Friday, April 25, 2008

The Best Cartoon Show Ever


Some VIDEO WATCHDOG readers were baffled when, back in our 35th issue (otherwise devoted to Ken Russell's THE DEVILS), I devoted the inside cover to a photograph of a couple of marionette ragamuffins and their pet goat. I did it, I don't regret it, and I'm convinced that time will only prove me prescient for having done it. You see, those three characters -- Rudy, Jumpin' Jesse B. and GoGo Goat -- were the stars of my favorite TV show at that time: TNT's early morning series THE RUDY AND GOGO WORLD FAMOUS CARTOON SHOW.
I don't know how many R&GG episodes were made and broadcast, but the show ran for a little more than two years. During that time, the show's restlessly inventive creators -- Barry Mills and Jack Pendarvis -- reconceived the show a number of times, doing everything from running the goat for President to giving the program a title in Spanish. But when they presented TNT with a completely and fabulously freaky, off-the-wall redo of the show called TATERHOLE (imagine Howdy Doody and Afrika Bambaataa lost with Annie Oakley in the zigzag room from TWIN PEAKS for 30 minutes, and screaming for 10 of them), that ended that. A second episode, already in the can, was never aired. One of its highlights depicted supporting character Uncle Carbunkle entertaining the show's young audience with a get-down-wittit logline rendering of Fyodor Dostoevsky's NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND.
It was a cartoon show ahead of its time, and well ahead of its time slot. It was a cartoon show for the David Lynch generation -- hysterical, surreal, funky, irreverent AND reverent. (Jesse B.'s "Black Historama" offered young viewers sketches of important figures from Black History in a respectful rap format.) Entertaining? Certainly. Insane? Whoa, yeah. Commercial suicide? Indubitabubitably... and the heroic thing about this is, the folks behind it HAD to know that. But this was a cartoon show with the power to drag hungover adults out of bed at an ungodly hour -- not to see "Believe It Or Else" for the umpteenth time, but to see what these characters were going to get away with doing on national television today. Sometimes they would have the goat wander through a Fleischer cartoon or a Technicolor scene from an MGM short buried deep in the Turner library; sometimes there would be appearances by members of The Mekons.
This was a cartoon show that was only incidentally watched for the cartoons -- most of which, being from the older, MGM-controlled end of the Warner Bros. library, I already had on laserdisc -- and, if you think about it, it's very rare to find that degree of creativity and invention anywhere on the air. Back in the 1970s, I used to watch Linda Ellerbee and Lloyd Dobyns do their middle-of-the-night newscast OVERNIGHT on NBC for the same reason: not to get the news, which I received incidentally, but to get Dobyns' and Ellerbee's singular and highly personable twist on the news. I watched RUDY AND GOGO because other stimulants of comparable intensity were and are illegal.
I loved this show and wish I had recorded more episodes. It would be PERFECT programming for my current Dish Network DVR set-up. I wish The Cartoon Network could be persuaded to re-run the series in a late night slot (much more appropriate to the tenor of the material), as they have done with Barry Mills' POPEYE SHOW, and let this lost masterpiece find the rabid midnight-toker cult that awaits it. In the meantime, Barry has recently launched a Rudy and GoGo website that offers extant and prospective fans much interesting information about the show and a goodly number of treasures from the vault, including the hilarious behind-the-scenes story of RUDY'S ROCKIN' KIDDIE CARAVAN (a CD project that got "caught up in red tape" after a zillion obstacles impeded its development) and the entire never-before-shown second episode of TATERHOLE in three segments. That one you don't want to miss.
The Links page on the site mentions that Rudy, Jesse B. and GoGo's appearance on the inside cover of VW #35 was their "one of Rudy and GoGo's proudest moments," which makes this mention one of mine.

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