Friday, May 28, 2010

SMCS Companion Piece #13: Earthworm Jim

Yes yes; I’m aware of how long it’s been since I uploaded anything. What are you gonna do? Anyway at some point in the recent past the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show watched Earthworm Jim, the often forgotten video game based cartoon.

Frankly it’s a tossup whether we’re getting a good show when a video game makes the leap into cartoon form. Sure Sonic the Hedgehog (aka Sonic SatAM ) was a great cartoon, with its dark setting and real consequences of the actions of the heroes, but the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Underground were some of the worst creations ever to grace the video medium. I mean seriously, man: watching those shows is like pouring propane in your eyes and lighting a match. Thankfully that is avoided here. Based on the unapologetically bizarre and surreal 1994 game of the same name Earthworm Jim premiered in 1995 lasting two seasons. Alas it was too beautiful (i.e. weird) for this wicked, ugly world and was canceled soon afterwards. It was broadcasted on Kids WB! during the era where cartoons like Animaniacs and Freakazoid were in production. If you follow the radio show you may recall that DJ Muppet and I were practically glowing over Freakazoid. Well in actuality when I was a kid I loathed that show. I thought it was just really moronic and unappealing in every single way. Of course now I realize that a lot of the jokes were simply over my head, but the point I really want to make is that I loved Earthworm Jim and thought it was by far the superior show despite all the naysayers going on and on about Madman that show that totally wasn’t a rip-off of Madman.

The heroes who don't do anything

Anyway the plot of Earthworm Jim, like almost every aspect of the franchise is weird. Just like in the game the story involves Jim (Voiced by Dan “Homer Simpson” Castellaneta), a regular earthworm who finds itself in possession of a high tech super suit that was supposed to be used for galactic conquest. After being mutated into a larger and more intelligent (But still pretty dumb) life form by the suit’s power Jim decides to use the wealth of tools and abilities at his disposal to fight suit’s intended user: the evil Queen Slug-For-A-Butt. He is joined by his sidekick Peter Puppy an anthropomorphic puppy who, when hurt or scared, turns into vicious monster dog who seems to really enjoy trying to murder Jim.

The cartoon is a pretty straight forward translation of the game, though a few things were changed. Peter’s origin was significantly different (In the games Peter is an alien; in the cartoon he’s an Earth born puppy who was cursed by the Satan-like Evil the Cat). Jim lost the southern drawl he possessed in the game and a few other details were altered as well, but mostly the cartoon was very faithful to the source material. Pretty much all the important characters appear; Jim’s love interest, the hideously disfigured Princess What’s-Her-Name (Born with horrible pink skin and a vile human-like body), her evil twin sister and series primary antagonist Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt, Jim’s archenemies Psy-Crow (Get it? Crows eat worms!), and the creator of the super suit Professor Monkey-For-A-Head who is exactly what his name implies (the monkey’s name is Monkey Professor-For-A-Head).

My God! She's a monster!

As a kid I loved this show with all my heart, as did I love the original game. It was so silly and so off the wall that I was always quoting it all the time in increasingly inappropriate situations. I thought that everything good and pure about the world, everything that was funny and amusing, was represented by this show. When it was canceled I fell into a deep depression; a self-induced coma of drugs and abuse as I slowly and willingly drank myself to death.

Well not really. But I was still pretty bummed out by it. I guess 1995 just wasn’t ready for a show like this. Perhaps, after a decade or so, we might be ready to try the formula again.

Wait a second: colorful but incompetent heroes? Tongue in cheek villain spoofs? Monty Python inspired humor? Narrated by Jeff Bennett? Why does that sound so familiar?

Son of a bitch!

Oh well. Maybe by the year 2015 the world will finally be ready to accept such a show.

For more on the Earthworm Jim franchise click here.

For the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show blog and/or podcast click here and/or here.

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