Author Archives: jambareeqi

“Spongebob Squarepants” – Scaredy Pants EPISODE REVIEW

Spongebob has gained a reputation for being easily scared, which has coined him the nickname “Spongebob Scaredypants”, but Spongebob wants to prove that he can be frightening this Halloween, and so he dresses as a ghost of the Flying Dutchman with Patrick’s help. However, Spongebob’s costume is so tacky, that it offends the Flying Dutchman himself, who threatens to steal the souls of everyone at Mr. Krabs’ Halloween party.

The strength of the best Spongebob episodes is their ability to take a simple setup in fun directions, by treating the premise as a spring board for lots of creative gags, and this Halloween special is no exception. We go from Spongebob feeling insecure about his skills as a trick or treater, to finding ways to make him scary, and all this sparks the attention of a supernatural entity.

The comedy comes from Spongebob assuming that he’s genuinely scary, when really, he’s just running away in a fit of giggles before seeing people’s reThe comedy comes from Spongebob assuming that he’s genuinely scary, when really, he’s just running away in a fit of giggles before seeing people’s reactions, with Patrick naively assuring him that he was spooky. I do like how much Patrick cares about Spongebob’s need to scare too, doing everything he can to support his friend, and going as far as shaving his spongey flesh to make him rounder for a ghostly shape.

The episode does have a great Halloween theme too! There’s pumpkins everywhere, kids are trick or treating, Krabs is having a fun Halloween party with guests in fancy dress, and the episode is set entirely at night. The Flying Dutchman himself is also quite an imposing villain, being a misty green spirit towering over Bikini Bottom residents, with Brian Doyle Murray’s gravelly booming voice adding to his menace perfectly, but he’s got enough self aware charm to prevent him from being too horrifying for kids.

I’d have to say that the creepiest part of the episode, isn’t actually the Flying Dutchman, but what’s underneath Spongebob’s costume, because it’s revealed that Patrick has shaved him down to his insides. It’s quite unsettling actually, and Spongebob’s nonchalant reaction makes it all the more disturbing haha. I remember being pretty grossed out by this episode’s ending, because it’s just really weird seeing Spongebob’s brain being exposed like this, and I still find it kind of repulsive to this day haha!

To conclude, Scaredy Pants is a terrific Halloween special cartoon, one of the best even, a basic setup that inspires a string of funny gags and eTo conclude, Scaredy Pants is a terrific Halloween special cartoon (one of the best even), it’s a basic setup that inspires a string of funny gags and entertaining child friendly horror. If you’re after a wholesome take on Halloween, with scares that don’t go too far (minus maybe Spongebob’s brain being exposed), then pick this episode of Spongebob, because you won’t be let down.

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“Hey Arnold!” – Arnold’s Halloween EPISODE REVIEW

Written by Jambareeqi

When the grown ups don’t let Arnold and Gerald join their Halloween party meeting, the two boys hatch a plan for revenge, by pranking the adults into thinking that aliens have invaded, by creating a fake radio broadcast, and they rely on the other kids’ coincidental alien costumes to play into their trick. However, the radio transmission was caught by UFO investigator Douglas Cain, who reports what he hears on his TV show, causing the whole city to go into a panic, and an angry mob chases after Arnold’s costumed friends.

This episode is an obvious tribute to Orson Welles’ radio reading of “The This episode is an obvious tribute to Orson Welles’ radio reading of “The War of the Worlds”, which sparked the public into thinking that a real alien invasion was happening. Even Douglas Cain has an Orson Welles inspired voice, provided by Maurice LaMarche – who frequently voices Orson in movies & cartoons. A similar incident happened in the UK, in which a staged ghost hunting show tried to trick British viewers, resulting in an effective prank that offended folks.

What makes this Halloween special unique is that it’s going down a sci-fi route, an underexplored aspect of Hallow’s eve, even though this is a genre renowned for its horror stories. That’s not to say that the aliens cloud over any seasonal atmosphere, because that’s not the case. There’s still a trick or treat spirit throughout the episode, and I did get that fun Halloween feeling from it.

The episode’s conflict and humour, mainly derives from the adult cThe episode’s conflict and humour, mainly derives from the adult characters’ reactions to the alien invasion prank! Some consider themselves soldiers in a war against invaders, others are ready to surrender to a supposed leader, and some just want to stay indoors. It’s a great way to develop the grown ups, demonstrating their instincts in a dangerous situation, even though we know that this is all fake.

