Matthew Recommends: “Avatar: The Last Airbender”

I’ve been watching a show lately with the sibs. It’s a show that, when it was airing on Nickelodeon from 2005-2008, I had only heard of and never seen. This was mainly because we didn’t have cable. Plus, whenever I did happen to come across images of it, I thought it looked weird.

Oh, silly me. Silly, silly me.

Anyway, thanks to the power of modern streaming technology, Avatar: The Last Airbender is available for free streaming on Amazon Instant Video (free if you have Prime, that is). And thanks to friends of mine who recommended the show to me and my family, I proposed to my siblings one night that we watch the first episode. Give it a shot.

One episode quickly turned into two. Then three, then four. Et cetera.

We haven’t finished the series yet, but we just started watching the third and final season. And you know what?

This show is fantastic.

avatar-the-last-airbender-flying

It’s even more than that, really. It’s one of the best cartoons I’ve ever seen — heck, it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. It’s aimed primarily at younger audiences, but like all the best entertainment, it’s done so well that adults enjoy it too, perhaps even more.

So what’s the show about? Well, instead of me telling you, just watch the intro from the show itself right here. (The first half-second or so is cut off for some reason, so you can’t hear the narrator say the first word: “water.”)

Seems intriguing, right? Well, just wait until you actually start watching the show. You’ll be hooked from the beginning, trust me.

And you know what the best thing is? It just keeps getting better. And better! Season 1 is great, but Season 2 blew me away even more. I can’t wait to see what further surprises await in Season 3.

So what exactly is so great about this show? Many things. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing the cast is, both the characters themselves and the people voicing them. They’re all so well-drawn, with faults and fears, with strengths and talents, and the adventures they experience together are never, ever boring. I can’t think of a single episode of this show so far that I haven’t liked.

The animation is great, too, taking a lot of inspiration from anime. It’s also funny. Like, really funny. Much funnier than I was ever expecting it to be. There’s not an episode that goes by in which my siblings and I don’t laugh out loud at least once. On the flip side, the show can also sometimes be pretty dark for a kids’ cartoon, and I love it — even if that owl from the library will forever haunt my nightmares, along with the Face Stealer. (Fans of the show reading this know exactly what I mean. It’s creepy as heck.)

But the best thing about the show is the storytelling. It’s so well-written that I almost can’t believe it was on the same network as Spongebob Squarepants. (No offense to that show, really. I like it, but Avatar is on another tier altogether.) Every episode successfully weaves a compelling self-contained story that simultaneously ties into the overall plot that’s building up over the entire series. It’s brilliant.

What else can I write without giving stuff away? Not much. Plus I’m too lazy to just keep writing about the show. So, ultimately, my point is this:

Watch it.

Please. You’ll thank me later. (And please, for the love of all that is holy, stay away from the live action film adaptation. *shudder*)

Oh, and have a GIF that makes no sense unless you’ve seen the show!

tumblr_m9sd9sssse1r2a9es

Advertisements

“The Peanuts Movie” — A Film Review

***This review contains spoilers. However, I will mark them — that way you can still read my thoughts without me giving anything away. How convenient!***

This movie could have been a complete and utter failure.

This movie could have taken the beloved Peanuts characters and dressed them up to fit our modern culture, complete with smartphones and the Internet. This movie could have been a poorly-written cash grab. This movie could have been filled with unfunny pop culture references and crass humor. This movie could have made Charles Schulz roll over in his grave.

This movie could have been or done all of those things at once.

But . . . to my complete and utter joy, it does absolutely none of those things. Quite the opposite, in fact.

In Blue Sky Studios’ The Peanuts Movie, Charlie Brown is still the Charlie Browniest. The gang is still the gang. Snoopy is still Snoopy. Peanuts is still Peanuts.

And that is a very, very good thing.

peanuts-photo-5-gallery-image

Seeing this movie brought me joy. Not just for the nostalgia factor, mind you. Yes, I have pretty much always been a fan of Peanuts, especially after discovering the comic strip. But The Peanuts Movie does not merely rely on nostalgia to make a quick buck from audiences. It was clearly made with great care and respect for these characters and their stories that we all know and love.

