The 80s was a wild time for cartoons, with everything from the Ghostbusters to Mr T getting the animated treatment. And it’s no secret that a lot of these existed purely to sell or promote child-friendly toys, like Transformers or Masters of the Universe. Even some video games were made into cartoons, with the Pac Man cartoon being especially memorable.
But the one I’d like to take a quick look at today is Rubik, the Amazing Cube. Here’s the intro:
Yup, it’s a show about a talking Rubik’s cube.
BETCHA DIDNT THINK THERE WAS ANY LORE BEHIND RUBIKS CUBE DID YOU. WELL THERE IS AND ITS VERY DEEP. RUBIK IS A MAGIC SPACE ELF THAT TALKS LIKE A BABY AND HAS THE FACE OF A HIDEOUS TROLL MONSTER.
According to the mythos of the show, this Rubik’s cube is magical and owned by an evil wizard. The way it works is that Rubik is powerless and inert when the cube is scrambled, and only comes to life when the cube is solved. Yes, I am aware that it is basically the same premise as Clive Barker’s Hellraiser.
In any case, in true 80s cartoon fashion, some punk kids steal the cube from the evil wizard and use it to get their revenge on bullies. In total, 13 episodes were made, airing between September and December 1983. The episode titles are wonderfully evocative, with stand-out favourites being Rubik and the Mysterious Man, Rubik’s First Christmas, and Back Packin’ Rubik.
But I have questions.
Is the implication here that all Rubik’s cubes contain little Rubik people? Or is it just this one? I mean, it was originally in the possession of a wizard – but I’m unclear whether he created it or just has it. I’m also unclear on whether the cube is meant to be magic, that is to say that Rubik exhibits non-standard metaphysical properties and is perhaps some kind of machine elf, or whether Rubik is an alien and the cube is an extraterrestrial mechanism. But why would such a creature exist, if it can be so easily disabled by being scrambled? (In one episode, the cube is fully mixed up after being dropped by a dog).
And in one episode it is heavily implied that Rubik, the Amazing Cube is also Santa Claus.
And that’s all I have to say about this bizarre show.
See title. Please come into this without any context. Don’t scroll down. All you need to know are these key facts:
There exists a television show called Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway
Ant is currently not involved with the show due to drink-driving misdemeanours.
At the end of each show, they perform an elaborate dance number called the End of the Show Show.
So here we go.
OH YOU THOUGHT THIS WAS A BRITISH TV SHOW SET IN LONDON OR SOMEWHERE IN THE UK, HUH. NOPE, THIS SHOW IS COMING TO YOU LIVE FROM FLORIDA BABY.
IN LIKE THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY I GUESS? BECAUSE IT’S A LIVE SHOW AND THEY’RE IN FLORIDA BUT IT GOES OUT AT LIKE 7PM IN THE UK. SO THE DYNAMIC FOR THE WHOLE THING IS SUPER WEIRD BECAUSE ITS AN EVENING SHOW FILMED IN FULL DAYLIGHT. FLORIDA, BABY!
BOOM, OUT COMES JASON DERULO. DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING DID YA? NOBODY EVER EXPECTS JASON DERULO. HE HAS A WHOLE BUNCH OF DANCERS AND THE WHOLE ROUTINE IS VERY SLICK. JUST IGNORE THE ENORMOUS HARD ROCK CAFE IN THE BACKGROUND I GUESS.
JASON DERULO IS PLAYING TO A CROWD OF EXCLUSIVELY BRITISH MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES (WHO WON A COMPETITION TO BE HERE), ALL OF WHOM ARE SEATED AND CLAPPING IN UNISON – SOMETHING I AM RELIABLY INFORMED NO AMERICANS EVER DO. IT’S APPARENTLY JUST A WEIRD BRITISH THING?
FOR A SHORT BIT THEY ALSO DO A WEIRD THING WHERE THEY ALL POINT AT HIM INSTEAD AND YES IT DOES LOOK LIKE SOME KIND OF AWFUL RALLY.
THERE IS A VERY AWKWARD TRANSITION (FEATURING THE SOUND EFFECT OF BREAKING GLASS?) AND DERULO LEAVES THE STAGE, TO BE INEXPLICABLY REPLACED BY THIS VISAGE. THEY APPEAR TO BE BRAZILIAN CARNIVAL DANCERS, EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA.
