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Aquaman as Phyllis Diller on Cartoon Network? Outrageous!
October 6, 2011  | By Ed Martin
Overlooked amid the excitement of the new fall season, the cosmically entertaining Cartoon Network series Batman: The Brave and the Bold last week outdid itself with an opening segment inspired by the long-forgotten sitcom The Pruitts of Southampton, which starred Phyllis Diller and ran for one season only (1966-67) on ABC.

pruitts-southampton-phyllis-diller.jpgThe segment, which you can see below, is titled "The Currys of Atlantis," and it stars Aquaman (aka Arthur Curry), his wife Mera and sidekick Aqualad, among others.

Yes, you read that right. Somebody came up with the idea to use Aquaman to pay homage to a 45-year-old Phyllis Diller sitcom most Cartoon Network viewers likely don't remember or never heard of in the first place. (Pruitts is an enduring curiosity, but it ain't exactly classic TV.) In fact, I'm guessing many people who saw the segment never even realized that there was much more to it than they realized.

"The Currys of Atlantis" opens with Aquaman singing original lyrics set to the Pruitts theme song as it was sung by Diller all those years ago. It actually begins with an unseen Aquaman proclaiming that something is "Outrageous!" -- as he often does on this show -- in place of the unseen Diller's unmistakable cackle. Then it's all Aquaman as Diller, "in color" and "filmed in front of a live studio audience." This is Family Guy territory, but without that show's essential vulgarity.

batman-brave-bold-atlantis.jpgI won't assert that every episode is a gem, but I have to wonder why Batman: The Brave and the Bold (new episodes Fridays at 6 p.m. ET) isn't written about with the same obsessive reverence as genre standouts like The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park and Archer. Because, when it's on its game -- and despite a general sense of polite restraint largely missing from the others -- it belongs in the same company, as you'll see in these clips.

 First, check out the original credit sequence from The Pruitts of Southampton:

Then, meet "The Currys of Atlantis":

 By the way, "The Currys of Atlantis" isn't the first example of musical magic on this often surprising series (which remains entertaining for the young and young at heart even when it is focused solely on stories about Batman and other heroes from the D.C. Comics universe that do not necessarily include clever humor or great songs).

I first took note of the musical talent at occasional work on Brave and the Bold in the Season 1 episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister." The Meister was voiced by none other than Neil Patrick Harris, who performed several songs.

I leave you with the Meister's best, "Drives Us Bats" -- but since YouTube has disabled embedding the clip, you'll have to click here to hear NPH.





Paul said:

Your column certainly makes a key point - perhaps, unintentionally - that I think deserves comment.

"but I have to wonder why Batman: The Brave and the Bold isn't written about with the same obsessive reverence as genre standouts like The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park and Archer. Because, when it's on it's game -- and despite a general sense of polite restraint largely missing from the others -- it belongs in the same company...."

That lack of "polite restraint" is the principal reason that many of us do not slobber over those other series the way many of your critical colleagues do. I'm saying that many of these supposed "genre standouts" mainly use vulgarity as a crutch to hide lazy writing. Unfortunately, today's critical emphasis is on the young demographic for monetary purposes. So it isn't that surprising that many critics don't like to admit that "eat my shorts", "Doh!" and fat slobs of any age acting as stupid and rude as possible (I haven't forgotten Family Guy or South Park) wasn't THAT hilarious or innovative originally and CERTAINLY isn't after up to 20+ years of ENDLESS repetition. And they especially don't like to admit that a large part of the popularity of this type of stuff is that the intended audience hasn't seen enough TV to know that they're not getting THAT much that's fresh and innovative stuff AND that all the old, "more polite" stuff isn't that bad, either.

That's part of the problem that plagues Brave and the Bold: since it doesn't spit in the face of authority and doesn't feature characters that are Homer, Peter, Steve Carrell, or Cartman rude and stupid, it must be conventional. And, to the advertiser's desired adult only in their own eyes audience (and the critics who pander to them), conventional is the WORST thing a show can be. I believe that's the main reason your colleagues haven't trumpeted the show. Too, it's partly because they, and I, wouldn't agree that B&B belongs in the same "genre" you place it in, anyway. It's just a superhero cartoon with a considerable amount of humor, not a satire. (On the other hand, Doh! is satirical?)

Also, B&B has been criticized by fanboys/girls/critics for that humor and it's somewhat "cartoonish" look. They can't accept anything that doesn't look like Batman TAS or that doesn't present Batman as a misanthropic, obsessive loner. To them B&B smacks too much of Adam West and, unfairly, of "limited animation". (Which makes me laugh, because the same people slobber over anime and ignore it's MANY cost cutting techniques, such as ENDLESS dialogue.) So word of mouth about how satisfying this show can be has been slow to develop.

Finally, it's ironic that one of the blogs that hosts this column - TV Worth Watching - recently featured another blog post that trumpeted the Dick Van Dyke show. A post Eishenhower sitcom about Camelot proto-yuppies living the suburban dream? A show that only had one thing going for it: that it was - often hilariously - funny? How conventional! Hardly cutting edge. Doh!

Comment posted on October 7, 2011 12:00 AM

Paul said:

I don't know if I merit a 2nd post, but I felt bad because I was a little unfair in my criticism of Ed Martin's blog entry. I really am not trying to criticize him, but the "colleagues" he wonders about.

Where I was wrong is in my classification of B&B. Though I still disagree that it's a straight ahead satire, I believe we both may have missed the right word here: B&B is a "parody" of a Superhero cartoon. It also shrewdly features a lot of straight superhero action so that it can attract both Cartoon Network's young and adult audiences. It's this parody aspect, though, that gets it unfairly compared to the 60's Batman series, also a parody. In both cases, parodies are not always insults, they often show affection for the source material. They often just emphasize the "tongue in cheek" aspects of the original.

Lifted from the Wikipedia article on the subject, likely the first recorded use of the word in English by the great poet/writer Ben Jonson:

"A Parodie, a parodie! to make it absurder than it was."

Most importantly, though, and my apologizes Mr. Martin, I agree on B&B's quality. It's both a good parody and a good superhero cartoon.

Comment posted on October 10, 2011 8:27 PM

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