two-part Christmas special.

The only way I can figure it is that they knew the holiday specials were some of the most well-received episodes of Rugrats. In an effort to get more steam out of them, they stretched what would’ve easily been a singular episode special into two parts.

Let me highlight one of the biggest reasons why this doesn’t work as a two-parter. The to-be-continued cliffhanger is the babies approaching a giant nutcracker……..that’s it. They closeup on the nutcracker’s face, it’s not moving or doing anything…..and bam ‘to be continued’

The setup here is a bit interesting because it’s almost like they’re about to make this one of Stu’s big screwups on steroids. They’re surrounded by things he’s invented and, if you know Rugrats, you know it basically means they’re in a death trap. How the hell a multi-billion dollar corporation like Mega Corp hired a man like Stu in the first place is beyond me. They show that he literally holds parts of his machine together with paper clips, and should even one of said paper clips fail, the control panel bursts into sparks and causes a blizzard that could kill the people in Christmas Land in a matter of moments.

This wouldn’t be a big issue since most adults would just leave, but remember, this is Rugrats, meaning these dumbass idiots are always letting their babies run loose or leaving them with Grandpa Lou, who I’m starting to believe has baby-induced narcolepsy at this point. He obviously falls asleep, allowing the babies to escape, and when he wakes up he believes Lulu (his new wife) took the kids and left him hot cocoa, despite the fact that she went on the train with the others, no one else is seen returning, she didn’t leave a note or anything. The babies could be kidnapped and he’d be none the wiser.

Angelica is notorious for being one of the biggest animated bitches this side of media, but she seems like she’s turning up the obnoxious evil bitchery up in this episode. Being all pushy about seeing Santa and hilariously acting like she deserves all the best presents because she’s ‘worked so hard at being good this year’ is one thing, but lying like that to Tommy and the others about Dil was just evil for no reason. Angelica usually lied to the babies because it would benefit her in some way. Sometimes she was a bitch for the sake of being a bitch, but she mostly used her lies to manipulate the babies into either doing her bidding or getting her something.

I do find it funny that Angelica’s such an irritating slab of brat that she makes Santa of all people quit, but I think it would’ve been much funnier if the Santa was real. That doesn’t really mesh with the Rugrats universe, but it definitely would’ve been funnier. Plus, when they’re adding, in canon, a giant robot dinosaur being piloted by babies, having a battle in France against a giant robot snail being piloted by a Frenchman, I think we can justify squeezing real Santa in there.

There’s a subplot with the other adults that I don’t really care about. They visit some historically accurate cabin with animatronics (Yeah, that doesn’t make sense) and get snowed in by a blizzard caused by Stu and his dumb paper clips. The snow reaches six feet deep in about an hour, meaning if the babies were in the area they’d be long since dead by now. Good job, guys.

Lulu loves the cabin, but everyone else is bored or bickering.

In the end, the babies and Angelica, devastated that Santa quit, decide to look for the stash of Santa’s toys so Angelica can bathe in things she doesn’t deserve and Tommy can get Dil a good present for his first Christmas.

Despite not being terribly funny or even all that interesting, and clearly being stretched into a two-parter, there were some highlights. I love Tommy in this because he’s such a great big brother. He doesn’t care at all that he won’t get presents this year – he just wants a present for Dil to ensure all of his future Christmases are good. I liked that Chuckie offered to give Dil his blocks and pretend they were from Santa. That just shows what an awesome friend and person Chuckie is. I also liked one line from Phil where he suggests bringing Angelica back a witch’s broom as a present.

May I ask one final question before we get to the second part? The babies have now been through several holiday specials…….how old are they now? Tommy should be at least three by now, same with Phil and Lil, Chuckie should be like five, Angelica should be six and Dil should be less annoying….Seriously, why is Dil not at least conversing with the other babies by now? At any rate, they should definitely be older than they are now.

Cartoons Step-by-Step: Rugrats S01 Ep01

rugrats episode 1

Plot: It’s Tommy’s first birthday, and his parents have pulled all the stops to make it great. Didi has plenty of entertainment and food setup while Stu is inventing a gift. However, Tommy’s much more interested in trying some of his dog, Spike’s, dog food, believing that it will turn him into a dog.

Breakdown: I don’t think I need to reiterate how much Rugrats means to me. It was a huge part of my childhood, and spawned my love of all things Nickelodeon (back in the good ol’ days when the execs weren’t braindead dimwits…Er were slightly less braindead I suppose.) I was obsessed with Rugrats for well over a decade, and I cherish the show to this day.