CONGA BY GLORIA ESTEFAN BEGINS TO PLAY.
DEC IS DRESSED IN A RUFFLE SHIRT THING THAT APPEARS TO BE A DELIBERATE REFERENCE TO THE CONGA SCENE IN THE MASK WHERE JIM CARREY JIVES AROUND TO THE SONG ‘CUBAN PETE’ IN ORDER TO ELUDE THE DETECTIVES.
THE PAIN OF HAVING TO CARRY THIS BURDEN ALONE IS PLAIN FOR ALL TO SEE.
DERULO IS BACK. HE IS NOT HIMSELF DRESSED ACCORDING TO THE BIZARRE CARNIVAL/CONGA THEME, AND IS ACCOMPANIED BY WHAT SEEM TO BE TANGO DANCERS, YET CONTINUES TO SING THE LYRICS TO ESTEFAN’S CONGA SONG.
TWO MINUTES IN AND HOMER SIMPSON TAKES THE STAGE.
AS DO THE PENGUINS FROM MADAGASCAR, ACCOMPANIED BY STEPHEN MULHERN AND SCARLETT MOFFATT FROM GOGGLEBOX, BOTH DRESSED AS CARMEN MIRANDA WHICH IS PROBLEMATIC FOR AT LEAST TWO REASONS AT THIS POINT.
A REMINDER THAT THIS IS PRIMETIME ITV SATURDAY NIGHT TELEVISION. SIX POINT SEVEN MILLION PEOPLE TUNED IN TO WATCH THIS.
AS MORE DREAMWORKS PROPERTIES CONTINUE TO FLOOD THE STAGE, DEC BEGINS TO PLAY THE HEAD OF A MINION AS A BONGO DRUM.
DEC PLAYS THE HEADS OF TWO MINIONS AS BONGO DRUMS.
DEC PLAYS THE HEADS OF THREE MINIONS AS BONGO DRUMS.
IN A MOMENT OF ACTUALLY QUITE IMPRESSIVE CHOREOGRAPHY, DEC ROLLS DOWN A LINE OF DANCERS…..
…INTO THE ARMS OF SHREK, WHO IS ALSO HERE NOW BY THE WAY.
THE SHREK IS ODDLY LOW QUALITY AND OFF-BRAND CONSIDERING THE SHOW IS BEING FILMED AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS, WHERE THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET THE HIGHEST SHREK REPLICA COSTUMES ON THE ENTIRE PLANET.
I WILL NEVER GET OVER HOW GOOD THIS IS.
THE CAMERA CAN NO LONGER CONTAIN HOW MUCH IS GOING ON. MARGE SIMPSON DANCING WITH THE CAST OF TROLLS IS SIMPLY BACKGROUND NOISE AT THIS POINT.
THERE ARE APPROXIMATELY SIX HUNDRED PEOPLE ON THE STAGE AT A CONSERVATIVE ESTIMATE.
THERE IS A TINY OPTIMUS PRIME.
HE IS ACCOMPANIED BY ‘THE ONLY WAY IS ESSEX’ STAR MARK WRIGHT, WHO HAS TAKEN OVER SINGING DUTIES FROM JASON DERULO, BECAUSE THOSE TWO PEOPLE ARE DEFINITELY EQUIVALENT IN TERMS OF SINGING TALENT.
FOR A BIT THE SHOW IS LITERALLY STRICTLY COME DANCING.
THEN FOLLOWS A MONTAGE OF VIEWER-SUBMITTED CONGAS, ALL OF WHICH ARE MORE AWFUL THAN DEATH.
WE THEN CUT BACK TO THIS WHICH I CHOOSE TO BELIEVE WAS NEVER REHEARSED AND SIMPLY JUST HAPPENED.
AN UNNECESSARY AMOUNT OF CONFETTI FLOODS THE STAGE, WHICH THE CAMERA SIMPLY CANNOT COPE WITH SO THE RESULTING STREAM IS JUST SUPER LOW QUALITY.
FINALLY IT IS OVER.
ALSO CRAIG DAVID, DENISE RICHARDS, AND THE REMBRANDTS WERE THERE THE WHOLE TIME BUT DIDN’T FEATURE IN THE FINALE AT ALL FOR SOME REASON. SORRY GUYS I GUESS.
