Monday, April 20, 2015

What I've been watching: Sonic Underground episode 1: "Beginnings"

A fan of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog from Day One (at least up to a point...the contemporary stuff looks pretty insipid to me) and of what is affectionately known as "SatAM" from its Day One (wildly so, at the time), I was put off so much by the premise of the subsequent Sonic Underground -- Sonic and his two child hedgehog siblings in a cheesy rock band -- that I never even bothered to watch it.

Later, I heard -- to my surprise -- that it actually had traces of SatAM, but this compromised form made it all that more of a disappointment not just to the fans, but to SatAM producer Ben Hurst, who went on to work on SU, and though he did what he could, he was heartbroken that he couldn't just do a third season of SatAM instead. So though I was curious, it always just looked like getting anything out of watching it would be a losing bet.

Well, last week, out of the blue (no pun intended) and on a whim, I figured I'd give the first episode, "Beginnings", a shot. (Really, it was almost an arbitrary decision that came out of just sort of randomly thinking of the series one night last week. There wasn't any new information or reading up on it online that spurred my watching, or anything like that.)

I appreciated that they made it a point for the series to have a proper beginning, establishing a back story and mythology. SatAM had not done that, which I always felt was unfortunate. Unfortunately, what there is to SU's mythology is simplistic and cookie-cutter. But at least the potential is there that it could build into something bigger and better; whether it actually did so ... well, I'm not convinced that I want to invest the time I'd have to in order to find out.

There were moments at which I undeniably got my SatAM "fix", but they were all too fleeting. Visually, Robotnik is pretty much a dead ringer for his SatAM counterpart (and though Jim Cummings and his particularly sinister take on the character are absent, I enjoyed Garry Chalk's blustering, velvety, sort-of-classic-mustachioed villain performance ... which actually sort of melds Cummings' more mannered performance with the baritone bravado of Long John Baldry's boisterous, excitable, comedic version of the syndicated Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog):

Likewise, this series' Robotropolis is almost the same as SatAM's (it could almost be like what I understand happens in the new Star Trek movies -- this continuity and that of SatAM started out as the same, but they diverged somewhere):

Supporting the divergent continuity theory, King Acorn, though unidentified as such, makes a cameo:

If you told me that this background art was of SatAM's Great Forest, I'd believe you. Pretty much the exact same design palette was carried over from the earlier series: 

As you can see, there certainly is -- to me -- good stuff, but, alas, there's bad stuff, too. And when I say bad stuff, I mean BAD stuff. The mythology involves Sonic and his two siblings being of royal blood, but they were separated at birth -- their mother, the exiled queen, arranged this so as to hide and protect them from Robotnik's tyranny and his maniacal drive to extinguish the royal Hedgehog line. As depicted in the show's title sequence, she left each child at its respective new home in a basket and with no explanation, allowing her to go stand on a cliff staring at Robotropolis for the next 16 years. Of course, by the end of the first episode, they've found each other and have intuitively grasped and bonded over their shared destiny. (What seems to unlock their shared subconscious is their uncanny ability to play music together the moment that they meet -- music that they're playing on a stage in a setting that's a rip-off of Star Wars' cantina scene. The clientele really dig it. You'd think they'd be a tough crowd.) Since this cosmically preordained reunion is over and done with, lock, stock, and barrel, before the series' first 20 minutes are up, it seems pointless like they shouldn't have even bothered with all this exposition and setup, since there wasn't any time to build up dramatic suspense by actually making it difficult for them to find each other.

"Hey, I think you guys might be my long-lost brothers, 
but no big deal, I don't need time to react and process 
my emotions or anything -- nope, I got this, I'll take the keys!"

But first, in the middle of the episode, before they meet, there's a musical number that they sing together but separately, entitled "Someday", about how "someday, [they] are gonna be together". "Cookie-cutter", "saccharine", "cornballish", "babyish", etc. don't even begin to describe it. It makes that reviled late '90's hit "MMMBop" by the child band "Hanson" seem musically substantive. 

[WARNING! If you watch this, you may just be pleading with the nearest person to take you out of your misery!]

And I understand there's a song in every episode. Yeahhhh, I think I have other things to watch...

-- Ryan

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