I did also find some charm to Arnold’s and Gerald’s radio broadcast, as they clearly put a lot of work into preparing it, fueled by a determination to get back at the grown ups for condescending them. Gerald’s charismatic personality helps him pull off the reporter act (he’s aided by a deep pitch filter), Arnold’s sound effects are endearingly creative, and the technical setup is pretty clever for something put together by kids. I can imagine this episode inspiring kids to make their own radio productions maybe? They might want to try their hand at foley art or voice announcing, because Gerald and Arnold are having such a blast.

If you want to see this episode for some scares, you maybe disappointed, as this isn’t meant to be a story to curdle your blood. It’s more of a comical hi jink, but there are episodes of this show that are about creepy ghost stories. Although, there is something kind of unsettling about trick or treaters being chased by an angry mob, a fear that may tap into children’s imagination at Halloween, even though it’s mainly played for laughs.

To Conclude, this is a very enjoyable Halloween special, one that captures the spirit of the season while telling a funny plot. If you want a harmless spooky cartoon this month, then this is the one for you, because it mainly plays things safe, with an emphasis on comedy more than horror. Adults will also enjoy the reference to the Orson Welles radio controversy, as well as the episode’s commentary on media influence on the public, so consider making this episode into a family viewing.

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“Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus” MOVIE REVIEW

By the end of 2002, the beloved black comedy scif-fi cartoon series “Invader Zim” was abruptly cancelled by Nickelodeon, disappointing fans everywhere, but we all rejoiced when a feature film was announced in April 2017, and it’s now available on NETFLIX.

In this movie, Zim finds out that the tallest aren’t coming to visit Earth, so he uses Professor Membrane’s new invention to steer the Irken mothership’s course, much to the tallest’s frustration – who hilariously refuses to go any direction except straight. Unfortunately, Zim has created a fracture in time and space, a black hole called a “Florpus”, so Dib and Gaz need to rescue the Professor from space prison, and save Earth from the Florpus.

If you’re worried if anything has changed since 2002, then abandon all your fears, because this is the same Invader Zim we all know and love. It’s like creator Jhonen Vasquez is carrying things on as normal, as if Season 2 never ended, so fans will be pleased that nothing has been dramatically altered or ruined.

I was concerned that this was just going to be a long episode of the series, the same usual formula we’ve come to expect, with Zim once again failing in his conquest, while Dib breathes a sigh of relief. At first, it does seem that way, but once the Florpus appears, we know that things have been pushed out of the status quo template, because we now have a far more apocalyptic narrative at hand.

While the show was set in a dark dystopia, things were often kept quite small, with Zim’s schemes only affecting the school, town, or Dib’s life, but this film justifies it’s feature length by expanding the threat’s size. There’s a constant feeling of impending doom, especially when we have no idea what the Florpus is, with no one ever explaining where it’s portal will lead to; it’s a great way to make everything feel big and tense.

There’s also a running subplot about Dib’s relationship with his father, exploring a more sentimental side of their family bond, and adding some drama to all the chaos of the world ending. It is funny how Membrane doesn’t believe his son about Zim being an alien, because he is so faithful to science, but there’s only so much that joke can do, so it’s nice to finally see their relationship develop. Heck, Membrane even gets to play the badass hero, a role that he’s never been cast as (as far as I remember), it’s awesome seeing him looking THIS cool.

Oh and the inclusion of a “Fake Dad” is brilliant, this botched Zim experiment is a delight, a big loud mouthed monster dressed like the professor, determined to nail his character – even though he doesn’t represent membrane at all. He may have been built for evil, but there’s something very endearing about him! His purpose is to keep Dib and Gaz trapped, yet he has this big childish heart, really believing that this is his family.

Expect the same Invader Zim sense of humour as before, a strange hybrid of surrealism, black comedy, and random silliness! Pretty much every joke landed for me, to the point where my stomach would hurt sometimes. It’s a style of comedy that I personally love, weirdly sinister yet stupidly ridiculous too. If you are nervous whether Invader Zim can still make you laugh, let me reassure you that the writers have not lost their magic, because this is one of the funniest films that I’ve watched this year.

For the most part, the animation is pretty much the same as the TV show, which does give the film a TV Movie look, even with an apocalypse narrative to work with. However, the cartoony style serves well for the comedy, with the stupidity of everything being enhanced by over the top expressions – even though the animation can have some iffy movement for some shots. That’s not to say that the animation is devoid of anything special, because there are some pretty creative visuals, especially when the camera is allowed to glide or depict something cinematic.