If you still feel the need to watch the whole thing, here it is:
Thank you for coming on this journey with me.
I hope you now agree that Last Saturday’s Saturday Night Takeaway End of the Show Show was the craziest thing you have ever seen.
TIME FOR ANOTHER HOT TAKE. TODAY I TAKE ON THE CLASSIC DEBATE:
WHEN DID THE SIMPSONS STOP BEING GOOD?
“I was watching. I saw the whole thing. First it started falling over, then it fell over.”
The “beginning of the end” of The Simpsons isn’t in a wacky, over-the-top episode like The Principal and The Pauper. It’s more subtle. It’s the 23rd episode of the eight season: Homer’s Enemy.
Homer’s Enemy is just after In Marge We Trust and just before The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase. That second episode is a good candidate too. It admits the show has run its course and it’s time to start thinking about the future. It’s this self-awareness that makes Homer’s Enemy the series’ turning point.
What’s the episode about? Well, it’s about Frank Grimes: a man who starts work at the power plant and becomes annoyed at Homer. It’s been said before, but Grimes is a proxy for the audience. He’s also a self-insertion for the writers themselves. They’ve created a monster and Grimes lets them vocalise their guilt about it.
Grimes points out Homer’s flaws, and how he’s never held accountable for them. He flags up that Homer lives in a huge house – despite “a lifetime of sloth and ignorance”. He’s the safety inspector for the power plant – yet a huge liability to those around him. Previously, these contradictions in the show went unspoken. As an audience, we’d bought into the notion that Homer’s lifestyle could sustain itself.
Grimes breaks this spell. And what happens to him? Like other detractors in the history of literature, he is condemned. The escapee from Plato’s Cave gets shunned by those he returns to. Meursault in Camus’ L’Etranger is sentenced for rejecting the morals of society. Likewise, Springfield won’t accept anyone who questions the status quo. Grimes dies in one of the most violent scenes in the show.
At his funeral, nobody shows remorse; Homer is even asleep. “Change the channel, Marge!” he blurts out. “That’s our Homer!” shouts Lenny. Like him, we can’t accept Homer changing now; not even when the absurd foundations of the show have been revealed. With Grimes’ grave, The Simpsons buries the last residues of its credulity.
And this is why it marks the beginning of the end. Once the genie is out of the bottle it can’t go back in. Like Bart’s factory in the episode’s subplot, The Simpsons has started to collapse in on itself.
Just when you thought my hot takes couldn’t get any more topical… BOOM! (Or should I say… BANG!?).
I hinted before that I don’t think much of TBBT (The Big Bang Theory), and I’d like to take some time explore why that actually is. Also I’m super self-indulgent and this is my blog so you can shut up.
I’m sure everyone knows what TBBT is, but just for the sake of completeness, here’s a summary: it’s about nerds. Yup, that’s it. Hilarity ensues. Because lol nerds right.
Despite this being a dumb premise, it’s insanely popular. Wanna guess the average viewing figures for the most recently aired series? 19.9 million. Yup, almost 20m people think the show is the greatest. And it just… isn’t.
Yet it’s a staple of many people’s lives. I see it on every other Facebook profile I look at (along with the ubiquitous Family Guy *shudder*), and it’s rare to ever find someone who shares my opinion. It’s shown over and over again on e4 and I even have a housemate who will happily watch it on repeat forever.
I did however manage to find one article on Salon.com that shared my reservations. Written by Emily Gould, here’s a choice quote:
Most of the show’s humor revolves around characters saying layperson-incomprehensible things that have to do with science, but in the middle of ordinary situations, like “well that’s like the difference between a photon and a neutron!” This could work well, I think, once or twice. This show has been on the air since 2007.
And I pretty much agree 100%. The two main sources of humour on the show are 1) Sheldon’s awkwardness, and 2) the nerds saying science things. For now, I’ll focus just on (2) – the science.
It’s great that there’s a show on TV that celebrates science. However, it does so in the lamest and most unoriginal way possible: making fun of nerds. Here’s a transcript from the pilot episode:
Um, me, okay, I’m Sagittarius, which probably tells you way more than you need to know.