Oh, sure, it’s been given a visual upgrade. But it’s still clearly and proudly Peanuts.

Okay, if I still haven’t made it abundantly clear, I will now. I loved this movie. I had a big stupid grin on my face through just about the entire thing.

It’s wonderful.

So, to get into a bit more detail. The story, as you probably know from seeing the trailers, centers around the Little Red-Haired Girl moving into the neighborhood. Our hero, good ol’ Charlie Brown, finds himself enamored with her, and he wants to get up the nerve to talk to her and befriend her. The only problem is that he, in his own words, suffers from “a severe case of inadequacy.”

“I’m nothing and she’s something,” he tells Lucy at her famous psychiatrist booth.

“If you really want to impress her,” Lucy tells him, “you need to show her you’re a winner.”

Yes, Charlie Brown may make a lot of mistakes. He may not be very popular. He may not be very good at . . . well, anything. But he’s not a quitter, so he resolves to do just that: become a winner.

peanuts-photo-3-gallery-image

Now, I don’t want to give too much away here. But suffice it to say that while this story sounds rather simple and cliche, I think it plays out rather beautifully, and in classic Peanuts style to boot. A lot happens that ties into the main plot, and it’s all incredibly well-done. There are bits and pieces taken directly from the old strips and/or specials, sometimes as a fun little nod or reference and other times as an integral part of the story. But instead of feeling like a boring retread, it all feels fresh despite some familiar elements, which I was quite happy about.

I’ll get back to the story later. For now, though, I want to briefly address the visual style of the film. I think it’s brilliant! It’s a gorgeous translation of traditionally two-dimensional drawings on a page into three-dimensional computer animation. It’s almost paradoxical. It’s 3D, but it feels 2D, which is helped along by the little hand-drawn details sprinkled throughout the film (sound effects written out on screen, thought bubbles that look like the black-and-white comic strips, etc.). The framerate is also lower than usual, which (not unlike The LEGO Movie) gives the film a more handcrafted feel than your typical CG-animated movie. Huge kudos to Blue Sky Studios for pulling off the look of the film! It’s colorful, vibrant, and whimsical, and I personally feel that it couldn’t have looked better.

“You touched my hand, Chuck! You sly dog.”

Oh, and the characters. The characters! THE CHARACTERS! All your favorites are here. Charlie Brown. Snoopy. Woodstock. Linus. Lucy. Sally. Schroeder. Pigpen. Franklin. Violet. Patty. Peppermint Patty. Marcie. And, of course, the Little Red-Haired Girl (whose name we still don’t know, true to the comics). And I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but these are the ones that get the most screentime — and, of course, some of the ones I’ve listed get more screentime than others. But that’s perfectly okay, because this movie absolutely nails each and every one of them.

That’s really all I have to say about them, actually. You know them, and the movie gets them absolutely right! And the kids voicing them are pitch-perfect! In fact, though it might seem like sacrilege to say it, I would say that they’ve never sounded better. And I love the fact that pretty much all of the kids voicing them are basically unknown (or were before this movie came out). Huge props to the casting department with finding these kids. They were excellent — all of them!

linus-sally-winter-dance

Just because the characters are the same, however, doesn’t mean they’re dull and predictable by any means. They’re the same, but we do still get some surprises here and there. There’s a pairing I don’t recall ever being in the comics or the specials, for one thing. But I thought it worked well (and it wasn’t central to the plot anyway).

I think the biggest surprise we get, though, is that Charlie Brown is noticeably less downtrodden here than he is in the comics. While he’s definitely still down on himself in the movie and seems to fail at everything, he’s also more hopeful here than I’ve ever seen him. Purists may nitpick at this, but I didn’t mind it at all. I’m a huge fan of the comics, and even I have to admit that I think they could have benefited from just a tad more optimism. (And I do hope I don’t anger any diehard fans by saying that.)

***SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SKIP AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE!!!***

And back to the story for a moment, this also ties into the one big difference from the comics that occurs in the movie. In the comics, Charlie Brown never ended up talking to the Little Red-Haired Girl. But here, he actually does, which genuinely surprised me — in a good way. Again, purists may argue that this shouldn’t have been done, but I’m actually perfectly okay with it. Yes, Charlie Brown finally does succeed at something, and it’s also nice that he succeeds in a way that’s different from how he was hoping. Instead of succeeding by changing who he is to become a winner, he proves to the Little Red-Haired Girl, and everyone else, that he is a good person despite his imperfections (and despite his own doubts). And I think that’s a beautiful message. Also, come on, give the kid a break! He can succeed just this once, right?

***END OF SPOILERS. YOU CAN KEEP READING NOW. SO YAY!!!***

Oh, yeah! In addition to the main plot, we also get this subplot about Snoopy imagining he’s fighting against — you guessed it — the Red Baron. It’s a fun diversion from the main plot, but if there’s anything about this movie I can actually complain about, it’s that I felt that switching back and forth between these two storylines kind of hurt the movie’s pacing a little. I’d get really invested in Charlie Brown’s endeavors, and then suddenly we’d be back with Snoopy versus the Baron again. These parts of the movie aren’t bad by any means, but I do wish they were cut down just a little more. For what they are, though, they are quite fun — and anyway, who doesn’t love Snoopy dressed as the World War I flying ace?

flying-ace-red-baron

Sound-wise, this movie really shines. The cast of kids are wonderful, as I’ve already said. The adults still talk with the “wah-wah” of a muted trumpet, which is still hilarious. And, to my eternal delight, a small handful of the classic Vince Guaraldi themes pop up here and there, “Linus and Lucy” being most prominent among them, of course. The score besides that, by Christophe Beck, works well.

This movie does, however, have a couple of pop songs in it. It appears I was misinformed about the director saying there wouldn’t be any in it. Unless he was lying. Meh, I was probably just misinformed. But in any case, one is by Meghan Trainor and the other by Flo Rida. Thankfully, though, these songs were written for a G-rated movie, so they aren’t problematic lyrically, and they actually don’t play in their entirety during the movie. They’re also more gentle-sounding, I guess you could say, than your typical pop tune of these days. So, while I do think the film could have done without them, I don’t think they hurt the film either. *deep sigh of relief*

snoopy-joe-cool-d

I think I’ve covered everything I wanted to. So, with that, let’s wrap this thing up!

The Peanuts Movie is a triumph. It’s an absolute delight from start to finish, sure to keep both kids and adults captivated (for different reasons, of course). It freshens up the look of the world and characters while still maintaining their integrity. It looks, feels, and sounds like Peanuts. It IS Peanuts. It’s hilarious, heartwarming, and made with great care and respect. It’s good, clean fun that anyone can enjoy, and I think it’s safe to say that Charles Schulz would be proud.

Good grief, Blue Sky Studios. You did it. And this reviewer couldn’t be happier.

Four stars and two thumbs way up!

5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

SO GO SEE IT IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY, BY GOLLY!!!

Also . . . the world needs more good G-rated movies like this one.


I hope you enjoyed my review! If you saw the movie, tell me your thoughts in the comments!

See ya in two weeks!

Matthew Recommends: “Gravity Falls”

Every now and then, a TV show comes along that really surprises you.

Recently, I had one of those experiences with a cartoon called Gravity Falls.

Six_strange_tales
I had previously overlooked this cartoon for one main reason: it’s on the Disney Channel. Now, obviously, this was pretty unfounded on my part. After all, my favorite show is Phineas and Ferb, which is also a cartoon on the Disney Channel. But I came to discover and love that show because some of my best friends had recommended it to me. I had never heard any of my friends talk about Gravity Falls.

I do remember a couple of my sisters showing me an episode a couple of years ago, though, when the show was new. Apparently, they had caught a bit of the show while we were on vacation — the only time when cable TV is available to us. So I sat down and watched what I would eventually discover was the second episode of the series. Honestly, I don’t remember being all that impressed with it. So I shrugged the show off and forgot about it for the longest time.

But, a few months ago, I came across some recommendations of the show by a few different YouTubers I watch. Some of them included Gravity Falls in lists of cartoons they liked, while others did whole videos describing why it was such a great show and more people should check it out. My curiosity grew, and I searched and searched until I finally found a website where I could watch full, uncut, unaltered episodes. I put the first episode on and, to my delight, found that I really liked it.