The animation is at it’s peak, when the Florpus starts coming closer to earth as the art styles begin frequently changing, giving us a wide array of mediums, each depicting a wild series of glitchy imagery. Heck, you’ll totally get “Into the Spider-Verse” vibes with this film, as the animation does get that imaginative in the finale, bending reality like Spider-verse did. The laser explosion effects are pure eye candy too, intricately vibrant zaps and booms that are splendidly impressive, often making the film look almost anime-esque.

To Conclude, this Invader Zim movie is the continuation that fans wanted, with everything we love about the show still in tact, but it knows that it needed to return with a bang, so we’re also given a story that feels like a spectacular event. It maybe more valuable to longtime fans of the TV show, with it’s many references or in jokes. Plus it’s also not exactly a franchise that’ll be easy to get a new generation into easily (I mean, it’s pretty damn weird haha), but it all makes for a fantastic Invader Zim special that fans have dreamed of for almost 17 years.

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“The Tigger Movie” (2000) MOVIE REVIEW

WARNING: The Following review contains possible spoilers

Tigger is upset that his friends can’t bounce with him, because they’re not equipped or skilled enough to keep up with him, so Tigger wonders who he could bounce with? When he learns that he could have a family, he becomes determined to find them, but his friends are worried that this will lead to disappointment. So they write him a letter to keep up his spirits. This letter though, makes Tigger assume that his family is coming to visit him, sending his friends into a panic, so they decide to dress up as Tiggers, in hopes that he won’t be sad.

As to be expected from a movie about Tigger, this is a very bouncy and hyperactive film, with a frantic pacing that can often get distracted. While it’s not surprising, it still makes it difficult for me to say “Oh yeah, the story is really well told and has a nice flow”, because the choice to make Tigger into the star, has inherently resulted in a film that reflects his unpredictable, off-the-wall personality, which isn’t going to make for a solid narrative.

So yeah, I get that a film about Tigger was bound to be unfocused, but that doesn’t mean that this an entirely a good thing, as the story’s cohesion is sacrificed for the purpose of staying true to Tigger’s personality, and this does explain why Tigger best suits being a supporting character in an ensemble cast. To be fair though, Pooh also brings the film to a hault in one scene, turning the search for Tigger’s family into a chance to steal honey, by singing a lullaby to some bees, which adds nothing to the main story.

The film also opens by addressing Tigger’s flaw of getting carried away, criticising that he doesn’t watch where he’s bouncing, but this fault is brushed aside, because the movie wants to focus more on Tigger’s search for his family. For most of the film, it felt like Tigger’s poor actions weren’t that big of deal, even though the movie wanted to draw attention to them at the start, which made me feel distracted, often asking “Are we going to go back to helping Tigger be a more careful bouncer?”.

It’s not until the very very end, that Tigger tries to make up for this, and while it’s sweet how he does this, it all seems… last minute? When he could have learned how to be more sensible while bouncing throughout the film, maybe even while also on an adventure to find his family, like discovering that safe bouncing is more practical.

However, the strength of the film, is it’s theme of non-biological family, this is where the film shines the most. While Tigger is adamant to find his “real” family, he doesn’t seem to notice that he already has a loving family. They just don’t happen to be Tiggers, with Roo in particular showing a remarkable brotherly affection to Tigger.

This leads to a surprisingly deep conclusion, with Tigger never finding his fellow Tiggers, and the realisation that his adoptive family is his true family, and rhat’s a rather risky ending for a Winnie the Pooh movie! It teaches possibly orphaned kids in the audience, that they might not reunite with their biological family, but that’s okay, because the family you make yourself or get adopted by is just as valid and special.

Something great about this film too, is that it was the first time in 28 years that the Sherman brothers had worked with Disney, with the talented duo providing a string of new original songs. These musical numbers do seem to appear out of nowhere, and sometimes don’t really do much for the story, but they’re all very fun and lively. Oozing with the wacky charisma we expect from the Shermans, which perfectly fits a film about the silly Tigger.

To be honest, I don’t remember many of them that well, except maybe Pooh’s lullaby to the bees, but I can imagine some people (particularly the target audience of little kids), to remember all the lyrics by heart. Like I said, they are entertaining songs, I just don’t think they’re catchy or memorable enough to stick with me personally.

To Conclude, “The Tigger Movie” is a very hyperactive and unfocused film, letting Tigger’s boundless energy drive the story. Which is fine if you just want to see Tigger being Tigger, but this is a film that’s still trying to tell an adventure tale, and Tigger isn’t exactly a character designed for moving a story forward.

