TV Review | Bob & Doug 1.1, 1.2 – “Back to School,” “No Country for Old People”

People seem to overlook the forces of CanCon that created the Bob & Doug (Global: starts April 19, 7:30 PM) phenomenon.  As has been exhaustively reiterated, CBC wanted Canadian filler for its version of SCTV Network 90, which was two minutes longer than the American version.

Not fond of the request, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas generally pissed around at the end of a shooting day, talking about various Canadian inanities in the most stereotypical manner ever.  The sketches were meant as throwaways, a collective up-yours to government-mandated culture.

Come 2009, Kanadian Korner/Great White North has spawned two albums, a feature-length film, an anniversary special and this new animated series.  It’s SCTV‘s most enduring cultural legacy, which is a shame as Count Floyd was a better character.  Bob and Doug get Strange Brew while Count Floyd rates a how-to video.  It’s an unfair 3D world…of slavechicks!  Ha ha ha!

I had apprehensions about Bob & Doug before it debuted.  This show had been languishing in development hell since at least 2003.  A preview was released as part of the Strange Brew DVD, but that title debuted on DVD in 2002.  Needless to say, I had visions of Bob & Doug being unwatchable.

Luckily, Bob & Doug isn’t horrible.  It’s not great, but it’s better than I figured it was going to be.  For an almost thirty-year-old franchise, Bob & Doug is surprisingly vital.

Dave Coulier is alright as the voice of Bob McKenzie, although he’s no Rick Moranis.  Dave Thomas is off-model as Doug McKenzie, which isn’t surprising since he’s edging sixty.  Thomas sounds more like himself than he does his principal character.  It doesn’t take away from Bob & Doug‘s quality, but it’s noticeable enough.

The voiceover cast includes Patrick McKenna, Derek McGrath, Neil Crone, Ron Pardo and Michael Dunston.  It’s a given that the voiceover acting is more jarring than in an American series, but casting Maurice LaMarche for an episode was a good move.  The last Canadian adult animated series I heard him in was Tripping the Rift, so Bob & Doug is a step up.  I’m also not surprised to hear Jayne Eastwood on the show, since she’s about one-quarter of all Canadian acting.

Bob & Doug takes the post-modern tack of many cartoons, ignoring the fourth wall and making self-aware references to itself.  There are asides where Bob & Doug cut from the action to explain the episode’s concept to the audience.  The show even parodies popular culture much like The Simpsons.  Bob & Doug is Strange Brew on steroids.

Of course, none of this matters if Bob & Doug isn’t funny, and it isn’t much of the time.  I can see the promise in the show, yet the gags are stitched together and have the subtlety of a jackhammer.  The talent’s there, the writing is sometimes good, but Bob & Doug doesn’t gel the way it should.  Strange Brew at least let the jokes unfold when it wasn’t trying to shoehorn Hamlet into a buddy-comedy format.

Bob & Doug‘s animation style honestly reminds me of John Callahan’s Quads!  Bob & Doug is not as badly-animated as Quads!Quads! didn’t even have backgrounds – but it’s still a typical Flash-animated cartoon.  Bob & Doug deserves better.

Fox helped develop Bob & Doug, yet its animated shows are usually of a higher standard than this.  Bob & Doug seems like a show Fox would air during the summer to burn off.  I’ll be amazed if Fox even airs Bob & Doug despite Bob & Doug McKenzie’s cross-border popularity.

While Bob & Doug McKenzie are true Canadian icons, I honestly can’t see a long future for Bob & Doug based on the cheap production values and uneven writing.  Of course, Chilly Beach looked worse than Bob & Doug yet found its niche, so anything can happen on Canadian television.  At the very least, Bob & Doug ought to earn higher ratings than ‘da Kink in My Hair.

Cameron Archer

Cameron Archer

Owner/Writer at Gloryosky
Cameron Archer runs this site, and is a freelance arts writer. He has contributed to Canadian Screenwriter since 2011. He is a CMG Freelance member.
Cameron Archer