CatDog: Season One Part One

CatDog: Season One Part One
In the wake of The Ren and Stimpy Show, John Kricfalusi's great, criminally subversive and insanely funny cartoon show, which debuted on Nickelodeon in 1991, TV cartoons got weirder, moving from harmless, thinly disguised plush toy commercials to oddball adventures involving goofy misfits, often with a minor sociopathic streak, from the loopy Rocko's Modern Life to the high weirdness of Eek! The Cat. No other show of the era owes more of a debt to Ren and Stimpy than CatDog. Even creator Peter Hannan would likely admit that CatDog is a watered-down, more kid-friendly version of Ren & Stmpy. The story of a conjoined half-cat/half-dog of mysterious origin, CatDog blithely exhausts many of the same tropes as Ren and Stmpy, and most of the episodes hinge of CatDog's ability (or inability) to reconcile the dynamism of his two halves. "Cat" is pragmatic, erudite, introverted, a bit obsessive-compulsive and hides a streak of avarice, while "Dog" is goofy, playful, extroverted, id-driven and loves everyone unconditionally, to a fault. Each of CatDog's 12-minute playlets focus on the inseparable pair's contradictory nature, which often leads to conflict, but the two always eventually realize that they can't survive without each other. CatDog certainly has surreal elements, and some episodes are more cleverly detailed than others, but it also lacks the inspired weirdness of its predecessor, erring more on the side of cartoon nuttiness and conventionality. Yet Hannan's characters (voiced by Jim Cummings and Tom Kenny) become more endearing as the show goes on, as the bond between them helps them out of scrape after scrape, even as Dog's impetuous nature often causes Cat a world of hurt. CatDog knows its predecessors well, popping in references to classic cartoons for those with a keen eye. One episode in particular, "Diamond Fever," features more than a few touches of the same maniacal tone that Ren & Stmpy did so well, and disc two closer "Work Force" will delight Dr. Seuss fans with its reverential detail. Unfortunately, this season one DVD package is not only oddly split in half (with season one part two supposedly on the way), it is disappointingly free of extras. While the transfer looks good, it feels like it was orphaned by the usually generous Shout! Factory, much like CatDog. (Shout! Factory)