That being said, its message about finding your family is quite mature, plus Roo and Tigger’s brotherly bond is super cute to watch, and the Shermans’ songs are great additions. Overall, it’s an okay Disney Pooh film, certainly one of the more flawed ones, and one that lacks the franchise’s quiet atmosphere that I usually enjoy, but it’s a good effort for what it is.

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“The Angry Birds Movie” (2016) MOVIE REVIEW

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Red is a grumpy bird who often lets his temper get the best of him. This anger leads to a court ruling that requires him to attend anger management classes, where he meets a bunch of other ill tempered birds, and he has to commit to calming exercises. While the other patients are eager to socialise, Red would prefer to keep to himself, pushing away new potential friendships.

One day, a community of pigs dock off at the birds’ island, introducing themselves as harmless new friends, but really, they want to steal all the birds’ eggs. Red is the only one who sees through their sham, even though everyone else is convinced that these swine mean well, so the feathered grouch has to convince his fellow birds that these piggies mean trouble.

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I’ve only played an Angry Birds game once, it was 3 or 4 years ago, I can’t even recall which game it was? So, I’m no expert or loyal fan, but one doesn’t need to be when it comes to critiquing movie adaptations, a film is a film regardless of what inspired it. The Angry Birds Movie is certainly high spirited, with it’s bounc-ily paced comedy and colourful character designs, but as a movie? It’s pretty…. meh.

It’s story is as predictable as they come! We know that the pigs are really up to no good, we know that they’ll reveal their true intentions eventually, and it’s more than obvious that the birds will seek revenge once the cat is out of the bag. Until then, we’re playing the waiting game, counting the minutes until the rouse is exposed, with nothing much happening besides the pigs distracting the birds with dance parties, and it’s all pretty much filler to say the least.

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To also pass time, Red and his friends venture to find the legendary “Mighty Eagle”, which leads to the cliche plot of discovering that a hero is a let down, who wastes his days doing nothing, and it’s up to Red to motivate the eagle back into action. How many times have we seen this plot? Maybe in nearly every average animated kids’ movie? And this is what’s going to keep us entertained until the finale? Thanks, I don’t like it.

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The humour is hit or miss. A few lines and gags hit the mark, but this wasn’t a consistent laugh riot for me. The film is clearly struggling to keep the comedy alive, so it reaches for easy gags in desperation, the kinds of jokes that are obviously going to make small kids giggle no matter what, from pigs slapping their butts at the camera to an awkwardly long urination scene. This potty humour is just tasteless and gross, a lazy attempt to be funny without taking risks or being inventive.

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The Angry Birds Movie is at it’s most imaginative, when the birds finally attack the pigs, in a climax that resembles the playthrough of the original video games, the very thing that fans came to see the movie for. This is when we get to see each bird displaying a unique power, crashing into towers in a satisfyingly destructive fashion, all while the villain runs around in a panic. Unfortunately, this sequence overstays it’s welcome, overdoing the novelty of watching birds smashing into buildings, and even young kids might get tired of the repetition.

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Red himself is the only character I enjoyed watching, a cynical bird who makes the most sense out of everyone. He keeps others at a distance while yearning for company, making for a relatable lead. He might be a grouch, but hints of a nice side are sprinkled into little moments, and he does eventually let his guard down once pushed into the role of leader, proving that he is capable of empathy if others trust him.

The lesson he learns is surprisingly unconventional too, teaching that anger can be justified when the situation calls for it, but controlling your temper is just as important. That’s a pretty risky philosophy for a kids’ film! The idea that what you do with your anger is your real test of character. What can it be translated to? How much of it should you let out? Anger is a complex emotion, it’s refreshing to see a children’s film address it without saying “bottle it up inside”.

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The side characters though? They’re pretty one dimensional and annoying, including Bomb the whiny bird with the one trait of exploding, Chuck the super-fast bird that is only defined by his speed and hyperactive personality (imagine Hammy from “Over the Hedge”, just unfunny and less sympathetic), Terrance (grunted by an underused Sean Penn, which is admittedly funny) is kind of endearing in his own gentle giant sort of way, but I can’t say that he’s a well defined character beyond his grunts.

The villain, Leonard, is far from threatening or clever, being not exactly subtle about his intentions, he’s just lucky that these birds have been written conveniently dumb enough to fall for his plans.

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To Conclude, “The Angry Birds Movie” does have a pretty solid lead character, vibrant cartoony visuals that are decent to look at, plus a rather complex view on the emotion of anger that’s quite refreshing. But overall? It’s cliche, predictable, uninspired, and not as frequently funny as it could have been. I wasn’t exactly let down, as I was never an Angry Birds fan in the first place, so I can’t say that I’m annoyed at my experience, but I also can’t say that this is a film I’d be eager to watch again.

