As the new season of children's series continues to roll out this morning, it's clear that many of the programs are trying to recapture the gleeful insanity of the old Warner Bros. theatrical shorts--but filtered through the limited-for-television animation of "Ren & Stimpy." Distorted expressions crop up in these shows that would have been discarded as too ugly before "Ren & Stimpy" became a hit on Nickelodeon.
The writers and artists of "Raw Toonage" (10:30 a.m. on CBS, Channels 2 and 8) obviously want this collection of short cartoons to appeal to hip fans of "The Simpsons," but they don't have the nerve to do anything really outrageous. Bonkers T. Bobcat is a Roger Rabbit wanna-be; "Marsupilami" centers on an odd spotted animal with an extremely long tail and hands for paws: Who and what is he? A segment titled "Totally Tasteless Videos" is just a lame spoof of "Doogie Howser, M.D." Much wilder material is needed if the creators of "Toonage" hope to win the MTV audience.
"The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys" (11 a.m. on CBS) combines live action with animation, puppets, special effects and prosthetics in a labored comedy about three nutty buddies that recalls "The Monkees." But Dave, Bill and Aquarius are sea monkeys (tiny crustaceans that used to be advertised in comic books) that an addled scientist has enlarged to human size. Conceived by Howie Mandell (who appears briefly as the dingy professor) and the Chiodo Brothers, "Sea Monkeys" boasts rich production values and poor ideas: A running gag in the first episode involves a belching contest with a puppet-monster. It's for kids who enjoy watching adults in rubber suits act silly.
"Eek the Cat" (9:30 a.m. on Fox, Channels 11 and 6) isn't going to win any awards for originality. The title character, a lumpy lavender cat with a nasal voice, belongs to an unattractive family that looks suspiciously like the one in "The Family Dog." Last week's first episode was just a long string of badly timed slapstick gags, most of them lifted from Chuck Jones' "Road Runner" shorts.
"Fievel's American Tails" (7 a.m. on CBS), which also premiered last week, picks up where the 1991 feature "Fievel Goes West" left off--with the emigrant Mousekewitz family living on the frontier. Although the animation is limited and the new secondary characters aren't well designed, the program captures the look of the film. Phillip Glasser and Dom DeLuise repeat their roles as the voices of Fievel and Tiger, the silly vegetarian cat, which heightens the resemblance.
"Super Dave" (10 a.m. on Fox), about an animated version of stuntman Dave Osborn, tries to revive the comic Good Guy premise of "Dudley Do-Right," but the dreary writing and jerky animation just aren't funny. In an appalling lapse of taste, Osborn has been given a Japanese sidekick who talks like a bad dialect comedian. Even worse in the premiere last Saturday was a live-action sequence about bungee jumping that showed Osborne "falling" off a bridge and landing with an awful crunch. The people at Fox who approved this dud should be sent to their rooms--and made to watch it.
Meanwhile, "The Adventures of T. Rex" (weekdays, 8 a.m. on KCOP-TV Channel 13) premiered in syndication earlier this week. A sort of Teen-Age Mutant Ninja Dinosaurs with ideas that are even more limited than the animation, "Adventures" centers on five identical brothers who fight crime in Rep(tile) City. They don't look like any known species of dinosaur, and the crime-fighting-kids premise has been used on countless other shows with more entertaining results.