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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review: The Ren and Stimpy Show, Pt. 2 (Seasons 3, 4, and 5)

"They don't exactly care about the criticism they get: they just throw out their own jokes and see if it sticks."
- Bill Wray, 1994
It's actually quite hard to exactly remember just when Ren and Stimpy took over the masses by storm. When the show did first arrive, it packed a sucker punch that attacked the masses like a hurricane; the material stinging and oozing with pure, unadulterated intensity. Was it the subversive, understandable, groundbreaking humor, or the excellent character development? Perhaps the animation that broke all taboos and boundaries, or perhaps the likable, awe-inspiring expressions and art that stole everyone?

Ren and Stimpy is both the greatest achievement in animation history, to this day, and the biggest tragedy in animation history, also to this day. After John Kricfalusi created the taboo-breaking, subversively awesome Ren and Stimpy Show, it was massive. The violently schizophrenic, emotionally unstable chihuahua, Ren Hoek, and the mentally idiotic, yet annoyingly happy-go-lucky manx cat, Stimpy J. Cat, had left an aftermath that only a nuclear bomb could surpass.

And yet, it was taken away in a single heartbeat. The first and second seasons are the finest cartoons ever produced, but Nickelodeon thought otherwise. The constant delays, increasingly adult humor, and virtually unlikable cast (to them), had made them nervous. And so, on the depressing day of September 25th of 1992, John K and his Spumco crew hit the road, leaving Nickelodeon to take over. This soon became the series' downfall, creating some of the most unbelievably forgettable pieces of animation, TV or Theatrical, in history. Was it really that bad? Oh yes, yes it was. The cartoons used disgusting fart jokes and stupid gags as crutches a fair deal of the time.

The biggest problem of Ren and Stimpy's last seasons was that it tried to be just like the older, much more better days, but, in the end, it tried too hard. It turned from the most popular cartoon show ever produced to one of the least imaginative cartoon shows ever. And although it sometimes retained genius, the overall product was horrible.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, let us review, each baby step of the way, the beginning of the end, and the end of the beginning.

SEASON 3 (1993 - 1994)
Writing: **
Humor: ****
Production: **1/2
Replay: ***1/2
Overall: Decent Enough (Worth some Replays)
It was right from the first episode where Ren and Stimpy began to fall down, down, down. Something, I'm not sure what (until the series progressed) was wrong, and it had an incredibly uncomfortable air to it. And as it continued, it became clear what was happening, and the problem became evident.

With John K gone, these episodes dearly suffer. Without John K, these cartoons lacked a good amount of real, hard production and any actual care of the show. Without John K, Billy West's voice as Ren is less tolerable than an atom bomb in a trash can. Without John K, Ren and Stimpy... just wasn't Ren and Stimpy.

However, it's not all bad. It appears that due to John K's style and technique of executing those wonderful landmarks of cartoons, Games, for this very brief season, actually had a mental image and a clue as to what to actually do. A lot of unfinished Spumco episodes remain, and they are the real winners here.

If it will relieve some of the stress, these cartoons can actually be quite good, contain some decent gags, and are tolerable in their own way. They just need editing. "Stimpy's Cartoon Show" is a good example of the old Spumco days, with gags that work, a good storyline, and the end result of Stimpy's show makes it all work.
"Lair of the Lummox" is a sequel to the first season's Untamed World, with some really good animation and being fairly true-to-nature. Even some of the shorter episodes work. This is evident in cartoons like "Ren's Bitter Half", "A Yard Too Far", and "An Abe Divided". However, there are others that could REALLY use editing.

Just be thankful Ren and Stimpy was good for at least three seasons.

Some images from the third season

SEASON 4 (1994 - 1995)

Writing: *1/2
Humor: *
Production: **
Replay: **

Advice: Don't Waste Your Time

  My expression after seeing how Ren and Stimpy progressed.

I think it was around the time the fourth season ran is when Ren and Stimpy began to die. The cartoons had become so bad, it's hard to summarize them in this review. It's all a very clumsy mess, with very few real decencies. Barely any of these go past the 'awful' mark, minus a few exceptions.

In fact, people say that R&S's fifth season was the worst, but, oh no, the worst has already come. The 4th season had a total lack of wit, intelligence, humor, good direction, animation, or even likable characters, leaving it into a complete heap pile of crap. Everything seemed rushed and generic in this season, and about at the start of the season, fans will totally lose interest in Ren and Stimpy, no matter how devoted they just may be.

The only good thing I can really say about the 4th season is that you can tell that it's going to be bad, yet there's just a couple points when you'll actually enjoy it. Maybe the standalone fact that there will be an episode that can actually go above the 'average' mark will be enough for fans to watch. And although the series' best material is long gone, there's still a few bright spots, however brief or little there may be.

The highlights include "Hermit Ren", a two-parter episode that deals with Ren going insane from loneliness (and boredom) when he lives alone in a cave, to get away from Stimpy's stupidity and the insane world around him. This episode was the only Season 4 episode I can truly call 'good', though it's way too short for the potential it has. And "Aloha Hoek" is another good point. However, in my personal opinion, my favorite is
"Lumber Jerks". Just the fact that Ren and Stimpy are trying to find a tree, but they need a book to help them, makes it worth watching. Other than these, it sucks.

For all the abysmal moments it does have (the episodes 'Egg Yolkeo' and 'Pixie King' will go down as the two worst pieces of animation ever made, in my opinion), don't bother.

Some images from Season Four

SEASON 5 (1995)

Writing: *
Humor: ***
Production: ***
Replay: ***

Advice: Tolerable (Some Laughs Included)

Let's be honest: the fifth season is both Ren and Stimpy's weakest in terms of writing and acting, but it's also a hell of a lot better than what Season Four offered.

Even though that the fifth season is heavily flawed ('Reverend Jack' is a candidate for the worst cartoon, as is 'Dinner Party'), the gags have definitely improved over season 4 (and, in some ways, Season 3). There's some worthwhile episodes here that are at least worth a watch.

Some of these episodes include "Who's Stupid Now?", a decent outing with an epic storyline: Ren and Stimpy switch roles. "Space Dogged", another space episode when the duo become cosmonauts in a space race against the U.S. capitol, "A Scooter For Yaksmas", a two-parter that, while has some bad parts (the part with the song is way too dumb), has enough potential to make it fair enough to watch, and "The Last Temptation" / "I Was A Teenage Stimpy" contain some really good, real-to-life gags that work.

Another thing that I *DID* like about Season 5 (and something that I didn't) is that, with the less tolerable episodes (which sometimes are unfunny), have great enough potential to make them worth watching. "School Mates" scripts Ren meeting his old college buddy, Chuck (who turns out to be an asshole), and even though some of the gags are dumb, the story's very emotional, considering some of the tortures Ren goes through.
"Terminal Stimpy" is a classic POV on the five steps to death (Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance), with fairly funny descriptions, but a rather slow, average story. "Stupid Sidekick Union" features Stimpy quitting the studio because of Ren's abuse (which may or may not be based off of an old Spumco script titled 'The Big Switch'.), and although it progresses rather slowly, it's funny enough. And "Ren's Brain" is based off an unfinished Spumco idea. Just the fact that Spumco has its fingerprints on one of the episodes is worth watching.

Despite the bright spots, it's clear that nobody really cared about the duo at this point. And, really, I didn't either.

Images from Season Five

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