2 and a half Strawberries


“Black Mirror” – Fifteen Million Merits (EPISODE REVIEW)

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This “Black Mirror” story is set in a dystopian future, in which humans are paid in merits to power the world’s electricity through pedaling, but the mundane living doesn’t stop there, because they all also come home to rooms where the walls are monitors, and everyone is forced to watch adverts or pay fines if they stop viewing. We centre on Bing, one of the rare people actually sick to death of this place, with a longing to feel some sense of reality, but that’s hard to expect in such a world like this.

Luckily, Bing meets a woman named Abi, who has a talented singing voice, but she can’t afford a chance on the talent contest show “Hot Shot”. So he uses money left to him by his dead brother, to buy her an audition entry. Unfortunately, the judges turn her down, and one of them hires her as a pornstar for his streaming channel instead. Angered by the judge’s treatment of Abi, as well as the technology driven world they have created, Bing becomes determined to get revenge, by saving up merits to get on Hot Shot himself.

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Now, this is actually the first “Black Mirror” episode I’ve ever seen, which is actually shocking when I always knew that it was my cup of tea, because I’m a huge fan of it’s creator Charlie Brooker. Plus my own stories are often centered on technophobia. One thing I will say, is that “Black Mirror” really is like an extended higher budget sketch from “Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe”, because his ranting and raving about bad television is all over this episode.

This episode’s message is rather on the nose though, it’s not exactly subtle about the point it wants to get across or the specific kind of people it wants to attack, especially when it has a character standing on stage spelling out the intended societal criticism by the end. That our everyday lives are built on performing daily monotonous tasks to afford survival, with shallow entertainment or pointless consumerism being our only reward for living on, and the only alternative is selling ourselves out as commercial celebrities.

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It’s cynical, but I get the frustration that Brooker and co-writer Konnie Huq (Brooker’s wife, who used to be a presenter on BBC’s Blue Peter) are venting. There’s an element of truth to his point of view. My issue is that the message is driven into the audience using the nuance of a foghorn, with not much left for viewers to work out themselves, as there’s a huge lack of cryptic depth to the episode’s substance. Plus the more despicable characters are more over-the-top than discreetly underhanded, thus making it hard for me to call the episode clever. Sure, the extremity of this execution is a good way to better highlight societal toxicity, because it makes the often ignored problematic undertones of television media or human interaction more obvious, but it comes at the cost of assuming that the audience can’t read between the lines themselves.

The characters aren’t exactly well developed, very flat caricatures who better represent theories, personas, or principles than real individuals; so I can’t say that they were interestingly-written. Having an hour to work with, there could have been more to them here, little extra details that made them more than just tools for the political satire. That’s not to say that I didn’t care for our protagonists, it was pretty easy to like them, mainly because everyone else in this society is either totally terrible or has become a mindless sheep.

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However, the strength of the episode isn’t how it conveys it’s message or the characters we follow, but rather the the atmosphere it creates, this claustrophobic bleak corporate building where you can’t escape adverts or avoid technology. There’s something nauseating about being in this tightly small futuristic setting, not just because it’s painfully mundane, but it’s also a terrifying reflection of the cycle many of us are in right now – an analogy for those living life to the most basic standard just to get by.

While the episode is rather cruel to it’s characters, there are moments of brief hope and love, all thanks to the blossoming romance between Bing and Abi, as the idea that Bing would give up all his merits to see Abi be happy is beautiful. The fact that Bing also sacrifices his budget for food and resources, JUST to reach 15 million merits sooner, shows how passionate he is about making his voice heard, but it’s also a dark reflection of how much society asks us to give up to risk chances.

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Of course, in true Charlie Brooker style, the episode ends on a bummer, because while Bing does get to protest on live television, speaking out against everything he feels is wrong, the judges ultimately see him as another cash cow, and package him as a livestream entertainer for the masses. While this is a bitter ending that highlights how even a societal protest can be rebranded for consumer use, limiting Bing to the only way he can keep his voice heard, it’s more of a wake up call than a sign to give up, asking audiences to realise how much we’re diluting authenticity in an already fabricated culture.

To Conclude, I did quite enjoy this “Black Mirror” episode, because of it’s creepily dull setting, sweet central romance, and important message about finding reality in a life without meaning. I do wish that the message was less loud and some of the characters were less cookie cutter, but there is a strong personality to the episode through it’s extreme portrayal of a media dominated society.

