Part of my launch series, Rediscovering YTV
Do you remember Must See TV? The NBC block of shows that completely dominated Thursday nights in the ’90s. I’m a bit too young to have experienced the heyday of Must See TV myself. (Personally, I wound up watching when the ratings were in the toilet. The Scrubs, My Name is Earl, The Office and 30 Rock era to be exact.) But legend has it that back in the ’90s NBC had two solid shows on at Thursday night: Friends and 8 and Seinfeld at 9 but they could never find a decent show for the cushy time slot in between. The infamous 8:30 slot between Friends and Seinfeld was just a parade of mediocrity. They were shows that fell flat on their faces and were mostly pale, poorly written imitations of the young people in the city shows of the time that Seinfeld and Friends mastered almost seemingly effortlessly. Things like Union Square, The Single Guy or Boston Common.
It seems Nickelodeon has created their own Union Square or Boston Common with their snake and kid buddy duo show Sanjay and Craig. In short, it’s a poor imitation of more successful cartoons, and chances are you would only ever sit through Sanjay and Craig if you are (or your kid is) waiting for something better to come on but don’t want to turn off the TV for the mere half hour between one good show to another.
I was a bit stunned at how dreadful the show was. I was expecting it to be something like those goofy cartoons I watched when I was a kid because Sanjay and Craig is one of the few shows on either Nickelodeon or YTV that looks most like the shows they’d air during what I like to call their renaissance era (the late 90s). You have the gross out juvenile humour, over the top characters and surrealness that made those shows charming, yes, but Sanjay and Craig executes all that so poorly that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Partially, I think it has to do with the series’ universe feeling underdeveloped and lifeless. Yes, that’s often a problem with the writing but its amplified by the shoddy animation. Sanjay and Craig’s animation reminds me a lot of Bob’s Burgers another show that I don’t quite understand the appeal of. (The two are apparently vaguely related.) It’s not very impressive by a long shot, it just gets the job done, barely. The characters are downright ugly at times and the backgrounds on the show feel like they could use more detail.
In some series you might tolerate the sloppy animation or even find being butt-naked in a pool in front of a hot girl, wet willies and huge green farts to the face funny, here it comes across as an insult to the eyes.
To make matters worse the over the top sup-
porting characters are very odd and unappealing. In the particular episode I watched there was an awful caricature of a Brit, a naked kid with an eye patch chasing some bird that stole his shorts, some sort of demon child and an annoying balding neighbour, Mr. Noodman (sounds a lot like Neuman) who you were meant to despise, all of which just looked offensive and were annoying as hell. (You might think by that description Sanjay and Craig’s Noodman is a lot like Seinfeld’s Neuman but think, more Squidward on SpongeBob, except more diabolical.)
The surreal element of the show should be easy to get right, but the aforementioned lousy animation and poor characters ruin it for the most part, and if not that, it’s what happens in the show itself. Would you like to hide in a cold-blooded talking snake, with a demon child only to be thrown up later or would you want someone poking out your ear drums to the point their hand becomes visible in your mouth? No? Didn’t think so, so why are they making that all happen when there’s barely any humour in any of that? With animated series you can pretty much make anything you want happen, you’re not limited, by physics, or a huge props budget and you’re certainly not limited by logic, so why do all that crap?
It certainly misses the boat to appeal to older viewers as Adventure Time, SpongeBob and in a certain tongue in cheek way, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic have. So okay, they designed this show as something that can only be tolerated by kids like FanBoy and Chum Chum, but it sometimes feels like it tries too hard to relate to kids (like five writers for a ten minute segment hard). You have the pretty girl, the bullies, the cool kids, baby sitting the kid from hell and hanging at the beach, all which have been done to death by kids’ shows previously and much better mind you. Disney’s The Weekenders comes to mind as a brilliant example, and it does all that without any gimmicky talking snake either. Again since it is a kids’ show, they’re lucky that their main audience likely hasn’t seen the older shows where they handled preteen life subjects way better. But with things like Netflix around these days they better watch their back, those older shows might make a comeback.
Sanjay and Craig is so unremarkable, so bland, so uninspired that it’s almost a wonder how it got green lit. It’s unappealing, hideous and downright horrible to boot. I’m guessing the show made it to air in a desperate attempt to draw in the preteen male demo that Cartoon Network has locked down pat and Disney is trying feverishly to get at with Disney XD. However, Sanjay and Craig fails to compete with the far superior series from its competition, specifically Adventure Time (despite the two having a talking animal who can morph into crazy shapes), Phenous and Ferb and Gravity Falls. Sanjay and Craig likely won’t last long and will probably be remembered as well as The Single Guy is for being a time slot filler, or even worse, not at all.