Steven Spielberg Presents Freakazoid! Season One

Back in the early to mid-’90s, Warner Bros. animation and Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment teamed up to create smart, sophisticated and surprisingly irreverent Saturday morning cartoons that were understood more so by parents than children. Many will remember Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, given their broader appeal and slightly less manic approach, but a few will recall the truly bizarre Freakazoid. From Sharon Stone and Princess Diana having a cat fight in front of Secret Service agents to Marty Feldman and Jerry Lewis references to a kilted Scotsman/computer genius named Roddy MacStew being hunted by Ricardo Montalban while Jack Valenti describes the American rating system, Freakazoid should appeal to, and excite, those with a vast lexicon of entertainment knowledge. How anyone thought this would interest the Saturday morning crowd is perplexing and likely explains the short two-season run. This satirical ’toon loosely follows the exploits of a superhero named Freakazoid (Paul Rugg), who has all the knowledge of the internet in his head and superhuman strength, as he battles baddies like "the Lobe” and "Candle Jack.” The show focuses more energy on the comic element than any sort of conflict surrounding good guys and bad guys, especially given the visibly minimal interest in any sort of plot. Allusions and parodies cover a heterogeneous array of personalities and properties throughout the history of motion-based entertainment, with a specifically satirical edge rather than identification for the sake of sheer recognition. The main writers (Paul Rugg and John McCann) have very distinctive voices and strengths: while Rugg seems to understand the absurdity of the cartoon world and crafts his humour around it with awareness, McCann writes fantastically witty voiceovers and has a natural knack for the timing of non-sequiturs. Their commentary on the first season DVD is not to be missed, as they make fun of themselves and their idiosyncratic writing with ease and discuss some of the references scattered throughout and how unlikely children would be to pick up on any of it. Also included is the featurette "Freakazoid: The Original Freak,” which clocks in around 17 minutes and explores the difficulty they had in finding an audience, as well as the evolution and overall aim of the show. The "Freakazoid-less Freakazoid” promos included on the DVD are fairly amusing as well, given that they were inspired by Norwegian Cruise Line advertisements and said absolutely nothing about the show. (Warner)