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“Recess” – Lost Leader (EPISODE REVIEW)

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When a plan to retrieve a lucky baseball bat fails for the Recess gang, TJ blames himself for it going wrong, vowing to never be a leader again. Without their leader Gretchen, Vince, Gus, Mikey, and Spinelli struggle to come up with a good plan without him.

TJ’s distinct role has always been the leader, so seeing the poor guy beat himself up about it is sad. We know he really is the best leader for this rag tag team, but sometimes the smallest hiccup can make someone feel insecure. TJ is a selfless hero too, so of course he’d immediately blame himself for everything going wrong, especially when his failed plan resulted in a casualty.

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It is fun seeing what kind of plans that the gang come up with by themselves. Each one failing to see the drawbacks if their wild ideas. However, it’s the flawed logic in their suggestions that highlight TJ’s importance. When it boils down to it, the gang need TJ for his clever imagination. The rest of the gang’s strengths aren’t suited for leadership, and they all have their own talents or skills that are better suited for supporting roles. TJ knows how to find the right balance of possibility and creativity; plans that make sense yet retain a child’s imagination.

You maybe wondering why this lucky bat is so important? Well, the gang’s rival Lawson bets that they can’t retrieve the bat, confident to the point where he’s willing to challenge them to a game the next day. This makes the mission more than just a simple rescue, it’s a race to outwit the cocky Lawson.

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However, the gang do come to the humble conclusion that none of them are born leaders, graciously accepting the truth, and they instead focus on helping TJ. The gang put on an intentionally ridiculous heist for getting the bat, each kid doing something hilariously stupid as part of their fake heist. They do this while all acting like TJ is useless after all, and this makes Teej finally realise how hard he’s been on himself.

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While this is technically reverse psychology, it’s all done out of love. The gang do end up confessing their true intentions by the end too, so Teej isn’t left feeling insulted. Sometimes, we do need our friends to make us see how silly we’re being when self blaming, and that our guilt is really actually uncalled for. A good friend’s sincere perspective can really help you see what you can’t see in yourself.

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The episode concludes by saying that mistakes are human. This is a terrific lesson for perfectionists to relate to, because it teaches that high standard results can’t ALWAYS be consistent. Even the best of the best can miss the mark, and expecting 10/10 every time is unhealthy.

Interestingly, this was the last ever episode of “Recess”! Three straight video films kept the franchise alive shortly after (two of which were technically just feature length clip shows), but this was the last episode of the actual TV show. I think it’s nice that the series concluded with an episode that reminded fans why TJ was so important.

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“Hey Arnold” – Helga on the Couch (EPISODE REVIEW)

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In this episode of “Hey Arnold”, Helga is caught punching Brainy in the face, so she ends up being psychologically analysed by professional therapist Dr. Bliss. Therapy seems like a chore to Helga, but she’s also terrified that these sessions will result in confessing her Arnold to crush.

Many “Hey Arnold” fans consider this to be the best ever episode of the whole series. Helga has always been a fascinating character, because she’s complexly passive aggressive. Psychologically understanding such a character’s psyche was always going to make for a deep episode.

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One of the major strengths of “Hey Arnold” is it’s courage to show the diversity of children. That they’re not all typical nuclear family households. Some kids watching this show are not privileged or loved, and this show gives them archetypes to connect to.

Dr. Bliss is a fantastic therapist! She professionally keeps herself calm while this angry little girl rants aggressively, knowing exactly what she can do to help, but also respecting that Helga is very smart for her age.

It’s amazing how this kids’ cartoon is 20 minutes of character therapy, with a majority of the episode being set in an office. Creator Craig Bartlett actually believes that kids will have the patience and understanding to enjoy something so minimalist. Although, it helps that Helga is a very charismatic character, so its no surprise that Craig had faith in the setup.

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The episode isn’t ALL set in a therapy office though, as we do get flashbacks to keep things visually engaging. These sequences help us to see how hard Helga’s life really is, by exposing what shaped Helga into the girl she is today. Her father is a bad tempered loud mouth who sees Helga as a liability, her mom is an air-headed woman who is possibly an alcoholic, and her older sister Olga gets all the attention that Helga craves.

Like I said, Helga’s main concern is to not expose her crush on Arnold in session, but that’s very hard when Arnold is such a big part of who she is. We even get to finally see what made Helga first fall in love with the football head! In a flashback demonstrating Arnold’s natural compassion to a down-on-her-luck Helga on first sight.

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When someone is living in an toxic environment, the slightest kind gesture can mean the world to them. It’s a really cute flashback that gives us an eye into where everything started; filling in gaps that the show never explored before.

