Unlike a lot of other parents and friends I’ve talked to, I am not enraged by the very existence of new Warner Bros. Animation property The Looney Tunes Show. I get it; it’s an animated sitcom. It’s The Odd Couple, except with Bugs and Daffy in the all-important dual roles of best friends and constant foils. It’s not my Looney Tunes, and that’s okay.
Such drastic recasting of older cartoon series is nothing new, and Cartoon Network has proven itself home to many of its finer efforts. The recently retooled ThunderCats, for example, injects genuine world-building into the space where the original property heaped easy toy tie-ins. More to the point, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, the 11th animated Scooby series, succeeds largely by virtue of its willingness to both push plots beyond the formulaic self-contained episode format of old and lampoon the source material for its laughably dated approach.
The Looney Tunes Show‘s home video debut collects the series’ first four episodes, and these are quite telling of the property itself. In “Best Friends” we learn that Daffy is Bugs’s long-term houseguest, and a stint on a game show called Besties shows us that, while markedly less cantankerous than their old school counterparts, they are still in essence a self-absorbed duck and smart-mouthed bunny. “Members Only” builds on Daffy’s narcissism as he infiltrates an exclusive country club and exploits another member’s account, while it also introduces viewers to Bugs’s on-again-off-again-girlfriend, the now enjoyably neurotic Lola Bunny. “Jailbird and Jailbunny” is the weakest of the quartet, with the single-joke plot revolving around the duo’s incarceration, escape and inevitable return to the slammer. And lastly, “Fish and Visitors” brings in the next-gen Yosemite Sam, a roommate that almost makes Daffy seem civil.
While admittedly not as finely sculpted as ThunderCats (or the subject of such unbridled fanboyism as My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), The Looney Tunes Show does understand what it is. It’s a new series for a new generation, and it doesn’t seem overly concerned with the sacred nostalgia of us oldsters. It takes strides to modernize the characters while at the same staying more or less true to their original spirit. Obviously, the franchise has lost the looseness of its classic hand-drawn aesthetic, but this too is wholly intentional. The character design is super stylized, the animation sharp and clean, and the show’s sound is as unusual as its look.
In addition to a noticeably different principle voice cast, The Looney Tunes Show‘s use of music is also a departure. Episodes typically include interstitial music videos dubbed “Merrie Melodies” that feature one or more characters performing a humorously-themed ditty. Sadly these miss more often than hit, with the single stand-out of this DVD being Elmer Fudd’s soul-funk tribute to the grilled cheese sandwich.
Shows are also intermittently punctuated by Road Runner/Coyote shorts. Though only one is included on the disc, it’s likely the easiest way to sum up the new series in total. These crisp CGI segments feature a modern Wil E. ordering wares from the ACME web site, but the madcap chases (with their complete disregard for physics) that always follow can’t help but remind you that it’s the same old game of cat and mouse… er, coyote and bird.
Yet despite my fondness for the series and appreciation of the continued Warner Bros legacy, I’m still a bit unsure if I can outright recommend this first volume of The Looney Tunes Show Season 1. Obviously haters would never dream of inviting this reboot into their media space, but established fans and curious onlookers should be aware that this represents the barest of bare-bones collections. With four episodes, four animated music videos and an added dash of Road Runner, it’s a little light on content, and the no-frills packaging doesn’t exactly sweeten the deal. Still, for around 10 bucks (the Amazon asking price), it’s a proper budget introduction to the latest chapter in Looney Tunedom.
Review materials provided by: Warner Bros.