Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I watched the Teen Titans Go! TV series and it was better than expected

DC Comics have always made good cartoons: Batman the Animated Series, Justice League, and the first season of Young Justice are all excellent. These shows have exciting action, fun adventures, and interesting character arcs. A worthy entry in that lineup is the 2003 Teen Titans animated series, which ran for six seasons. This is not a review for that series.

Instead, this is a review for the current series that re-imagines the Teen Titans as a bunch of slapstick, self-absorbed slackers. The new show makes no attempts at character development, plot arcs, or an underlying message.

And yet, I still kinda like it.

Teen Titans Go! brings back the original voice cast of the 2003 Teen Titans show, but this is not their first time returning to these characters. Between the finale of the original series and the premiere of Teen Titans Go!, Cartoon Network aired several short cartoons as part of DC Nation. These shorts used simplified versions of the original character designs, but the animation was still pretty similar. They were lighthearted, but they often had some sort of connection to the original series.

I really enjoyed the New Teen Titans shorts, as they were called, and at first I thought that Teen Titans Go! would continue in the same style. I was very disappointed to learn that Teen Titans Go! would use different character designs and cheap-looking Flash animation, and I decided not to watch the new show.

Time passed and I grew curious. I resolved to keep my expectations low and check out a show about superhero friends who hang out and screw around. As you may know, I am a sucker for stories like that. I especially like it if the characters are ones that the audience has gotten to know over a period of time, characters who are otherwise tough and cool and serious, who let down their guard and kick back. This is why I loved the 'Citadel' DLC for Mass Effect 3 so much, and so I decided to see how it worked with the Teen Titans.

It was a good thing I kept my expectations low, because what I expected was exactly what I got. Teen Titans Go! consists entirely of madcap hijinx and wacky shenanigans. And while it may not be deep or engaging, it is endearing and entertaining, and that's not so bad.

Glancing at the reviews of Teen Titans Go! on IMDB, it becomes immediately apparent that the show is very divisive among fans of the original show. I can see why: the original show had a lot of depth to it, with some serious, season-long plots against dangerous villains, who the heroes could only defeat by confronting uncomfortable aspects about themselves and growing as people. Teen Titans Go! exchanges that for juvenile humor and songs about pies and waffles.

Teen Titans Go! does have one advantage: its tone may be goofy, but it's consistently goofy. In the original show, the tone could vary wildly. In some episodes the Titans faced wacky villains like Mad Mod or the ubergeeky Control Freak, and in other episodes Raven had to confront her demonic father and her own destiny to destroy the world.

Plus, the new show knows what to do with Robin. In the original show, Robin took himself far too seriously. Raven may have also been very serious, but at least she had her biting sarcasm to endear her to fans. Robin seemed to always be on edge, and in Teen Titans Go!, that gets cranked up to the next level and he seems to be on the edge of a nervous breakdown. A lot of genuinely funny moments (and, to be fair, a lot of lame or just plain strange ones) result from Robin's inability to relax and calm down.

At the end of the day, I'm just glad to spend time with these characters again. They live in a world without responsibilities or consequences, and if you give me a chance to visit that world for ten minutes a week, I say, Teen Titans, Go!

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