Of course, Helga doesn’t have a full grip on what it means to be loved or love someone, because her family neglects her, so she doesn’t know how to healthily address her feelings towards Arnold. This is why she turned this love into aggressive hate instead. Sadly, this defensive attitude stuck with her and ended up turning her into a school bully – even though she’s good at heart.

Now, Helga does finally confess her feelings for Arnold to her therapist, but what is she so afraid of? Well, it seems that she was under the assumption that Dr. Bliss would share her secret with others, but really, she HAS to keep sessions confidential. It’s clear that Helga either doesn’t understand therapy policy (she may be smart, but she’s still a child) OR her trust issues made her assume the worst.

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Watching Helga scream her lungs out about how much she adores Arnold, is so damn perfect – relieving even. We’re really happy for her, because we know she’s had to keep these feelings bottled up, but who could she ever tell? This is why therapy was always the best route for the poor girl.

Dr. Bliss assures Helga that her feelings are normal, and that she’s free to express them – as long as she’s not hurting anyone. It’s so beautiful seeing Helga having her deep complex emotions validated, every kid deserves that. I couldn’t help but smile seeing Helga leave her therapy session with a newfound sense of self acceptance, even hugging Dr. Bliss with loving gratitude (a BIG deal for Helga, who very rarely shows affection).

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To Conclude, Helga on the Couch isn’t just one of the best “Hey Arnold” episodes, it’s one of the best cartoon episodes EVER. A story that gives a voice to neglected kids everywhere and normalizes child therapy. I actually grew up taking therapy as a child, but I never saw this episode as a kid, and I really wish that I did though.

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“Arthur” – Arthur Meets Mr. Rogers (EPISODE REVIEW)

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In this special episode of “Arthur”, children’s entertainer Fred Rogers comes to Elwood city, with the intention to speak at Arthur’s school, and he’ll be staying with the Reeds’ home (Fred is an old friend of Arthur’s mom). Arthur is actually quite embarrassed about Mr. Rogers boarding at his home, because his schoolmates are giggling over a “baby show” host coming to visit, so Arthur desperately tries to hide this fact from his pals.

It does make sense that Arthur and Fred Rogers would eventually had a crossover, as they were both children’s edutainment programs that aired on PBS – a station that Fred fought hard to keep funding going for. It’s match made in heaven! Arthur is a show that sets out to teach kids about better understanding the world around them, as well as common etiquette in social situations – things that fit Mr. Roger’s philosophies superbly.

Now, I did not grow up with “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”, I’m not even sure if it was ever even aired in the UK? However, after seeing the Fred Rogers documentary “Won’t you be my neighbor?”, I felt instantly jealous of anyone who DID have a childhood with him, because he stands for everything I believe in! He was a kind man who actively validated children’s feelings and intelligence.

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This episode’s portrayal of Fred Rogers is so perfect, because it captures Fred’s personality spot on! From his calm charisma that soothes the soul to the sincere way he talks to kids. I’m not sure how much Fred had to do with the script, but I can totally imagine him making sure that the lessons were healthy and constructive.

This Arthur episode teaches that you shouldn’t let fear of embarrassment consume you. Arthur goes to so many lengths to hide Mr. Rogers, that he doesn’t realise that he’s worrying his pals. When Arthur admits his concerns to Fred, Mr. Rogers kindly lets him know that he understands.

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Mr. Rogers doesn’t look down on or judge Arthur for feeling ashamed of being associated with him, but completely sees where Arthur is coming from, because the boy is at an age where he wants to feel grown up, and this a validation that older kids need sometimes. Even as a person gets older, Mr. Rogers STILL respects their feelings! He might specialise with very small children, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t teach something wise to an older child, and that’s because Mr. Rogers wanted to show love to EVERYONE.

With Arthur’s friends being worried about their oddly-behaving pal since Mr. Rogers moved in, Fred makes Arthur realise that maybe these aren’t the friends who will poke fun at him. When you assume that your friends will maliciously mock you for something, especially something out out of your control, then you need to question your relationship with your friends, because real friends don’t do that.

The episode also teaches that it’s okay for preschool entertainment to still mean something to you, that the best shows for young kids are so special that they stay with you forever, and it’s totally okay to admit that you still like them. The best television entertainers can shape our values, humour, and imagination!

These entertainers may present themselves in a way that’s most suitable for young kids, but as we get older, the world still scares or confuses us sometimes, because adults are human, and people like Mr. Rogers suddenly become a useful inspiration to us again.