That being said, this pilot was always boring as hell to me.

To me, this first episode seems a lot more like it’s made for parents than it is children. One of the great things about Rugrats is, due to the premise, it is very easy for children and parents/adults alike to enjoy it, but this episode does seem focused more on the parents.

It takes a quarter of the episode before any of the babies even speak, and rarely is there a joke to be had until the climax.

Instead we have to watch the human paradox that is Didi have a fit over this birthday party. I swear, she will obsess over everything related to parenthood because her ultimate goal in life is to be a good mother (“like the ones on TV” ~Didi) but even this early on she is completely oblivious to what Tommy wants, needs or is doing most of the time.

Instead, she’d rather bow down to the glory of the almighty Dr. Lipschitz books, to the point where her catchphrase is ‘Dr. Lipschitz says…’, causing her to actually be a less effective mother. (I can’t find info on this, but is Lipschitz’ name a joke? Like everything he says is bull shit?)

Not to say she is one without him. Didi let Tommy slide off of her lap and wander into the kitchen (which is closed off by it’s own door by the way, for anyone who might argue that she can still watch him), which was about his fifth time attempting to get in there without anyone noticing, and she is always losing track of where the kids are, which has become one of the most well-known tropes of this series. (Even though all of the parents are negligent in their own right).

At least I can say Tommy was always picked up and brought somewhere else shortly after these attempts, before the climax of course. But let’s address that later.

Stu is up to his goofball inventor tricks, but he’s mostly babbling about his Hover-rama, a flying remote control spaceship thing, that he made for Tommy. Though he never gets it working purely because he forgot the batteries. Maybe that’s supposed to be funny because he’s brought up how impressive his gift is because it takes like four different kinds of batteries about five times at this point, but he seriously ends up crying because he forgot the batteries for the remote. He barely looks for any, either. He checks his pockets, gets a sullen look, then sits down and cries.

There are three shining lights in the adult section, though. Betty is usually always funny in the early seasons. In the later seasons, she becomes more of a bitch and an idiot. She’s in direct contrast to Didi. While she is fairly negligent of her children’s activities in her own right, she definitely knows more about children than Didi does. Even small observations like the fact that the party hats Didi puts on them will be quickly discarded are made a little funny because of the stark contrast. When you think about it, both Didi and Betty are realistic parents, it’s just that Betty is more relatable and funny.

Next, Grandpa Lou also brings some grounding reality to the household with some of his comments, along with Grandpa Boris and Grandma Minka.

Finally, the puppet show is the funniest part of the episode. Stu and his brother, Drew, father of Tommy’s famously horrible cousin, Angelica, put on a puppet show after Didi messes up the scheduling for the puppeteers. Their bickering is pretty funny and just gets increasingly entertaining.

At the climax, all of the kids go into the kitchen while the adults are focused on the bicker-fest of Stu and Drew, who never break out from behind the stage and fight as puppets the whole time.

Spike has eaten all of his food, so Tommy and Angelica try to reach a can of it on the top of the shelves by them both standing on the counter balanced on a bunch of bowls and colanders while Tommy balances on Angelica’s shoulders. See why many people grew to be outraged at the Rugrats’ parents over time? If they bothered to pay a modicum of attention to their kids, they’d realize that Angelica and Tommy were in a situation where they could easily both smash their heads in on the tile.

They can’t reach it, so Chuckie, resident scaredy cat and Tommy’s best friend, decides to use the Hover-rama to knock it down. Chuckie has batteries in his pocket for some reason, and he’s able to instantly put the batteries in correctly, meaning he has better battery skills than most adults I know.

Chuckie, amazingly, pilots the Hover-rama perfectly from the living room into the kitchen, despite not being able to see it, and, with the skill of a surgeon, is able to position and maneuver the Hover-rama to the shelf right by the dog food and starts nudging it over.

Phil and Lil, Betty and her husband, Howard’s, twins, known for being more gross than most of the kids, ruin it by grabbing the remote and start trying to do the job better than Chuckie, which turns out like you’d expect. They accidentally grab Tommy with the Hover-rama and fly him all over the kitchen, knocking Angelica into a bag of flour, knocking the stack of bowls and stuff that they were standing on over, spraying the room with water from the hand nozzle from the sink, knocking over a stack of plates and all without any of the adults ever hearing a thing.

