Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Mutt & Stuff reviewed: Doggy Mermaid Island (S2E10)

This one's all on Mike, as in yes Mike on this blog


What is it? 30-minute single-cam(!) education/dog-themed TV show for, say, toddlers to pre-tweens (so say 5-9 though probably more like 5-7 age demo)
Where did it air? Nickelodeon/Nick Jr
Who stars in it? Calvin Millan, son of Cesar "The Dog Whisperer" Millan (both of whom are also executive producers/creators of this show, which I guess makes sense) as the main host. Victor Yerrid and Meegan Godfrey are listed in the IMDb credits as "Bow Wow" and "Stuff." Raini Rodriguez was a guest star in an episode but sorry this ain't that one. Oh, and apparently it stars the "Krofft Puppets," named for another one of the series' producers/creators (sorry, Lara Croft doesn't appear here).
Why are we reviewing this? Well aside from outing myself as a PAW Patrol fan in the last review... because if you remember a long time ago - about a year and a half ago in October/November 2015 I challenged both members of this blog and Girl Meets World Reviewed to review a show each of us would pick, and Mike picked Muff & Stuff, so here we go.

And it only took us a year and a half to commit to one.

So, ok, very first impression (besides the admittedly catchy theme tune) Calvin drives a frickin' dog puppet. No, really. It's surreal as all hell.

Ok, so, that's kind of a lie as that's not my true first impression (I saw the one with Raini in it which is how I know she's in an episode). Overall I don't think describing it as "2016 Pee Wee Herman's Playhouse but Dog Themed" is inaccurate at all, and I do think that's a major contributor to the show's popularity to begin with. It's a very bright color palate for sure, especially for a live-action show, and it's very sharply shot too (definitely taking advantage of that 1080p signal that I've only recently gotten to take advantage of - yay moving away from oppressive expensive and limited cable packages in favor of affordable feature-laden ones! Even if the slightest cough can interrupt the signal, no wonder people nowadays just cut the friggin' cord altogether....) 

The songs are catchy, but in a somewhat winking, knowingly cheesy kind of way (again, not so much a Pee Wee's Playhouse influence as much as a knowing rip-off but dog-themed). It's a definite contrast from the songs in, say, both Bubble Guppies and Shimmer and Shine (yes I'm really painting myself out to be a man-child again here in actually knowing this stuff) that are trying to go for extremely catchy mainstream pop but with educational and moral message-themed lyrics.

"Wait, we have a sailboat?" Ah, gotta love the situational upgrade that these preschool/early gradeschool shows tend to have a few times per season, even moreso than the late middle school/high school-demo shows this blog usually reviews.

"What, dogs on a boat?" Insert Samuel L. Jackson dank meme reference in here. Also I'm regretting using the header normally reserved for a direct quote from the episode to rag on Mike, so I guess it serves me right.

The sailboat is effectively a glorified 3D cardboard cutout that has a real deck you can stand on. It literally looks like a playhouse you can have in your own backyard or even living room. I'm actually impressed it's apparently a real structure and not an actual cardboard cutout everybody's just standing behind. Probably because since this actually is a single-cam production, with a boom cam they're definitely making use of, and it definitely shows that even just the choice of what techniques you use to film the episode in the first place can go a long way towards adding polish and making up for any shortcomings elsewhere (which is why TV show enthusiasts make a really huge deal out of single-cam productions, but the single-cam process itself tends to be time-consuming and expensive which is why until starting last decade it wasn't exactly common for sitcoms at all to be single-cam and why it's still very much a novelty in KidComs - it can be cheaper to construct an entirely new set for just a single episode than it is to simply move a boom cam around for the entirety of that same episode on a location shoot, which is why they go through the trouble of doing exactly that). It also explains the "bottle show" feel of the main dog school set and why when they venture outside it's mostly painfully obvious green screen composited backgrounds  with actors rarely changing position - which can occasionally give the effect that it's actually a multi-cam with some schizophrenic camera angles and arguably help kind of defeat the purpose but whatever.

WTF is up with these random cats and the incidental music that implies they're bad guys? Are they true antagonists or do they just pop up to be the show's Waldorf and Statler?

"Hmm, seems that mer-dogs don't speak human!" I know this is from The Dog Whisperer so there might be an insistence that dogs know English (and there's actually scientific study that suggests at least to some degree they do in the same sense we ourselves do, in the sense that they're not just barking in Pavlovian fashion whenever they hear humans make that nose that we interpret as "Speak" but they actually understand the word "Speak" itself) but it doesn't make it any less strange to say.

Also we have this weird Noodles the Mouse? Huh?

Yeah, sorry but it's very obvious that Calvin Millan isn't a great actor at all - I mean to be brutally honest he comes across as having the same talent as a middle-schooler with no interest in drama and doing either an English class presentation or some sort of thrown-together play for community service credit. But then again I guess you don't really need to be an actor to pass for this kind of show.

...this is a really soft show even for the expected demo. If you've ever had one of those cheesy plays put together in your elementary school auditorium with one of those local or traveling groups that want to teach kids, uhh, stuff...well that's basically this but on Nick Jr. It's extremely soft in plot, which puts it in a major contrast to even other Nick Jr. shows including Blaze and the Monster Machines or Bubble Guppies, to say nothing of shows that actually are very plot-focused like Shimmer and Shine and PAW Patrol. It might be cheap, colorful and effective entertainment for 6 year olds but for an adult - even an adult that likes Bubble Guppies and PAW Patrol, it feels like a 30 minute bombardment of empty calories.

Not that there's anything wrong with that - I do love a good soda more than just now and then, after all (which my gut and dental hygiene pretty much attest to). But as I just implied, it's not exactly a good thing to binge on, and Mike's really gonna have to come in here and explain this one to me.

Episode Grade: A flat C. This really is the textbook picture of what this grade looks like, folks, even when adjusting to demo considerations.
Episode MVP: The actress playing the mermaid by default because she actually shows off the fact that she is a trained actress. I can't even find her name because IMDb doesn't even list this episode, and the big annoying bar that tells you how much of the episode is left covers up the teeny tiny little credits and I can't even find her in there anyway. Yeah, Nickelodeon is very much interested in telling you who's in the episode which I must imagine makes SAG very, very happy.

Extra thoughts

 - Yeah, I guess I did promise Andi Mack would be the next review so yeah I guess I kind of lied to you, sorry.

 - Again, Mike's really, really going to have to explain this one. I'm just...yeah.


1 comment:

  1. I have more experience with Disney Jr than Nick Jr for the most part, so i can't comment too much.

    Reviewing preschool stuff is always odd, and just not for the obvious "this is being reviewed by a grown adult" reason. I had to cover some as part of reviewing every Disney Cartoon Holiday Episode and it can be weird.

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