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For example, British children’s entertainer Mark Speight, who sadly committed suicide once I grew up, was someone I LOVED as a kid (The first career that I ever considered was a CBBC presenter). His wacky sense of humour and fun approach to creativity really inspired me. I watched a tribute to him recently, and I never realised how much he influenced my personality! When we sneer at these kinds of people, we’re not just insulting their hard working profession, but we’re also arrogantly ignoring the subconscious impact that they first had on us.

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The Late children’s TV Host Mark Speight

By the episode’s end, all the kids shyly admit that they are actually excited to meet Mr. Rogers, suddenly showing happy joy at the very sight of their pre-school hero, and they drop their “I’m too big for this anymore” act. This teaches kids that you don’t HAVE to abandon or hate certain childhood things to be grown up, because you can keep your love for them in your heart, and you’re not immature for saying that they are still special to you.

The show also says that it’s perfectly fine to openly dislike something that you used to love, but DON’T sneer at kids who do enjoy it, because it’s the world to them at their age, and you have no right to steal that joy from them. Even as a critic, this is a value that I hold true, because I know that some children’s media I criticise could mean the world to some child, and I’d NEVER think less of them for having fun watching it.

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The episode is also followed by something so precious! Fred Rogers himself telling kids in the audience how he was animated into the show, there’s nothing more wholesome than watching Mr. Rogers gently teaching this art form to young viewers, and hearing him say “Anyone can animate” is the cherry on top of this magical ice cream. Fred was terrific in the episode, bringing a natural delivery to his lines that couldn’t be replicated by even the best impressionist, the episode NEEDED the real Fred Rogers to work I think.

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“Batman: The Animated Series” – Heart of Ice (EPISODE REVIEW)

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A strange man in a suit wielding a freezing gun, who goes by the name of Mr. Freeze, has been attacking the offices of GothCorp. So, Batman has been trying to investigate who this rogue could be? He meets with GothCorp CEO Ferris Boyle, who likes to put on the act of a humanitarian for PR, but is much less compassionate behind closed doors.

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After digging through some files, Batman discovers that Mr. Freeze was really a scientist called Dr. Victor Fries, who tried to use GothCorp equipment to cure his terminally ill wife Nora, but Ferris shut down the project. This resulted in a fight between the two that led to a coolant accident, which caused Victor to not be able to survive above sub-zero temperatures – hence the suit.

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This Emmy winning episode of “Batman: The Animated Series” introduces a more sympathetic villain to the series, a baddie who has developed an apathy to humankind after Ferris lacked remorse in his wife. Mr. Freeze is a red eyed pale faced menacing threat, unwilling to reflect emotion after everything he’s been through, expressing all his dialogue with a deadpan cold tone.

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But we do feel sorry for Victor, because we can see why he’d lose remorse for everyone except his wife, his only hope betrayed him, and now he sees that Ferris cared more about money than saving lives. We don’t agree with Victor’s methods or forgive his crimes, but we get why he’s the way he is, because he now only has faith in himself after GothCorp let him down.

This is why I love Batman in this episode, he shows genuine sympathy towards Victor! The caped crusader is angered by Ferris’ careless attitude towards Victor’s personal mission to save his wife, even though the GothCorp CEO is out doing charity work to look good in the media. That’s not to say that he completely sides with Victor, because his Mr. Freeze persona is still putting lives at risk.

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I also like how Batman has a cold in this episode, it reminds audiences that he is still human. He’s just as vulnerable to low temperature conditions as everyone else, but he doesn’t let his fever hinder his responsibility as the caped crusader. It’s adorable that Alfred shows concern for his master’s cold, he is Bruce’s only family after all, even lovingly giving Batman a flask of chicken soup to help cure him; a beverage that will later come in handy!

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Batman must find a middle ground as a hero, by defeating Mr. Freeze for the safety of people’s lives, while also exposing Ferris’ crimes too – killing two birds with one stone if you will. This decision helps to show that Batman cares about Victor’s pain, but that he should be punished for using this heartache for criminal activity, because a sob story doesn’t justify putting others in danger.

By the episode’s end, Victor is placed in Arkham Asylum, where he is shown begging his wife for forgiveness, weeping at a music box that resembles her. It’s a powerful moment that brings a humanity to one of Batman’s foes. It’s moments like this that show why Batman’s gallery of rogues are so memorable, they’re either wildly fun to watch or have a sympathetic tragic backstory.

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“Heart of Ice” really deserved it’s Emmy. It’s an episode that shows that villains don’t always have to be one track minded enemies for Batman, they can be just as human as he is, and it’s this extra dimension that makes Victor into an actual fully fleshed out character.

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