"Strange Band in a Strange Land"
Written By: Shadowpaw
It seems we've been treated to one or two wacky/gimmick episodes every other season since the conclusion of the Novacom saga. In Spring 2003 we had "B-TV: Behind the Scenes", which was a backstage pass to the production of Bernard's television show, as well as "Hindsight", a story told backwards using the Room of Consequence. In Winter 2004, we had "Called on in Class", which was an adventure in the mind of Trent deWhite. This year, so far, we've heard "The Coolest Dog", a rock-umentary inspired by the movie This is Spinal Tap that follows Marvin and Trent as they struggle to establish themselves as a band.
As a matter of fact, the episode was originally titled "Spinal Trent", though before you go out and rent the movie that this episode was based on, I must mention it's rated R in the United States and most people would find some of it's content objectional. With that said, the movie is only very loosely based on the film and after you consider it's a comedy told from the perspective of a camera, well, that's where the similarities end. The show stands up very well on it's own.
The cast was terrific. The new Marvin, while portrayed differently than our old Marvin, was great in this role... and his jazz rendition at the end of the episode was very cool, even if it did run a little long (I get it... he's a "Sorry Man"). Trent was great too. While I'll never shake the over-polished quality of his voice, he's a very talented actor and a strong character for the show. Tamika wasn't in the show much, but she wasn't bad, and Wooton... well Wooton carried the entire show on his back. His commentary was hilarious and without him the show just wouldn't have worked. On paper, his character comes across as over the top and unrealistic, but somehow, Jess Harnell pulls out time and time again a performance that makes Wooton feel like a real person... as a result, Wooton is one of my favorite AIO characters of all-time.
Though while Wooton's character was key to this show working, there was a more important factor that could have broken the episode: the audio. I take great pride in declaring this was the most unprofessional AIO episode ever produced... and since this show was from the perspective of a camera controlled by Wooton, that's the biggest compliment I can give. While most fans likely noticed the rustling of microphones and the blaring "beep" every time the scene changed, it's the subtleties in the production that really made it work... Wooton's voice for one. When he's filming the gang, his voice sounds like it's coming from behind the camera. It's muffled and far off, but it's subtle enough that it doesn't distract the listeners. Because it's done so well, it's something that is taken for granted, but creating that effect is much harder than recording the show like usual. There's also the zoom sound... when Wooton discovers the zoom feature, you can actually hear the camera's zoom go in and out... it's a hard task to maintain the camera feel for an entire episode but I never felt like I wasn't listening from the camera perspective... Rob Jorgensen is simply a wizard.
The story was good too. It wasn't cliched and it wasn't sappy... the band didn't become amazing and Tamika wasn't able to save the day. I was worried that things would come together at Aubrey's birthday party or that Wooton would pull some stunt that would make their band a hit. Instead, they stunk... and they knew it. Had they not, it would be like Marvin was rewarded for being stubborn and cocky and he certainly wouldn't have learned a lesson. Kudos to the writers for going the route they did, it was a more realistic ending than we typically get and made for a stronger moral.
And for you non-Spanish folks out there, "The Cool Dogs" translates to "Los Perros Frescos" while "The Fresh Pears" is "Las Peras Frescas"... so the in-show jokes made a lot of sense, considering just how similar the two phrases truly are. I include this fact for no other reason but that I went and researched the words... so if you already knew this, feel free to feel smarter than me :o). Anyway, it was a very good slice-of-life show and another solid episode.