Later, I watched the next two. I recognized the second episode as being the one I had seen before, and now appreciated it more now that I had seen the first episode. I also enjoyed the third episode pretty well.

This is good, I thought to myself.

A few weeks went by before I remembered to watch some more of the show. And by the end of the fourth episode, I was completely hooked, largely due to a clever twist that had me hungry for more answers.

As of today, I’ve finished watching the first season (20 episodes) and have started the second, along with my siblings, some of whom have watched all of them with me while others have seen only some. But enough about my experiences with the show. What about the show itself, and why am I recommending it?

ALEX HIRSCH (CREATOR, "GRAVITY FALLS")

Well, first of all, it’s a really high-quality cartoon. It was created by Alex Hirsch (seen above), an alumnus of the California Institute of the Arts, who is young but clearly full of talent. The animation is great, the characters are great and very likeable (despite some of them being quite flawed), the humor is great and often laugh-out-loud funny, and — perhaps best of all — the show is a continuity-based whirlwind of mystery.

Let me explain with the premise of the show. Dipper and Mabel Pines are preteen twins who have been sent to a town called Gravity Falls, Oregon to live with their Great Uncle Stan (or “Grunkle Stan,” as they call him) in the woods for the summer. There, Stan runs a “tourist trap” called the Mystery Shack, where he shows off fake exhibits and sells merchandise based on the legends of paranormal activity and other anomalies surrounding Gravity Falls. The twins work there along with man-child Soos and lanky teenage slacker Wendy. Dipper thinks it’s going to be the most boring summer ever, until he discovers that all is not as it seems in Gravity Falls — in fact, the legends of ghosts and monsters may actually be true.

The main cast of the show. From left to right: Soos, Dipper, Grunkle Stan, Mabel, and Wendy.

The main cast of the show. From left to right: Soos, Dipper, Grunkle Stan, Mabel, and Wendy.

That’s all I can really say about the story for now — as I said, the show is about mysteries, secrets, codes, and all that kind of fun stuff, and I really don’t want to give any of it away.

There are a few content concerns — some rude humor here and there, fairly frequent talk about puberty and all of its awkwardness, some occasional questionable messages (e.g. lying “for the greater good”), and the show might be a bit scary for young children — not to mention, the paranormal aspects of the show might give some pause for some people, even though it is a cartoon. Also, it should be mentioned that Grunkle Stan is a greedy con man, as can be seen in how he takes advantage of naive tourists with his fake exhibits and such, so he’s not exactly a great role model. On the plus side, however, most of his antics are played for laughs, and he does have a good heart overall. As a general rule, I would say that the show is probably appropriate for preteens and up.

For me, the positive aspects of the show outweigh the negative. I’ll talk about just a couple of examples, in addition to what I’ve already said about the technical quality of the show. First, Dipper and Mabel. They have a realistic sibling relationship, in that they do fight sometimes, but they always make up, and they clearly care for each other. Dipper in particular is a very selfless brother who always chooses what’s best for Mabel rather than himself in the end, and Mabel’s infinitely positive personality is a great influence on her brother, who can sometimes be negative. In addition, I’ve already mentioned how the show is about mysteries and codes and such, but to elaborate, I cannot emphasize enough how fascinating it all is. As the series progresses, there is just enough revealed and just enough kept secret to keep you coming back. There’s even a coded message in the credits of every episode for you to solve. Also, the music is great. It really enhances the mood in certain scenes, and the instrumental theme song grows on you pretty quickly.

I’d better stop myself before I ramble for too long, though. To summarize, it’s a great cartoon and you should definitely check it out. Just keep a couple of things in mind: it’s a little more mature in content than other cartoons like Phineas and Ferb, and you should (nigh on must) watch it in order due to its continuous narrative.

Where to watch if you don’t have cable? Here’s the website I found, which has all of the currently released episodes: all of Season 1, all of the currently released episodes of Season 2, and all of the shorts which came between the two seasons. And remember, you didn’t hear this from me.

http://www.toonget.com/gravity-falls

Have you seen the show before? Tell me what you think of it in the comments! If you haven’t and you decide to check it out, come back and then let me know!

