When the Plumbing Gets Tough, the Tough Get Plumbing

Here are sore Super Mario Bros. Super Show reviews, and I have to say this set of episodes was largely lackluster even for this show, although there’s one pretty significant episode in the mix.

Quest for Pizza – Mario and the gang have gone to Caveman Land to seek help from the medicine woman Mugga, only to run into King Koopa, going by Alley Koop.

While the title is pretty generic, the Super Mario Wiki identifies it as a play on Quest for Fire, a 1981 French Canadian film based on a Belgian book from 1911, which is also about cavemen. And Alley Oop is a comic strip about a caveman, perhaps better known from the song. Alley Koop is riding a Birdo-like pterodactyl and is accompanied by the Mousersaurus Rex, a dinosaur who resembles Mouser.

Why here’s there, we don’t know, other than that he knows he has to be in the story. There’s a recurring gag where the Mousersaurus has somebody or something hit his feet. Another repeated bit is that the cavemen’s language, mostly just “ooga booga” stuff, occasionally includes what sounds like the name of a food. It’s not really funny, but I suppose they’re trying. I guess it’s pretty much inevitable they’d do a caveman-themed episode eventually, but it’s interesting in light of the dinosaurs and such in Super Mario World. The cartoon based on that game even has similar caveman characters, although in this episode the cavemen are primitive Toads rather than the more human ones in SMW. Alley Koop throws a Cobrat at Mario and it bites him, rendering him unconscious. The others are rescued by a kid named simply Caveboy, who swings on vines. He’s a lot like Oogtar in SMW, except he doesn’t use early nineties radical slang. For some reason, Toad can understand his language. He takes the Mario team to a cave behind a waterfall, where Luigi pulls a bunch of different foods from his bag to try to wake up Mario. Mugga points to a painting on the wall of Luigi waking Mario with a pizza (it’s a very specific prophecy), so Luigi, Toad, and the Princess go to find the ingredients for one. Luigi tries to milk a cow dinosaur wearing lipstick who moves by jumping and gets a crush on the plumber.

He gets the milk, and then decides he can make a crust out of ground acorns, which brings him into conflict with a giant squirrel with scales. This is a weird episode. Luigi and company pick some tomatoes that are growing in a patch even though I doubt Caveman Land has discovered agriculture. They somehow manage to put these ingredients together into a pizza, with no indication as to how they make the cheese or the crust from these raw ingredients. Alley Koop follows them to the cave, flooding it so Luigi can’t cook the pizza. Does Koopa have any way to know Luigi is making pizza? Regardless, Mugga points out that Alley Koop has a Fire Flower, which Luigi can use to make another fire. He, Toad, the Princess, and Caveboy ride out in a car that looks like it’s from The Flintstones, only with square wheels. Luigi fixes this with a chisel, but then the car rolls away from him. Alley Koop tries to drive off the good guys with help from the Mousersaurus and some spear-throwing Koopa Troopas, but Luigi manages to climb a mountain to get the Fire Flower on top, then scares away the villains with some fireballs. He manages to cook the pizza, which Mario eats, regains consciousness, and complains that there’s only one. Oh, that Mario and his capacious appetite! I can appreciate some of the things they tried to do with this episode, but overall it seems pretty lazy.

The Painting – While he and Mario are cleaning the apartment, Luigi finds a painting, and calls a guy named Howard Stevens to appraise it. While credited under that name, he’s apparently actually executive producer Andy Heyward doing a guest spot. He does a Robin Leach impression as this character, and at first thinks the painting is The Second-to-Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci Rooney, which was then plagiarized by his student Leonardo da Vinci. He also says it’s been lost for 300 years, which just proves that the Mario Brothers haven’t made a particularly thorough exploration of their own apartment. Or maybe it’s some kind of weird vortex. But anyway, the painting turns out to be a forgery by another student of Rooney’s, Leonardo da Vinci Mahoney, and hence worthless. He can tell because one of the people in the picture is Roy Orbison, or rather his Italian Renaissance equivalent, Roy Orbisoni Mahoney. I would think a perfectly preserved painting from that long ago would be worth something even if it IS a forgery, but apparently not. The brothers do come out slightly ahead, however, as Stevens pays them seven dollars for the frame. It’s totally ridiculous, but it works all right because it owns its silliness.