They even fly Tommy into the living room, where the parents are, and they still don’t notice a thing until the Hover-rama is crashed into the cake.

Chuckie was really funny when he was flying the Hover-rama, though. Not only does he have the skills, he also knows some pilot lingo.

In the end, Didi simultaneously shows us the insanity of a regular family and the insanity of trying to mediate one by pacifying everyone who is arguing by telling Drew and Stu they’re both wrong for what they did to each other as kids and telling both of her parents that they’re right on their opposing sides of what cake they should’ve had at the party (Boris was right, though. It should always be chocolate.)

And the babies did indeed get some dog food, which they promptly spat out. Which is weird, because they eat worms and bugs and stuff.

All in all, this episode is really boring, but it’s somewhat salvageable. The periods of no music don’t really help. I’m not saying every scene needs music, otherwise I’d have to apologize to 4Kids. But there are scenes that are just too quiet to keep your attention.

The funny moments are sporadic, but the ending is somewhat solid.

Rating: 5/10

Just for fun, let’s have two running tallies, because, trust me, this will be interesting to keep track of at each season’s end.

Parenting Fails

I didn’t count exactly, but let’s go with about eight times the kids sneaked away with no one noticing. (Let’s also include an ‘at blame’ counter, to see who comes out looking better as parents. In this case, though, while Didi and Stu technically have more, all of the parents are guilty. Stu, Didi, Drew, Betty, Howard, and even the grandparents, Boris, Minka, and Lou. Chas and Charlotte are innocent because they simply weren’t here.)

The entirety of the climax, which will count as three.

Stu thinking it’s not unsafe for babies to have a complicated flying machine as a toy, especially with tons of batteries. Also note that the battery compartment for the remote is not secured with a screw or anything. You push the door and it opens.

No one noticing that Chuckie had batteries.

No one noticing that Tommy has a real screwdriver (his later one is a toy).

Tally – 14

What the…They’re babies! (This category is for odd details that seemingly make no logical sense given these are babies, but this tally is mostly for fun considering some liberties have to be taken for humor.)

How did Tommy tape his screwdriver to the underside of his high chair?

How DID Chuckie know how to fly that thing so well? Especially considering that the controls look like crap.

How did Tommy and Angelica even get up on the counter like that?

Next episode, the Pickles hold a barbecue and Tommy is brought along with his parents to a dinner with Stu’s newest investor prospect.

AVAHS – Rugrats: A Rugrats Kwanzaa

tommr8h

Plot: Suzie’s Great Aunt T comes to visit after Christmas and makes plans to celebrate Kwanzaa with the family. After learning that part of Kwanzaa is about celebrating the great people in your family, Suzie laments that she has done nothing great like her siblings and parents have done. Wanting to partake in Kwanzaa, Suzie tries to do great things with the help of the babies, but continuously falters. Will Suzie really be left out of Kwanzaa or is she greater than she thinks?

Breakdown: So we’re at the second of two of the seemingly only animated Kwanzaa specials in existence with Rugrats. I praised Rugrats very highly for their venture into another seldom explored-on-screen holiday, Hanukkah, and I was disappointed to say the least with The Proud Family’s version. Does Rugrats bring some light to the kinara this year?

Yes and no.

While this rendition is definitely miles above what The Proud Family spewed out, I’d still be a bit hard-pressed to say it’s really all that great as a true Kwanzaa special.

Like I mentioned in The Proud Family’s Kwanzaa special review, there are seven days of Kwanzaa to cover, each with their own meanings and particular celebrations. You can’t just shove all of that to the wayside for something else and think it will still give the same weight.

Rugrats gives Kwanzaa more respect as a holiday, giving us more insight into its true meaning and a slight taste into its history, but the whole Kwanzaa aspect is again shoved to the side for a plot about Suzie trying her best to be a great person. Not only that, but later on they delve into why Suzie’s ancestors, despite not having awards or fame, are great in their own right, such as her Great Uncle Charles being a very kind man whose kindness actually led him and Aunt T into meeting Martin Luther King Jr., Suzie’s mother Lucy braving her stage fright to sing at church and Aunt T giving Lucy her college tuition for Harvard Medical School when her financial aid fell through.