See you guys next week!

In Defense of Bronies and “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”

Let’s just cut right to the chase.

I am a brony.

Once you’ve recovered from your shock, please continue reading. I promise I’m not insane.

All good? Okay.

So, I think by now pretty much everybody is aware of the “brony” phenomenon/controversy. Even if they’re not, I’m sure they’ve at least heard of the My Little Pony franchise, which started back in the 1980s. To give a very short summary, it started out as a toy line and soon spawned TV tie-ins, which included standalone specials, actual shows, and direct-to-video releases. There were three “generations” of the franchise until recently, with Generation 1 beginning in the 80s and Generation 3 in the early 2000s.

Based on a little bit of personal experience (we had a video that came with one of the toys ages ago) along with some research (mainly an hour-long documentary I found on Youtube), I can safely say that the older generations of My Little Pony were what you would think: cartoons aimed squarely at young girls with very little characterization, shallow stories, over-the-top cuteness . . . basically a show that is painful to watch for parents and older siblings.

Those older shows, however, are a thing of the past. In 2010, Hasbro launched a new generation of the My Little Pony franchise on the new Hub Network cable channel (formerly Discovery Kids). The show was headed by Lauren Faust, a veteran of cartoons who is most well-known for her work on Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends and The Powerpuff Girls. When given the task to create the new show, she wanted to make something that would be enjoyable for both kids and their parents.

And boy, did she do it.

my_little_pony_friendship_is_magic_comic_con_2011_poster

The latest generation of the My Little Pony show was called My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It was released to mostly positive reviews from critics, and by the end of the first season was the most-watched show on the channel.

The basic premise of the show is this: in the land of Equestria (haha), in the castle at the capital city of Canterlot (haha), a scholastic pony named Twilight Sparkle (basically the Hermione Granger of the pony universe) lives as a student of supreme ruler Princess Celestia. At the beginning of the series, Twilight is sent to the town of Ponyville to learn about the magic of friendship.

Twilight Sparkle and one of her favorite hobbies: reading.

Twilight Sparkle doing one of her favorite hobbies: reading.

The princess gives her this task mainly because Twilight isn’t very skilled at making new friends. She has books, what other friends does she need? But she goes, and she ends up meeting five other ponies: Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy.

Five of the "mane six," as they're referred to by the fandom. From left to right: Fluttershy, Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash.

Five of the “mane six,” as they’re referred to by the fandom. From left to right: Fluttershy, Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash.

In each episode, one or more of the characters learns an important lesson about friendship, and Twilight reports these to the princess via letters. That’s the very basic overall story, but it gets much more complex than that as it goes along.

If you thought that all of the show’s viewers were little girls and sometimes their parents, you’d be wrong. The show now has a huge fanbase, which is especially prominent on the Internet (I’m sure you’ve seen some pony memes before), and a significant portion of the fanbase is made up of guys. Not just any guys, mind you — teenage and adult guys. They like to call themselves “bronies,” and I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain the etymology. (“Brony,” by the way, is now a term used for both male and female fans of the show. Another name for a female fan is “pegasister,” but this isn’t as widely used.)

You’re probably already aware of this phenomenon, but you may be wondering: WHY? Why on earth would grown men be interested in a show targeted at 8-year-old girls? Are they pedophiles or something? Or are they just seriously out-of-wack in the head? And for that matter, are YOU out-of-wack in the head? You said yourself you’re a brony!

Well, to answer, I’ll begin with the story of how I became a brony.

My first exposure to the show was through — you guessed it —  the Internet. I saw pictures from the show, memes, GIFs, all that kind of thing. And on some forums, I read about how guys were watching the show. My thoughts were very skeptical — I mean, a cartoon about ponies? And guys were watching this? Psh. What a joke.

Fast forward through time. One day, I walked into the living room to find my sisters watching a cartoon on Netflix. It didn’t take me long to recognize it as that weird new My Little Pony show. I stared at my sisters.

“You can’t be serious.”

They told me the show was funny, and good. I rolled my eyes and brushed it off.

