Friday, June 21, 2013

Pleasant Surprises (2/6)

Never underestimate your enemy, or your potential entertainment source.  

Sometimes disappointment will win out, but other times you may find a pleasant surprise lurking where you least expect it.  Here are six works I found waiting just around that proverbial corner.

Ranking of these is not by quality, but rather how unexpected it was that I liked them.
6th Place

5. It just looks so kiddie!
Take the Transformers.  Take a PlaySkool toy.  Now mash them together as hard as you can.

Congratulations, you have just reproduced the visual aesthetic of the show Transformers: Rescue Bots.  Is it as kiddie as it looks?  Well, yeah.  And that’s a good thing.

Created while Transformers Prime was taking the breather between season one and two, this show skewed to a younger audience.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen!  No Autobot stabbed through the chest in the first five minutes here!

As a result, the show tended to focus on more family-sized issues than planet-sized disasters.  Don’t let that fool you into thinking they just threw money and toys at it.  This may not an ambitious show, but it is a genuine one.

The premise for this show is that four Autobots arrive on earth in the middle of the war with the Decepticons. However, these Rescue Bots are far from capable on the battlefield.  So Optimus Prime assigns them to a small island full of experimental technology where they can live hidden amongst the humans.  Here they are teamed with the Burns family who runs the emergency response system on the island.  Only the Burns are aware of the Bots’ sentience and together they help keep the island safe.

There are no real hidden depths to the cast.  They each fit a role nicely.  Sometimes that means conforming to stereotypes, sometimes not.  Even so, each of the family members and the Bots are treated as characters.  They are allowed to have full range of emotions and passions, and their interactions are often more than enough to make you laugh.  My personal favorite is Chase.
Image from
Chase is a by-the-book police car.  If there is a rule, he will rigidly stick to it, be it reasonable (halting a robbery, reinforcing traffic laws)  or ridiculous (over-analyzing the “rules” of comedy and babysitting).  The humor behind his concrete way of thinking clashes with the other characters who vary from out-and-out rebellious to simply more flexible.  Sometimes his rigid view of the rules cripples him while other times it becomes his advantage.

"Then I will study Earth humor. But why the road-crossing habits of poultry provoke involuntary laughter, I will never comprehend."
Image from  Episode "Shake Up."

This show gives every character a foil and a chance to be both wrong and right.  They aren’t afraid to show more than one side of an issue, but they also aren’t afraid to say which they think is right.  Every episode ends with a good feel to it.  Well, almost every episode.

- Behold, Tim Curry Villain! -
Image from  Episode "The Other Doctor"

Like Friendship is Magic, the show tends to mostly deal with day-to-day issues.  Things are more on the personal side.  Also like Friendship is Magic, however, Rescue Bots is willing to raise the stakes.  Two episodes in the first season end with a villain who wins, putting the entire island at risk.  It also trusts its viewers enough to understand that doing the right thing may come with a cost, but is worth it in the end.

Rescue Bots may not be ambitious, but it sure does leave you with a smile on your face.

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