Yes, it tells us that you participate in the mass cultural delusion that the Sun’s apparent position relative to arbitrarily defined constellations and the time of your birth somehow effects your personality.
Participate in the what?
The problem is that Sheldon has a perfectly valid point. Astrology is stupid and anyone who believes in it is stupid. But the joke here isn’t that Penny is stupid (though sadly her main role in the show is to be an dumb, attractive blonde – c’mon guys, seriously?), it’s that Sheldon is a massive nerd.
My point is that while the show could be great as a platform for helping educate people and breaking down illogical things people do, it chooses to do so via a character who is the butt of his own jokes. So we simply perpetuate the idea that intelligence is a bad thing, to be treated with scorn. The same people who are laughing at Sheldon are likely those who believe in astrology themselves. All they’re getting out of this is a confirmation of their own prejudice. It’s entirely anti-progressive.
It also feeds into a sad cheapening of science in popular culture. Of course, we should be doing everything we can to promote science in popular culture, but there’s right and wrong ways of doing it.
The worst example I can think of for this is stuff like those terrible Facebook pages about how much people “love science.” Example –
Firstly, that isn’t really science – it’s mathematics. That’s nitpicking I know, but it’s still annoying. Secondly, the word “EPIC” basically can’t be used in any serious context by anyone anymore. And thirdly, this kind of #content reduces science to fun facts, cool pictures, and – at its worst – mere clickbait. Science isn’t all flashy and attractive people making things explode, it’s laborious, methodological repetition and experimentation. There’s nothing sexy about the scientific method and a great deal of science is really not that interesting to the layperson.
Today’s headline story on the famous science journal Science? “Mosquito genomes: Multiple Anopheles mosquito genome sequences reveal extreme levels of mixing.” I wonder how many likes that got on Facebook.
What does this have to do with TBBT though? Well, it’s my concern that we’re missing the point of science, and TBBT reveals the actual views of the majority. People aren’t really interested in science, they like cool stuff they can share with their friends. Sheldon is a glimpse into what it might actually be like to come face-to-face with science proper and we simply laugh at him.
But that’s just an aside really to my main point: the show just isn’t that funny.
There’s a number of criticisms I’d like to make of the show, so I’ll just jump right in. To begin with, the characters are one-dimensional and not interesting. We’ve already covered how Sheldon is just a mouthpiece for awkward science talk and Penny is there to push back the cause of feminism. There’s also Raj, who’s there to let the writers get away with vaguely racist material from time to time. Sigh.
And they’re just written badly. One of my favourite things to watch is footage on Youtube of TBBT with the laugh track removed.
I mean, how terrible is that? The dialogue is clumsy and awkward and simply doesn’t work without the laugh track. I know of course the point is they’d be reacting to the live studio audience so it’s not an entirely fair point. But I do think that the show just isn’t anywhere near as funny as the hysterical audience makes it out to be.
It’s the same problem I have with Friends. Watching it, I’ll laugh maybe once an episode. Yet the studio audience are killing themselves over every line. Who are these people? What’s wrong with them? Likewise, my sister will sit glued to the screen for ages, with barely a smile crossing her face – yet will swear it’s the funniest show ever. It seems far too simplistic to argue that the presence of the laugh track helps convince idiots that the show is funny when it isn’t – but there does seem to be some truth to it.
It’s also pretty lazy with how it approaches things, with most of the usual sitcom tropes playing out without all that much variation. Really the comparison to Friends is best, since it’s almost a carbon copy even in terms of sets and things. It’s a dull sitcom that isn’t really offering anything new or at all interesting.
But is “the worst show ever made” really fair, Richard? That doesn’t seem to exactly follow from your above criticisms.
Well, I’m obviously being a bit hyperbolic, but that’s simply because I hate the show so goddamn much. Of course there will be shows that are worse simply on a technical level, or maybe even on a taste level (looking at you, Mrs Browns Boys!). But for the crime of doing a great disservice to science and stigmatising awkward nerds everywhere, I’m sticking with my label of worst show ever made.
Please stop watching it. It’s just bad.
[is the lamest catchphrase ever, by the way]
EDIT: This is very much appropriate.
I fucking LOVE science.
*is handed peer reviewed journal*
Haha nonono I meant CGI pictures of space with misattributed quotes as captions