austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

What did Scooby Do that we'd neglected?

And that's the point where my effort to describe all the Jabberjaw episodes reaches a crashing end: the final three episodes don't seem to be on YouTube, the series isn't on Boomerang for as far as my cable box will forecast, and nobody's talking about a DVD release. I shall do my best to stay alert for changes in these states and fill in the missing three, but for the time being, I can think over what I've learned from watching all of Jabberjaw in really rather short order.

The big one is that they don't lean on the Ubiquitous Shark Ejector Button nearly as often as I had imagined it to be. It's a physical gag that's very unsettling to the world-building if you're sensitive to segregation against ... well, if Jabberjaw isn't exactly a competent and responsible adult, he's at least as competent as anyone else in the world. It's still disturbing, but it's not an every-episode or even a couple-times-an-episode thing as I'd somehow imagined it.

The other is that another motif I thought was part of every episode --- the arch-villain also being the chief of police (or whoever the Neptunes have to report to) --- is again just something from a couple episodes. It's a reliable if slightly Van Vogtish gimmick, which is maybe why it weighed so much in my mind.

There's not really a lot of world-building gone into it: quite a few of the scripts could be fit into an of the Josie and the Pussycats-based shows and the only important difference would be the background cels and just what the cars look like. Well, and the names, obviously. The handful of times that they try to explain stuff which happened in the past of the Jabber-verse the result is just weird: where did the electro-genie come from, and where did the talking book which casts a spell somehow putting the genie back in the electro-lamp come from? And why just the one copy of that book?

And yet the haphazard world-building actually works to its advantage in a few ways. They put, for example, a generic Arabia in the ocean, and a Japan-inspired place, a Mexico-inspired place, an Australia, a Swiss place, an American city ... no, none of them achieve a very strong sense of place, but it is at least a stab at presenting a diverse world with many societies in it. They're not strongly flavored, but this was an era when Wee Pals could be made into a cartoon; having a place where it's perfectly normal to eat robotically-prepared tacos was probably ahead of the curve.

Several episodes are lovingly ripped off^W^W inspired by the popular movies of the day, which also serves to mess up things like estimating the technology level or the cultural assumptions going into the Jabber-verse. But this also has some benefits: the real world isn't perfectly logically consistent, and fictional worlds that show those rough edges can gain from the apparent glitches. In this case Jabberjaw is benefitting from what an easy touch I am as an audience, but I am curious how much they thought about the world of 2076 being complex and interesting versus how much they just pulled in whatever scripts they had and used the Flintstones Renaming Gadget on the place names.

Overall? I must have liked the show to start with or I'd have never wasted my time on this project. I think that I like it more, although I'm also kind of glad I won't be spending any more days watching four episodes in a row carefully while taking down notes. And now when the 3-D computer animated Jabberjaw movie comes out I will be able to give detailed explanations of all the ways it disappoints the artistic vision of the original. That's a good thing, isn't it?

Trivia: New Jersey had forty newspapers by 1840, four of them dailies. Source: New Jersey: America's Main Road, John T Cunningham.

Currently Reading: The Epic Of New York City: A Narrative History, Edward Robb Ellis.


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