It’s true that part of Kwanzaa is celebrating your ancestors in various ways, and Suzie trying to find what’s great about her is a realistic way a three-year-old might approach this. This plot, as a whole, is solid enough. Not particularly great episode material, but good. My problem is that is takes up nearly the whole episode, once again pushing the Kwanzaa festivities aside.

Probably the worst aspect of this is that the special treats Kwanzaa like it is indeed a one-day event. They only cover the first day, Umoja, without even mentioning the fact that it’s a seven day event with six other principles to cover. And the special doesn’t even focus on that, really. It focuses more on being great in your own way and recognizing greatness in others in various ways. That’s a great lesson to learn, but it has little to do with unity.

If I wanted to go the extra mile, I might even say this special wasn’t even intending on being a Kwanzaa special at the start. You could almost take all of the Kwanzaa stuff out and the episode would not really be all that different.

It’s just really disappointing because they did such a phenomenal job on their Hanukkah special that I was expecting something at least nearing such quality for their Kwanzaa special.

There are also weird parts of this episode like….what are the babies even doing there? Why are they at the Carmichaels the day after Christmas? I wouldn’t be so bothered by this if any of their parents were there, but they’re not. The only parents who make an appearance besides Suzie’s are Phil and Lil’s and they only make a brief cameo.

Another weird thing is where the hell is Dil? This is season seven, and Kimi is there. Why would Tommy be babysat by the Carmichaels but Dil not? Angelica is also noticeably (and thankfully) absent but she might have an excuse to not be present whereas I can’t think of a damn thing for Dil.

I love how Mrs. Carmichael is so flippant about leaving a house full of children. She doesn’t even mention that she’s leaving to anyone and no one notices that she’s gone either. Oh yeah, a parent in Rugrats not being irresponsible. Silly me.

I guess I appreciate that the didn’t end the episode with Suzie revealing some great hidden talent, even though it has been established that she’s a fantastic singer like her mother (send up to Cree Summer.) They just appreciate what she tried to do out of the kindness of her heart (making a gift for Aunt T, which ended up getting ruined)

I also like how they included all of the babies in the festivities for Kwanzaa instead of making this a purely Suzie and the Carmichaels episode. I would’ve liked it a little better if they included all of the parents too, though.

I could make an argument that this episode does, subtly, include all of the principles of Kwanzaa.

Umoja, unity, is shown in all of the family finally getting together at the end during the power outage and spending time together.

Kujichagulia or self-determination is reflected in Suzie’s determination to do something great to be a part of Kwanzaa. Lucy also shows this in her determination to get over her fear and sing in the choir.

Ujima, collective work and responsibility, is reflected in the babies doing everything they can to help Suzie achieve something great. Additionally, Charles stops to help MLK Jr. with car troubles.

Ujamaa or cooperative economics is shown when Aunt T uses the money she and her husband have saved over the years for the tuition money to help Lucy become a great doctor.

Nia or purpose was touched upon when Aunt T was talking with Suzie about discovering what truly makes her great as she grows up.

Kuumba or creativity was shown when Suzie tried to hand-make a gift for Aunt T.

Finally, Imani or faith may be a difficult one, but it could be reflected in Aunt T telling Suzie to always be proud of who she is and where she came from. I could also make the stretch in merely the fact that there’s a scene in the church with Lucy singing ‘This Little Light of Mine’.

I’m basically reading something into nothing, but I find it kind of neat that you can apply all of the principles of Kwanzaa to the episode, more or less, even if they don’t even mention the others.

This special certainly did more things right than The Proud Family did. They weren’t talking down to anyone, bad-mouthing Christmas for no reason, making you feel like crap or giving mixed messages that contradicted themselves or were bad messages anyway. They were respectful of their audience, didn’t even mention Christmas outside of showing the tree and some gifts, made you feel fairly good for have watched it and gave a clear and concise message that was actually good.

I really like Suzie as a character anyway. She’s always been a great foil for Angelica, which just makes it weirder that Angelica’s not here. Though, I guess, she really couldn’t have been given a decent spot in the plot.

She’s not being greedy for gifts, though she doesn’t understand the significance of her scrapbook gift when she gets it and is disappointed that it’s not something she can play with, at least she’s not slamming it on the floor and making a sarcastic comment about how it’s not a better gift like some Pennys I can think of. She’s just trying to be a part of the holiday and wants to make her family proud. Hehehhehehe, Proud Family. Hehehe, that’s funny for some reason.

