When people say â€œThere arenâ€™t any American cartoons worth watching, anymoreâ€ I feel compelled to disagree. As a matter of fact, thereâ€™s plenty. So the purpose of this feature is to point out the clever, entertaining gems buried amongst the landslide of coal.
The first cartoon I want to celebrate; the Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. Itâ€™s probably the best title in Cartoon Networkâ€™s Friday night line-up and most-certainly more worthy of endless daytime reruns than that Ed, Edd & Eddy drivel.
The core concept of the show is that Death-himself, the Grim Reaper, was swindled into being the friend-slave of two youngsters; the psychotically moody yet brightly-dressed Mandy, and her loud, idiotic, Stimpy-like companion, Billy. Together, the three are subjected to a whirlwind of freaky and insane adventures which they usually take in total stride.
Like most cartoons of this episodic-nature, the show is primarily character-driven, leaving the audience more interested in what the characters are going to say or do next than how the â€œplotâ€ unfolds. Billy, voiced by Richard Horvitz of Angry Beavers and Invader Zim fame, is entertaining for his hyper-HYPER-active brand of mind-boggling stupidity accentuated by his perpetually sunny, naÃ¯ve disposition. Mandy isnâ€™t just your typical quiet, â€œTheyâ€™re all idiots except meâ€ sort of character. Sheâ€™s most clearly the Anti-Christ, usually inflicting more damage on the main cast than the episodeâ€™s villain and committing morally-depraved and often times murderous acts without so much as a â€œmehâ€. Grimâ€™s bi-polar personality makes him an unpredictable element, sometimes reaping the souls of the elderly with his scythe, and sometimes frolicking in meadows and baking cookies. The Jamaican accent is a nice touch, too.
But itâ€™s not just the title characters who carry the show, a vast supporting cast of equally bizarre monsters and people bring life to the stories. Thereâ€™s Hoss Delgado, the ultra-violent parody of Ash from the Evil Dead trilogy, Nergal (originally voiced by David Warner), the disturbingly lonely creature from the center of the Earth, Irwin, Billyâ€™s best friend and Mandyâ€™s freaky stalker, and Billyâ€™s parents, a Dad whoâ€™s just as stupid as his son, and a Mom who seems to be the only person to react to the crazy crap that goes on in their lives.
And the characters are only half the fun. While the show started off blandly-enough (with hackneyed stories about â€œOpposite Dayâ€ or Billy dealing with a bully, etc.), the show quickly fell into its own brand of manic, â€œWho the Hell thinks up this stuffâ€-humor. In their mandatory public service episode alerting kids to the merits of proper diet and exercise, they worked the moral into a deliciously morbid plot in which Death presents â€œBonus Yearsâ€ to people who stay healthy, thus keeping them alive a little bit longer. In one of my favorite episodes, Grim goes on a road-trip through the desert with a geriatric â€œDraculaâ€. However, â€œDraculaâ€ is more closely related to â€œBlackulaâ€, a jive-talking 70â€™s stereotype. â€œVampireâ€™z donâ€™t suck, dats a myth! Dracula scrap wif hiz fangs then lickz up tha blood.â€
The humor is extremely unpredictable and very, very bizarre. The plots of the show, typically dealing with death or death-related subjects, is noticeably morbid for a â€œkidâ€™s showâ€, giving it a distinct edge. The humor in Billy & Mandy ranges all over the spectrum, entertaining adults and kids alike. Additionally, it has a â€œHarvey Birdmanâ€ or â€œSpace Ghost Coast to Coastâ€ quality to it, often having random guest stars from classic Hanna Barbara cartoons. In one episode, a Gamera-like monster dunks Grape Apeâ€™s head in a volcano (â€œGrape Ape. It BUUUUURNS!!! Grape Ape.â€), another time, Scooby Doo testifies against Mandy in court, and in one of the better episodes, Billy discovers Fred Flintstone buried in ice in his backyard and Fred goes completely berserk trying to adapt to modern civilization.
Billy & Mandy has been around for a few years, but is certainly one of the most clever Cartoon Cartoons to come around in quite a while. A much better â€œhorror cartoonâ€ than their last effort, Courage the Cowardly Dog. Definitely check it out if you havenâ€™t yet, cuz you never know whatâ€™ll happen next.