Uploaded to MoviePilot on September 18th
A short written series I did about cancelled shows, there are a few others and I probably won’t bring these back but… who knows?
Welcome to the fourth instalment of “Gone Too Soon” where I talk about cancelled TV series that were cancelled after one or two seasons. I will be exploring what worked, what didn’t work and why it might have failed to get an audience. Last time I talked about the one season wonder Kitchen Confidential. This time we’re going to be looking at the one season long show Pinky, Elmyra And The Brain but before we start, THEME MUSIC!
Pinky, Elmyra And The Brain: What Was It?
After several seasons of Pinky And The Brain, the network wanted something else. Sure, Pinky and the Brain was a well-respected show getting good ratings, great reviews and was quickly becoming a bona fide classic but you know what it needed? That one joke character from Tiny Toons that kept popping up to terrorise everyone by being overly affectionate and had the IQ of a very stupid flea. This was the result of some executive demanding that the creators take Pinky and the Brain and make it more like The Simpsons… not even a joke there, they wanted a sitcom just like what Fox had been living off of for a decade at that point. In fact, let me quote the absolutely amazing press release that the network sent out at the time when they unveiled this new show.
“Steven Spielberg Presents the Further Adventures of Pinky & The Brain” (tentative title), an animated comedy from Steven Spielberg which takes a fresh approach to popular favorites as Pinky and The Brain move from ACME Labs to America’s suburbs when they are adopted by the extremely excitable Elmyra
…Excuse me while I hold my barf in. They took the incredibly smart and witty show about two mice determined to take over the world, a show that could leap from an episode dedicated to singing about the parts of the human brain to taking over the world using a parody of the Macarena, and they decided to put it in the suburbs. Yeah, you can tell this show is going to have some problems.
What Worked For Pinky, Elmyra And The Brain?
Never ever EVER let it be said that voice actors aren’t important. Maurice LaMarche, Rob Paulsen and Cree Summer have the task of voicing the three leads and they work their magic like nothing else. Jokes that probably shouldn’t work are made hilarious just by how these three deliver them. They’re so good that Rob and Cree both got nominated for Annie Awards, Rob actually won it for this series. The series also got a daytime Emmy, beating such shows as Brand Spanking New! Doug, The New Batman Adventures, Superman, Arthur and Little Bear… all those shows lost, to a show that is the textbook definition of “Producer meddling”
That’s pretty much it though, it’s relying on actors who are absolutely amazing, but could be putting these voices into better cartoons. There’s maybe a few jokes that work on their own merit but really, everything in this series that works is either purely because of the insanely talented voice case or it’s an identical joke that they dragged over from Pinky & The Brain… except it’s made dumber because they threw in Elmyra for no reason.
This just feels like it shouldn’t exist outside of a single joke episode of Animaniacs (Source: Warner Brothers)
What Didn’t Work For Pinky, Elmyra And The Brain?
No one wanted this.
Well, that’s not true. No one other than the producers wanted this. See, this show is a beautiful example of “Why producers should sit the hell down and shut the hell up and let the actual creative people make the creative decisions”. Apparently, the executives weren’t fond of the idea that Pinky And The Brain (Which was one of the highest rated shows on the network, never forget that) was just about two characters trying to take over the world. They wanted a bigger cast for the show to maybe take that edge off. This had been going on long enough that Pinky and the Brain lampooned it in one of their best episodes “Pinky & The Brain… And Larry” where they have to deal with a completely pointless new character named Larry who adds nothing of value to the show. They explicitly point out in the show that he is pointless, they make jokes about how they are a Yin and a Yang… and Larry. When that potshot of an episode didn’t send the message, another episode titled “You’ll Never Eat Food Pellets In This Town, Again!” was made where they showed behind the cameras where network execs try to screw with the formula of Pinky and the Brain, to disastrous results.
Even with those two loud screams of “We don’t want to do this”, the network still demanded it and you can tell that resentment is there even in the lyrics to the opening theme tune.
Now Pinky and The Brain
Share a new domain,
It’s what the network wants,
Why bother to complain?
They really were drawn into a corner and so they tried to make the most with what they had, but they didn’t have that much. Some of the jokes work, there’s a running gag where Brain will say a word that might be a swear word and Elmyra scolds him for it but other than that it’s just bland. It’s bland because no one cared enough to make this show work.
Why Was It Cancelled?
Because the ratings for this sucked. Absolutely sucked. This is how bad it got… the series stopped being aired at one point about six episodes into the run. Think about that for a second, this is the spin-off of Pinky & The Brain, a cultural milestone that everyone who lived through the 90’s knew… and the spin-off sucked so hard that they ended up cancelling it, cutting the episodes up into sections, and then airing the rest of them as part of something called The Big Cartoonie Show… Oh, hang on, sorry, let me get the title exactly correct.
Oh and yes, in case you’re curious, there is a theme tune and it is magical.
Oh late 90s, why did we let you have access to CGI… for the record, the show title changed in season two to The Cat & Bunny Warneroonie SuperLooney Big Cartooney Show because they had no more Pinky and the Brain shorts to run… that is how strange these cartoon mashup shows got.
The final episode of Pinky, Elmyra and The Brain aired on April 10th 1999
Should It Have Been Renewed?
Should it have been renewed? Should it have been greenlit! This show is something that was designed completely by producers who had no idea about what people actually liked and the contempt the writers had for this show is obvious in every episode. They try to make it work and I won’t lie, it can raise a good chuckle occasionally but for the most part, it’s such a bad concept that you just watch it with your jaw hanging open wondering what you smoked in order to see this.
No. No this should not have been renewed. I now feel stupid for setting up this format because it makes me state obvious things like that.
So How Can I Watch It?
That’s right Patty Ann, Don’t watch it… oh, this is Brain dressed as Patty Ann.It’s a thing now (Source: Warner Brothers)
Fine, if you have to watch it there are ways to do it. Itunes has all the episodes available for a pretty reasonable 12 bucks if you want to give it a go, maybe try the first episode and test it out. Avoid Episode nine, that episode has “Elmyra’s Music Video” and you do not need that kind of thing in your life, I love you too much to let you do that to yourself. If the Itunes one doesn’t work for you (Which is likely, Itunes is silly like that sometimes) then you can get the DVD on Amazon for about 15 bucks, if you’re a completionist and already have Pinky & The Brain then I can get why you’d want it. If nothing else it’ll be something you can just have there for people to find and then you have a very cruel prank to play on them.
Studio heads need to realise that when they’re on something good, when they’ve found something special like Pinky & The Brain that instead of meddling with it to try and chase a trend, just let the show do it’s thing and not be an idiot about it. I’m not a fan of this show, but it’s a curiosity that I’ll admit I still fairly regularly think about. Just when I think I understand how the system works, here comes a curveball.
What’s Your Favorite Episode Of Pinky, Elmyra & The Brain?