My sisters continued watching the show pretty often, and occasionally I would catch a glimpse of it. I didn’t see anything that convinced me. But after a while, my sisters started calling me into the room so they could show me a funny clip from the show, most often a facial expression or two. And —  against my will, it seemed — I found myself laughing. Quite hard, actually.

As a result, my thought process changed a bit. Maybe, just maybe, the show was all right. That didn’t mean I was going to actually watch it, though. What would my friends think, especially the guys? Well, they didn’t have to know, but still . . . it was clearly a girls’ show, right? My masculinity was at stake.

Still, though, every now and then my sisters would show me another funny clip . . . and I got more and more interested.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember exactly how or when it happened, but I finally sat down and watched an entire episode with my sisters. Followed by another. And another. And another.

And a couple of weeks ago, I finished the entire currently released series on Netflix.

But WHY? I can almost hear your thoughts right now:

WHY ARE YOU WATCHING THIS JUNK?!

I’ll tell ya.

First of all, it’s not junk. Not in the slightest. The old My Little Pony cartoons had little reason to exist other than to help sell the toys. Not this one, though. Friendship is Magic is a good cartoon — heck, it’s a great cartoon! It’s well-written, it has excellent characters, the voice acting is top-notch, the songs are good (no, seriously, they are — and sometimes they’re REALLY good), the animation is fluid and well-styled, and the show teaches great lessons which can apply both to young girls and to anyone else who watches the show. Honesty. Loyalty. Kindness. Generosity. Laughter. These are the kind of things the show encourages.

Okay, you might be thinking. So it’s supposedly not a junky show. But it’s still made for little girls!

Well, that is true on one hand. But on the other hand, as I said before, Lauren Faust and the whole team behind the show made it with the parents in mind. They created a quality show, and quality tends to transcend traditional lines of what kind of things each gender likes or is supposed to like. I don’t hear anyone complaining when a girl is into boyish things. I wonder why it is that guys are ridiculed for being into more “feminine” things? That’s a larger question, though, and I don’t have the space here to fully address that. The main point is that if something is made well, it’ll often reach past the target audience and find fans from all different walks of life, ages, and genders.

This show is good. It just happens to be about ponies, the majority of whom are female. Once you get past that, you might find (as I did) that it’s quite enjoyable. That does not mean in any way, however, that everyone who watches it will like it. It’s not for everyone, and neither is any other show (or book, or movie). But it’s well-made, and I believe it deserves a chance rather than being blown off as a “little girls’ show.”

The show isn’t perfect — no show is. It tends to be overdramatic on occasion (which is also one of my only gripes with Phineas and Ferb), the lessons learned in each episode are nearly always stated explicitly at the end (which sort of makes sense, considering the target audience), and sometimes the villains who pop up sporadically are rather stereotypical (this is largely made up for, however, by one particular villain named Discord who comes at the beginning of Season 2). But, as with Phineas and Ferb, the pluses of the show definitely outweigh the minuses.

Have I mentioned how funny the show is? It’s brimming with humor, and sometimes it’s downright hysterical. There’s word play (e.g. the cities of Manehattan and Cloudsdale), sly pop culture references, fourth wall breaks, and occasionally pure insanity, just to name a few examples. One of the things that drew me most to the show, though, is the facial expressions of the characters. Let me give you a few examples of what the animators are capable of:

640px-Applejack_bad_poker_face_S01E25

rainbow_dash_i_wub_woo_face_by_flowerjewel-d3a1g2k

Pinkie_Pie_goofy_smile_S4E09

Rarity_'I_love_being_covered_in_mud!'_S4E13

Fluttershy_'very,_very_worried!'_S4E01

Twilight_Sparkle_with_a_bird's_nest_on_her_head_S2E03

And one of my personal favorites . . .

This is a little girls' show?!

This is a little girls’ show?!

I rest my case.

Look, I get it. It sounds weird. I like a cartoon about ponies targeted primarily at little girls. But hey, I’m not alone. As I said, there’s a huge brony fanbase. Many, if not most of them, were probably as skeptical as I was or as you are. But they gave it a shot, and they found that they enjoyed it.

I bet you know what’s coming next. Yes, I want you to give it a chance too.

