Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Amazing World of Gumball Review: The Transformation

"I am not oppressing you! I'm just exercising my authority to force you to do something you don't want to do!"

Ever since "The Shell," Penny has proven to be one of the most difficult characters for the show to work with. If anything, she exemplifies the show's greatest issue: its sense of overachieving, ushering forth extravagant episodes without paying attention to how that affects the show further down the line. Penny is perhaps the patron saint of having-the-short-end-of-the-stick, virtually disappearing after arguably one of the show's greatest episodes, occasionally resurfacing but never really enough to justify how the show played its cards. In that sense, "The Transformation" feels a bit like damage control.

At the same time, though... it's been so long. And instead of making me frustrated by, say, the episode's lack of timeliness and how much it epitomizes her under-utilization, I was just relieved to see it work out as well as it did. Sure, there's some issues here and there, but "The Transformation" is a worthy successor to "The Shell," finally offering us something new from Penny after years of relative neglect.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Amazing World of Gumball Review: The Spinoffs

"Diction, diction, action!"

Vignette episodes have always proven to be a somewhat difficult thing for the show to pull off. For every episode like "The Singing" that oozes with creativity, there's another episode like "The Compilation" that struggles by virtue of the threat of variance in quality and loose structure that the format allows. "The Spinoffs," though, managed to avoid the usual pitfalls that such episodes have to endure, and as a result, it rises to the top as, I'd argue, one of the most successful episodes of its kind, and a shining example of the show's unbridled creativity.

I just want to take a moment, though, to express why I really think it works better than a lot of other entries, because that's a fairly bold claim to make. One of the most concurrent issues of vignette episodes is that they try to follow a plot; this both limits the scope of their skits across every scene and, at worst, creates an incredibly weak center. "The Spinoffs" has the perfect solution: present the scenario as Rob (with the "assistance" of the Internet) hijacking the show's usual programming with video demos of alternative shows led by other characters across the series.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Amazing World of Gumball Review: The Potion

"Sorry, it's my turn to be depressed? Thanks."

Welcome back! That's all I really have an idea of in terms of an introduction, because there's so many of these pesky episode bombs that trying to think of something new every time is a waste of mental exertion. So let's just get into it: "The Potion." It was... alright. That's about as good of a one-word summary as I can get.

Hector has always been interesting for the show to work with. His character is defined by his height, with his other only major role, in "The Colossus," turning into an awesome, adrenaline-packed Shadow of the Colossus tribute, and his more recently memorable stint in "The Night" exploring how his life would be different if he were smaller. Both of those episodes, though, more importantly, examined how his height influenced his personality, with both signifying its dangers, but the latter especially hammering in his yearnings to be just like everybody else. "The Potion" just comes across as an elaboration on that, and while it tries to become more of a close examination, it feels more like a general rehash.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Amazing World of Gumball Review: The Intelligence

"Good morrow, sweet imp!"

Somehow, this onslaught of episodes teemed with diversity, and I'm not talking about subject matter: they all had very different strengths, and sometimes, very different weaknesses. Of the episodes that tried to take satirical angles, though—the others being "The Founder" and "The Schooling"—"The Intelligence" found itself struggling with, surprisingly, finding a way not to package its message, but to tell it. It's a peculiar case of the show emphasizing style over substance, and while the end result is no doubt enjoyable, its message is as straightforward as ever.

This certainly isn't the first time that Gumball has toyed with our fascination with technology and how it distorts our reality ("The Stars" is a particularly infamous example), but there's just not much that "The Intelligence" is actually trying to say. A lot of people are calling it surface-level, but it's not even that, in my opinion; it's flat-out the sense that we need technology and would take it over anything else, regardless of if that alternate reality is better or worse. It barely registers to the point where the meaning comes across almost as lukewarm intention in its lack of sophistication. Naturally, it's a bit unfair to criticize a show for going with a generic idea, but for Gumball, a show that takes joy in its merciless incisiveness, "The Intelligence" just falls short.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Amazing World of Gumball Review: The Schooling

"Are you trying to deny my consumer right to make bogus complaints to get free stuff?"

Writing episodes centered around trying to teach lessons through commentary is always a risky thing for TV shows to do, and despite being surprisingly adept at it, Gumball doesn't have the cleanest track record either. "The Schooling," thus, was an episode I was initially skeptical of, but it turned out to be, if not a revelation, a pleasant surprise playing to the show's strengths.

Where commentary episodes so often fail is in being ham-fisted; they tend to put whatever message they're trying to get across at the forefront, and then try to align the show's sensibilities in tandem with that message, and the outcome, when done poorly, risks condescension and preachiness, as if exercising an obligation. "The Schooling," though, demonstrates how commentary can be done at its finest: while there's a message underneath—that we undervalue and take for granted a proper education and otherwise neglect the difficulties of the service industry—TAWOG's distinct charm is always at the forefront, and it never relinquishes a part of its identity to get the job done.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Amazing World of Gumball Review: The Founder

"I either need some food or some therapy... eh. Chips are cheaper."

Here's an interesting episode. Whereas "The Parents" struggled with its use of humor and "The Brain" struggled with its lack of realization, "The Founder," in its relative simplicity, is nothing but unbridled fun. And that's precisely why it works. It takes a simple premise that could've been attempted at any point in the show's run and imbues it with so much charm and ingenuity that it just left me feeling happy. And that's not usually something all of those other hard-edged critics (assuming the criteria is loose enough to include me) even like to acknowledge.

And strangely enough, the success of the episode, while certainly enhanced by Nicole's active role throughout, is almost entirely surrounding Richard. He's a character who, time and time again, has proven difficult to put in the spotlight; his moronic shtick, more often than not, tends to be a crutch at best or a detriment at worst. Yet what allowed him to work in "The Founder" was that even though he demonstrates that same stupidity, it comes across as utterly endearing. He's just a character trying to do his best in a preposterous situation significantly out of control, spiraling to the degree that the co-workers who crowned him as their long-awaited founder convinced him he was the actual founder.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Amazing World of Gumball Review: The Parents

"I don't want to hear your excuses. I just want you guys back."

Here's a fun fact for everybody out there: in my entire time writing for the show, I haven't covered a single episode that I would describe as "monumental." In fact, the first episode I wrote about was "The Code," coming directly after "The Choices" very intentionally. At the time I was ill-equipped to try to discuss the episode and decided the best option would be to dodge it altogether, but now, a little over a season later, I have to write about a heavy episode. And it won't be the most fun thing ever.

There's a lot of issues with "The Parents." And sure, while it ultimately remains likeable, something entirely by design for what it is, it's marred by its own unique set of issues that prevent it from being what it should theoretically be. I mean... this is Nicole reuniting with her parents. That's a big deal! But marred with emotional contrivances and a self-congratulatory amount self-awareness, "The Parents" finds itself significantly damaged.