Sunday, February 5, 2017

Notes on Kirby Buckets Warped

I'm just as surprised as anyone to be writing about this show.

I was scarcely aware of the existence of Kirby Buckets until just a few weeks ago, and have as yet seen very little of it prior to the recent third season, which caught my attention because of how unusual it has been for broadcast television--the sharp shift of the show in genre and structure (the episodic tween sitcom about an aspiring cartoonist become a 13-episode story of interdimensional hopping, heavy on science fiction parody), and the unique airing schedule (the 13 episodes airing on 13 weekday mornings over three weeks).

Alas, the writing rarely rises above the level of the mildly amusing. In fact, the heavy reliance on gross-out humor reflects a certain laziness in its pursuit of its target demographic. All the same, the makers of the show actually do serve up an arc, rather than just tease the audience with the prospect of one--and manage to have some fun with the science fiction clichés they evoke. (Of course there's a post-apocalyptic dimension where the characters meet the Mad Max versions of the people they know; here they come complete with Australian accents.)

Additionally, the cast is a pleasant surprise, accomplishing a lot even when they have just a little to work with, with two members standouts. Suzi Barrett shows a good deal flair for the role of Kirby's mom, getting more than her fair share of laughs. His sister Dawn, generally conforming to the stereotype of the shallow, superficial high school girl/big sister-from-hell, comes off as surprisingly sympathetic and charming, principally due to the efforts of Olivia Stuck. And of course, improv master, veteran voice actor and "Simlish" cocreator Stephen Kearin's Principal Mitchell is a memorable mass of eccentricities sufficient to (almost) singlehandedly make the hackiest of shows watchable.

And so it went up to the finale (aired Thursday), which, to the creative team's credit, actually wrapped up a storyline, and in the process, offered the sense of a bigger tale ending as Kirby, Mitchell, Dawn and the rest closed one chapter in their lives and began another. However, whether all this will be enough to lead to a fourth season is a different matter. The show, poorly rated to begin with (one reason for the change, I suspect), has seen its viewership plunge to abysmal levels--under 200,000 if I read the numbers right, rather worse than the shows Disney XD so recently axed, Lab Rats: Elite Force and Gamer's Guide to Pretty Much Everything. Whether it will survive that will depend, I suppose, on whether viewership picks up during the reruns this weekend (and further airings of the show), whether the executives feel bothered by the way they are running out of live-action shows to put on the air--or the creators can sell them on another sharp shift of course. And maybe all of them together.

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Just Out: After the New Wave: Science Fiction Today
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My Posts on Science Fiction Television
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