DID YOU READ

The unlikely perseverance of Bugs Bunny.

The unlikely perseverance of Bugs Bunny. (photo)

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Yesterday, Cartoon Network announced that one of their new shows is a “Looney Tunes” reincarnation — “The Looney Tunes Show,” which will safely relocate all the beloved characters to the suburbs. In the promo still at left, Daffy and Bugs appear to be enjoying Chinese take-out. The passionate animation nerds over at Cartoon Brew are not amused, with writer Amid Amidi sneering that this image “looks worse than your average fan art.” The comments section is, of course, contentious, with conspiracy theories about the original animators being fired and higher-up-interference.

But has any beloved cultural franchise weathered crass commercialization so hardily as “Looney Tunes”? These days, the characters greet visitors to Six Flags theme parks, hock clothing and pretty much anything else that can have a face slapped on it. There was a crappy movie with Michael Jordan, a better one with Brendan Fraser no one saw, and a dearth of new, quality cartoons since the ’60s (the revivals since are middling fare — see “Hare and Loathing in Las Vegas,” featuring the indelible line “Buenas noches, loserinos”). For various reasons detailed in Wikipedia, they don’t get to run rampant over Saturday morning cartoons anymore.

04222010_opera.jpgAnd yet not only have the “Looney Tunes” characters remained widely beloved by generations of kids, untarnished by their exploitation, they haven’t seen any fundamental changes in a good long while — they’re older than “The Simpsons” but have more goodwill left over. Bugs, Daffy and co. have remained more or less the same after their early evolutionary hiccups, and the original cartoons have hardly aged at all. While the work of the Fleischer brothers (Betty Boop) seems more derangedly surreal and adult-oriented with every passing year and the Disney shorts require familiarity with their historical context (or at least a tolerance for anachronism) to really work, the precisely-timed “Tunes” remain as zippy and breathless as they ever were.

The outrage over at Cartoon Brew seems misplaced; like the lousy remakes that come and go, “Looney Tunes” seem as destined for agelessness as anything around. To be sure, there are numerous cartoons not in general circulation because of their dated stereotypes, and early ’30s prototypes not watched by too many these days — but the cartoons that most people associate with the series really do come as close to being undated as possible. The animation has no need to be “improved” or cut faster.

And the series has weathered rougher time, like the ugly late-60s closing period, marred by cheaper animation and bland new characters. For example, here’s Cool Cat — a proud product of the ’60s, with backing lounge music, who calls people “man” with no provocation and fights off “Injuns.” This was the last of the original series of from the Warner Bros. Cartoons studio, and almost no one except for the historians remembers it:

[Photos: “The Looney Tunes Show,” Cartoon Network, 2010; “What’s Opera, Doc?”, Warner Bros., 1957]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.