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Zany 'ZIM,' 'Oddparents' Land on Nickelodeon Lineup


Offbeat being the cartoon mode du jour, Nickelodeon's two new cartoonseries, "Invader ZIM" and "The Fairly Oddparents," launching tonight, are relentlessly wacky, prone to anarchic humor and paced like a careening roller coaster.

"Oddparents," with a goofy simplicity reminiscent of the Cartoon Network's "Dexter," has its tee-hee moments; the deliriously original "Invader ZIM" rocks.

Nickelodeon's first sci-fi fantasy toon, "Invader ZIM" is the inspired anime brainchild of adult comic book creator Jhonen Vasquez ("SQUEE!"), who turns a tale about a pint-sized, stealth alien invader into a visual feast of geometric lines, strange angles, vaulting curves, fantastic, transforming machines and odd, shadowed places.

And it's funny. Egotistical, little, green and ant-like ZIM, with square head, stick legs and gear-teeth grimace, thinks he's preparing the way for a major invasion; it's really a kiss-off mission; his fellow Irkens hope he never returns.

Aided by a whimsically malfunctioning robot named GIR and a shape-shifting spaceship, ZIM and GIR masquerade as a boy and his dog. His ship, in a downright unsettling bit of transformation on a dark city block--enormous tubes snake into adjoining buildings--becomes a house, complete with mechanical parents.

Wicked, casual touches are tossed in: the institution-wide misspelling of "school" as "skool"; a passing ice-cream truck's hypnotic, Arnold Schwarzenegger-accented mantra, "You loff ice cream"; the triangular men's-room sign on the clueless ZIM's front door . . .

His nemesis turns out to be classmate Dib, the son of a scientist. An intense, highly excitable, scorned believer in aliens and the supernatural, a la "X-Files' " Agent Mulder, Dib has a darkly comic home life of his own.

In the frenetic "The Fairly Oddparents," created by Butch Hartman ("Oh Yeah! Cartoons!"), 10-year-old Timmy has fairy godparents to make his wishes come true, albeit wishes guaranteed to backfire. He also has oblivious parents and a cruel teenage baby-sitter.

In the first episode, Timmy tires of being the target of baby-sitter Vicky and a hulking school bully, and wishes himself into adulthood. "Older Timmy," though, turns out to be a creepy bald guy with a big gut and a hairy back (cut to a "Ren & Stimpy"-type gross close-up of hairy pimples and enlarged pores).

In an upcoming episode, Timmy's wish for the ultimate video game takes him and two friends inside his computer, "Tron"-style, where on one level, one of his aunts, with huge claws, wants to pinch his cheeks. On another, Vicky is a fanged robotic monster bent on their destruction.

Meanwhile, fairy godparents Cosmo and Wanda can transform themselves into everything from goldfish to Lucy and Ricky on TV reruns of "I Love Lucy," but can't rescue Timmy from bad wishes because it's against "Da Rules."

Note to parents: Despite the official age level recommendations, both shows are more appropriate for ages 7 and up.


"The Fairly Oddparents" can be seen tonight at 8:30; "Invader ZIM" can be seen tonight at 9, both on Nickelodeon. The network has rated both TV-Y (suitable for young children.)

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