All in all, this is a good episode, but just an okay Kwanzaa special. I just don’t think they had the same direction, inspiration and drive for this special as they did for the Hanukkah special.

Happy Kwanzaa everyone!

Thanksgiving Special: Rugrats – The Turkey Who Came to Dinner

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Plot: The babies learn about the first Thanksgiving while having their first Thanksgiving celebration. While the men are off obsessing over watching as many football games as possible, and the women are busy trying to prepare a dinner, the babies try to befriend a live turkey that Grandpa Lou won. However, the true meaning of Thanksgiving starts to get lost in the chaos around the house.

Breakdown: Since there aren’t nearly as many Thanksgiving specials as Halloween or Christmas, I decided to just review one special per year instead of blowing through most of them at once.

This one isn’t nearly as strong of a holiday special as the Rugrats Hanukah special, but it’s still pretty good.

It’s just a bit on the predictable side is all. Plus there are a bunch of little things that irk me about it.

First, there’s the typical annoyance of Rugrats that is the adults complete inattention to their children. Sure, they’re staying within the confines of the backyard, but they’re still not being watched at all; being ignored by the parents when they are home and left in the care of the ever-napping Grandpa Boris when they aren’t and spending a lot of time with a wild bird that could be covered in diseases and getting poop everywhere.

Second, why is it such a trope to not buy a damn turkey until it’s Thanksgiving day? It’s like the trope of not buying a Christmas tree until like a day before Christmas eve. It’s a huge hassle to wait until the last minute, and it’s a big risk because chances are you’ll end up with a crappy turkey or no turkey at all. We always buy a turkey at least a couple weeks before Thanksgiving. At the very least, when the sales start. And of course when they finally go to a store to get a turkey, they have to do the trope of ‘the last one is taken by an aggressive shopper.’

Third, while I’m fine with a kid being accepting of the fact that animals have to die in order for them to eat meat, it’s just a fact of life afterall, Angelica is way too friggin’ excited and driven to have this turkey be murdered just to spite the babies. Like, potentially serial-killer-esque excitement.

Fourth, Betty was a bit insufferable in this episode. Betty’s always been rough around the edges, but she has these episodes where she’s just an asshole. She consciously decides to ditch the other women at the store so she can get what she wants to make the dinner her way.

Next, she shoves every turkey item that they end up buying in the microwave. No taking the packaging off, and she is literally shoving them in there, they just barely are contained in the microwave.

Then, when the food catches fire, she blames the turkey. While the turkey does inadvertently cause chaos in the end, the chaos was 100% disconnected from the food plot outside of it being, of course, a turkey. Betty, the food caught fire because you’re too stupid to use a microwave correctly, not because a turkey was running around the yard. Speaking of the food, was that all you guys were planning yo make for the dinner? A clusterfuck of random turkey products? Because they’re all just sitting around the table doing nothing as the turkey microwaved.

Fifth, what is up with the football on Thanksgiving trope? I know it’s probably tradition in a lot of houses to watch football on Thanksgiving, but I mean the trope of being obsessed with football on Thanksgiving. Like, the game is an absolute must-see game of the century. How are Thanksgiving games any more special than any other football game? I don’t get it.

This episode even amps up the trope because guess what the fathers are doing? They have set up a bunch of satellite dishes and a bunch of TVs to watch a bunch of football games at the same time. And yes, it’s as stupid of an idea as you think it is. You can watch that many games, I guess, but you definitely can’t listen to all of them. I can see why Stu overlooked this, but Drew should’ve been smarter than that.

Sixth, Grandpa Lou really didn’t think to mention to the women that the turkey he won was alive? Also, was he seriously dumb enough to believe they could pluck and dress a live turkey and fully cook it before dinner time? Especially when it wouldn’t be delivered until four o’clock.

Seventh, the aspect of the turkey being in love with Spike is just really weird and doesn’t make sense. It’s a turkey. Spike’s a dog. You’d think turkeys would be naturally deterred by dogs considering they’re commonly used by hunters. Even if it wasn’t, why would a turkey fall in love with a dog?

Eighth, the babies seemed to have ESP at a certain point. When Angelica is trying to get her parents to notice the turkey in the backyard, they seem to sense when she’s finally got one and manage to hide the turkey in time. One time, they actually stripped Chuckie, clothed the turkey in his clothing and partially hid it behind a tree in the few seconds between when they were minding their business trying to get the turkey to leave and when Angelica and Charlotte got to the door.