If you’re a girl, you’re probably okay with giving it a shot. But if you’re a guy, you’re probably backing away slowly right now.

Am I going to shove this down your throat? Absolutely not! I am in no way trying to get you to do something against your will. If you’re not at all interested in trying it, don’t. Simple!

But, if I have managed to pique your interest at least a little, I really think you should try watching it.

The entire currently released series (four seasons) is on Netflix. You can watch in secret. What’s the worst that could happen? You might not be able to watch more than a few minutes. You might get through a whole episode before calling it quits. Or you might find yourself wanting to keep watching.

So, please, if you’re even a little bit interested, I urge you to keep an open mind and just give it a chance. If you don’t like it, IT’S OKAY! I won’t hate you. Pinkie promise.

tumblr_m5oqqkdgHH1qg26zfo2_250

But hey, if you do end up liking it, that’s great! Welcome to the herd, as they say.

So. Episode suggestions.

You should probably start with the episode “Lesson Zero” (Season 2, Episode 3). It’s a great introduction to the main character, Twilight Sparkle, and gives you an idea of who all the other main characters are. Plus it’s really funny. You might wonder why I don’t suggest you start at the beginning of the series — well, I want to show you what the series is capable of, so I want to show you some of the best episodes. The two-part pilot is good, but it’s not the best introduction to the show. So anyway, “Lesson Zero.” Start there.

IMPORTANT NOTE. Don’t be put off by the title sequence. Trust me, that’s the girliest part of the show. If you can get through that without gagging, you’ll be just fine.

If you make it through that episode and want to try a little more, watch “May the Best Pet Win!” (Season 2, Episode 7). This episode contains one of the best songs in the series so far. I was blown away when I first saw/heard it (especially the last minute or so). If you’ve watched these two episodes and haven’t given up, try “Feeling Pinkie Keen” (Season 1, Episode 15) next.

It should be noted that you really do need to watch more than just two or three episodes to get a proper sampling of the series as a whole, so if you’re still with me, here’s a few more, in no particular watching order (although I’ll list them chronologically):

  • “Applebuck Season” (Season 1, Episode 4)
  • “Dragonshy” (Season 1, Episode 7)
  • “Sonic Rainboom” (Season 1, Episode 16)
  • “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000” (Season 2, Episode 15) (This one has a great musical number that pays homage to “Ya Got Trouble” from Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man.)
  • “Read It and Weep” (Season 2, Episode 16)
  • “Hurricane Fluttershy” (Season 2, Episode 22)
  • “Too Many Pinkie Pies” (Season 3, Episode 3)

If you’ve watched all of these and still want to try more, just face it. You are now a brony. And you should now just watch in chronological order from the beginning.


Okay, I think that pretty much covers it. Hopefully you don’t think I’m crazy, or feminine, or that I’ve lost my man card or something.

The  main point to take away from all of this is that, yes, the show is made primarily for young girls. But the key word is primarily. It’s a good quality show, and lots of fun, which is why I enjoy it. Just because it’s about colorful ponies doesn’t make it bad.

If you’re feeling brave, give it a shot. Really. Again, if you don’t like it, IT’S OKAY! I don’t want you to watch it if you don’t like it. I just think it deserves a chance. I really do.

All right, I’d better sign off before I ramble too long. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Until next week, friends!

Why “Phineas and Ferb” Is My Favorite TV Show

Let’s face it: most TV today is trash. Excessive violence? Check. Sex? Check. Foul language? Check. Shallow stories and characters? Check. Humor that’s either crass, just plain dumb, or both? Check. Anyone who enjoys these kind of things has absolutely no trouble finding them during your everyday television broadcasting.

But, as we all know, there are some good TV shows out there  — not as many as there are bad ones, but they do exist. They may not be completely free of the negative things that plague most other TV shows, but their strong points outweigh their weak ones. Praise God for the writers who create them, am I right?

Now, I personally don’t watch a lot of TV, but there are a handful of shows that I really enjoy a lot. My personal favorite is the Disney Channel cartoon Phineas and Ferb. (What do you mean, you already knew that?)

