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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Animation Therapy - Turbo Teen (1984)

Turbo Teen (1984; ABC Network)
Sometimes there’s a show that is both very easy to describe yet impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t seen it.  That said, I cannot fathom a scenario where the people behind Turbo Teen weren’t met with either uproarious mocking laughter, or an irritated slap to the face.  A lot of the shows I really got into were from the late 80’s, so this was just shy of that period for me, and it was too big of a failure to really maintain any post-run momentum in syndication or home video that I recall.  Now, even as a kid I was very picky and didn’t like a lot of the shows my friends did either because of the way the characters looked, or because of the show’s pacing or tone (not that I really understood what that meant back then, but it’s a quality that is often recognized without definition).  So, I guess even then I was sort of a jerk when it comes to entertainment (wink).  That begs the question: Do I regret watching an episode now?  Nope!  Because this is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in my life!

The awesomely stupid premise for Turbo Teen is as follows: Brett Matthews is a teen driving home from work in his sports car when a tree is struck by lightning, forcing him to swerve and sending him flying off the road, over a cliff and into the side of a secret lab where he crashes right into the path of a ray that merges the molecules of Brett’s body with those of the machine’s, giving the teen the power to transform into his car.  When exposed to heat (hot water, food, ect.) Brett uncontrollably takes the form of his car where cold then turns him back (Where have I heard a similar premise before..?)  Together with his friends Patti and Alex (who have skills of their own) and Comic-Relief-Dog, Brett goes on crime-fighting adventures against powerful enemies.  Yes!  This exists!!!  I am SO happy about this!

In the 80’s there was no absence of bad animated series.  Really, the quality spike didn’t peak until the late 80’s when Disney Animation Studios started hitting their stride and series like Transformers and G.I. Joe reached their pinnacle.  Things will stay good for a while until the airwaves became flooded with bad knockoffs and celebrity-themed animated shows like Wishkid (THAT damn show’s day is coming…).  Before that, there is this strange dead zone filled with bland animated tripe from Hanna-Barbera Productions (who were already starting to fade in quality by that point) and a few other companies like Dic, for instance.  Turbo Teen lands somewhere in-between debuting in 1984 and lasting just one season.  It never really gained an audience, probably because it is such a ludicrous premise that a kid may find it more stupid than anything.  It takes a few years (or decades) for a show like this to re-emerge and become a sort of cult favorite.  I think, from what I’ve seen, Turbo Teen is ripe for that sort of cult rebirth.

Now, as out-there as the show’s premise is, knowing the episode I saw as a jumping-off point will make things even more enticing.  The episode is entitled “Video Venger” and opens on the teens playing an arcade game but when Brett has a piece of pizza land on his face he transforms into his car right there in the Pizza parlor while playing the game.  Still wanting to beat Alex’s highscore, Brett has his friend plug him into the arcade cabinet via a universal cable in his dashboard so he can control the game as a car.  This causes a military insurgent group monitoring the game to unleash an army of robots onto the city resembling enemies from the game and only the Turbo Teen and his friends can save the day.  This episode ends with the group saving the President by having two ice-firing tanks crossfire into each other through some Turbo-Teen-Trickery right in the White House… driveway..?  Ultimately the President awards them with medals.  

Okay, so if I missed anything it could be that while watching this I was mesmerized by its existence and was also somewhat distracted with bouts of hysterical laughter.  There is so much stupid in that last paragraph that I can understand you wondering why I would recommend this to anyone.  All I will say is, if you’re a fan of over-the-top, so-bad-it’s-good entertainment, and are just in awe by really, really awesomely bad TV in-general, you will probably love this show.  If you go in with the right attitude, you may be surprised by how much enjoyment you get out of it.  I went in expecting it to be one of the worst shows of the decade by reputation.  It isn’t.  The worst animation from the 80’s-90’s is either boring, a cheap cash-in, or is MEANT to be funny but isn’t.  This is none of those things.  It’s too insane to be boring, there really isn’t much like it (unless you pick out parts from about six different shows), and it isn’t really meant to be a comedy.  It’s an action show.  Sure there are gags in it but for the most part it was played straight.  I love so-bad-it’s-good stuff and this is up there for me.  I enjoyed the Hell out of Turbo Teen!

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