The major saving grace of this episode is the plot of the babies trying to celebrate Thanksgiving properly and trying to save the turkey from being eaten by the adults. This plot actually has some funny moments, and the babies have a cute approach to Thanksgiving. They make a feast of Reptar cereal being served in their Native American headdresses. That’s just adorable.

The ending is really predictable with everyone realizing that they’ve been acting like idiots and instantly making up when Didi points out the true meaning of Thanksgiving isn’t the food or the football, it’s the family and friends. Also, Drew and Lou make up at the end despite the fact that they weren’t fighting at any point.

In the absolute end, the babies have the idea to make a feast of Reptar cereal for the whole family, and, surprisingly, they do end up eating just Reptar cereal for Thanksgiving. I get that it was a cute gesture from the babies….but do they really have no other food in the house? Did they SERIOUSLY prepare no other food when they were heating the turkey items earlier? They suck at Thanksgiving.

I do have numerous problems with the side plots, but the main plot is solid, fairly funny, pretty cute and somewhat heartwarming. And I think we can all relate to having a bunch of fighting and chaos happen on the holidays only to end with a bunch of laughs around the dinner table.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, whether in the USA or not. I’m thankful for all of you.

AVAHS – Rugrats: Chanukah

 

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Rating: 9/10

Plot: It’s Chanukah and the babies are trying to figure out exactly what it is. While Boris prepares for a Chanukah play, he feels overshadowed by a longstanding frenemy, Shlomo, who enjoyed plenty of business success while Boris was busy with his family. The babies assume that Shlomo is a ‘meanie of Chanukah’ after mis-hearing Boris talk about Shlomo ruining the meaning of Chanukah. They believe the only way to save Boris from the meanie is to put him down for a nap. All the while, the babies learn about the story or Chanukah and the miracle behind it.

Breakdown: One of my favorite things about Rugrats was that it would sometimes take somewhat more mature topics than the norm and give us a baby’s perspective on it, not only allowing younger audiences to gain a better grasp on the topic but also making said topic quite funny.

This is one of the shining examples in Rugrats as we go through the story of Chanukah, both directly and from a baby’s point of view, and we get the babies’ plot in the episode which takes the topic and makes it very funny.

The fact that the babies are trying to ‘save’ Grandpa Boris from ‘the meanie of Chanukah’ is funny enough, but the ways in which they try to do it are even funnier. The adults are given a bit of a stronger role here, allowing us to also see the situation from an adult’s perspective, which is just the babies goofing around like babies. It’s actually funnier now that I am an adult. The instant shift from the babies going towards Shlomo like they’re facing a huge threat to Shlomo seeing a bunch of babies dancing around in a pillowcase, babbling and waving around a book is a great example of this contrast.

I also like how Shlomo wasn’t made out to be a complete jerk. His story is actually a suddenly depressing shift in the episode. He and Boris have been at odds for years because Boris always thought he was upstaging him with his business success.

However, in a twist, Shlomo says Boris has always been upstaging him with his family. Boris believes Shlomo never had a family because he was too busy with his work, but he reveals that his now deceased wife simply never got pregnant. It can be assumed that she was unable to bear children. Shlomo wanted a family, but he could never have one. All he had was his business, and now he has no one to share his Jewish traditions and the celebration of Chanukah with.

You really feel for the guy after only a few lines, and that’s pretty damn good. I also appreciate that he got a happy ending here, and hopefully Shlomo celebrated many other Chanukahs with the Pickles’ family after this.

You simply don’t get many Chanukah specials. I mean, a character might state that they’re Jewish and celebrate Chanukah in a Christmas episode. It may even be a subplot to a Christmas episode. But rarely do you ever see a full-on Chanukah special, especially for a kids’ show.

While I am not Jewish, I feel like this special really does Chanukah justice. It’s a full celebration of not just the holiday but the traditions and history behind it, and it doesn’t skimp on the quality of the writing at all.

This is such a good special that I try to watch it every year around the holidays. It’s become a classic to me, and really the only criticisms I have are with the tiny subplots of Angelica wanting to watch A Very Cynthia Christmas and Stu trying to build a huge decked out menorah for Boris’ play. They’re just predictable and not very funny side-plots, but they don’t really ruin the flow of the episode or anything.

HAPPY (albeit late) CHANUKAH!

Recommended Audience: E for everyone!