377374_315107241834691_216390138373069_1320275_683674140_n

I first heard about the show back in early 2008, in a Boys’ Life magazine ad, around the time the show was first being broadcast. I didn’t think much of the ad — in fact, I looked at it with disdain, noting that the show was on Disney Channel, which I think pretty much all of my readers will agree has very little material on it worth watching on a regular basis.

Fast forward a few years, and I started hearing good things about the show from some of my best guy friends. They said the show was really funny, especially for geeks, nerds, and the like. I was still a little skeptical — come on, a Disney Channel show is that good? But eventually, at a get-together with these same guys, I was encouraged to sit down during dinner and try watching an episode.

Before long, I was laughing out loud.

But there was more than just the humor. The theme song’s lyrics drew me in almost at once:

“There’s a hundred and four days of summer vacation ’til school comes along just to end it

So the annual problem for our generation is finding a good way to spend it

Like maybe:

Building a rocket, or fighting a mummy, or climbing up the Eiffel Tower

Discovering something that doesn’t exist, or giving a monkey a shower”

Et cetera. Not only was there exuberant goofiness in the words, but also a subtle but clear message: maybe kids shouldn’t spend their summers (or any of their time, really) wasting away being bored. Maybe they should be creative, think outside the box, and have fun doing it.

181246_616461438365935_1399327440_n

The basic premise of the show, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, is this: stepbrothers Phineas and Ferb — the former a talkative, enthusiastic triangle-headed kid and the latter a googly-eyed, mostly silent “man of action” — want to make the most of their summer vacation, and so every day they come up with some kind of crazy project to do, most often with their friends helping out. These projects range from building a roller coaster to fixing a time machine and visiting the dinosaurs to becoming one-hit-wonders to finding the lost city of Atlantis. Their older sister, Candace, tries to “bust” them for these potentially dangerous projects to their mother, while also dealing with her own troubles (mostly involving her crush, Jeremy). Meanwhile, the boys’ pet platypus, Perry, is actually a secret agent who fights against the evil Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, who tries to come up with his own crazy project every day in the hope of taking over “the entire Tri-State Area!” These three central plotlines of the show often interconnect, producing hilarious results.

So why is this my favorite show? Well, first, on the surface, for several reasons:

  • It’s a legitimately funny — sometimes hysterical — show. There’s all kinds of humor: physical humor, word play, pop culture references and spoofs, irony, fourth wall breaks, running gags, etc.
  • It’s well-written. Good plots, excellent characterizations, and intelligent writing. Instead of trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator, as many shows do, Phineas and Ferb is a show for smart people.
  • Every episode has a song of some sort, and these are most often really good and fun to sing, much like the songs from VeggieTales.
  • The production quality is great. Good animation and wonderful voice acting.

I think, though, the main reason I like the show so much is something that runs a little deeper. Unlike many other shows, it’s not cynical or condescending. It’s positive and encouraging with an enthusiastic outlook on life. The central theme is the Latin phrase “carpe diem,” or “seize the day.” That’s a great message and one I hope everyone who sees the show — not just kids — will take to heart.

The show isn’t perfect — there’s occasional crude humor, sometimes when it goes a more serious route it doesn’t always feel right, and some episodes aren’t nearly as good as others. Overall, though? It’s a wonderful show and I could go on forever about how great it is. I’ll spare you that, though, and just encourage you to give it a shot if you haven’t already. If you have and don’t really get it, try a bit more. Try some of my personal favorite episodes. In no particular order: “We Call It Maze” (my first episode), “Hail Doofania,” “The Chronicles of Meap,” “Excaliferb,” “Don’t Even Blink,” “Dude, We’re Getting the Band Back Together,” “Put That Putter Away,” “Does This Duckbill Make Me Look Fat?” “Oh, There You Are, Perry,” “The Lake Nose Monster,” “Thaddeus and Thor,” “Split Personality,” and “My Fair Goalie.”

That should be enough. If you watch all of those and still don’t like it, or if you can’t even get through all of those, I won’t judge you. Pinkie promise.

I think that about wraps this post up. I think I’ll end with . . .

“CURSE YOU, PERRY THE PLATYPUS!!!!!!!!”