The Great Gold Coin Rush – The Plumber’s Log number here is 1849, the year of the height of the California Gold Rush and the origin of the term “forty-niners,” like the losing team in the recent Super Bowl. The episode starts out with King Koopa, or rather Claim Jump Koopa this time, and some Snifits chasing the stagecoach carrying the Mario gang through the Wild West, and there’s a shootout between them with Piranha Plants and a Cobrat. After Koopa somehow manages to shoot the reins, the coach crashes down a cliff. Mario and company are all right, however, and escape into a pipe leading to a large, open cavern filled with coins. Mario declares that it must be the Lost Gold Coin Mine, which is presumably a thing he’s heard of. Yeah, gold mines don’t have the gold already minted into coins, but this IS the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario and Luigi dig out of the mine with a bit of terrible animation, where they kind of just slide upward even when they’re not shoveling. They end up in the town of Lonesome Mushroom, inhabited by one guy called Calamity Clem. That explains why he’s lonesome, but I don’t see any indication that he’s a mushroom, since he doesn’t wear the cap. Instead, he has several hats for the different jobs he does, including running the hat store. He tells the Mario team that the coins they found are real gold, immediately attracting a bunch of Toads to the town who start mining, wearing hats over their mushroom caps. Koopa also finds out about the gold, and forces the Toad miners, including Toad himself, to mine for him instead. Mario, Luigi, the Princess, and Clem go to rescue the miners. Mario says that he could fight better with a Fire Flower, and Clem knows where there’s a mine full of them, and leads them there by way of the tomato sauce and pasta mines. So he doesn’t know there’s gold right underneath his home, but he knows his way around all these other weird mines? And really, they aren’t so much mines as caves full of stuff, which fits the Mario universe, but means there’s very little actual mining going on.

The Marios get Fire Flowers and go to attack Koopa, who captures the Princess and puts her in a mine cart, with the brothers and Toad chasing him in another one, along a strange track that includes a roller coaster loop. You can also see them ride by a toilet.

The Marios eventually take back the Princess and take a track that gets them out of the mine ahead of Koopa, who ends up landing on a cactus. The ending is really abrupt, and I have to say the episode in general felt pretty uneventful, like it was just going through the motions and there was no real story. I guess there isn’t a whole lot of plot you can get out of the Gold Rush, especially when the mining is a whole lot easier than in real life.

Game Show Host – How many of these do they need to do where someone believes they’re someone or something else after a head injury? It’s usually Mario, but here it’s Luigi instead. It starts with Mario and Luigi watching a game show, then having to fix the furnace before the tenants start complaining. They control the heat for the whole building? Given their poverty, I’m pretty sure they aren’t landlords. Are they superintendents? Or does the task just fall to them because they’re living in this illegally converted basement that likely isn’t zoned for living OR running a business? There’s a bit of all-too-rare continuity where they mention Mrs. Gamliss in Apartment 5C, who would appear in a later episode. Well, not physically, but audibly. We’ll get to that later. Luigi hits his head and thinks he’s a game show host, and Mario calls a doctor. No, wait, that might actually make sense. He calls Jim Lange, who hosted, among other game shows, The Dating Game and Name That Tune, the latter of which is directly referenced in Luigi’s dialogue. Lange convinces Luigi to fix the furnace, which he does without even opening it, and hits his head again, curing him. But then Lange accidentally knocks his head, and he reverts to the game show host again. It’s never resolved, but I think the lesson is to always make sure people are conked on the head an even number of times.

Elvin Lives – Yes, the Mushroom World has its own version of Elvis, Elvin Parsley. And while Elvis was CALLED the King, Elvin apparently actually is one, ruling the 1950s American suburbia themed Sockhop Land. The Mario gang has gone there to find him, but we don’t really know why. I guess Mario and Luigi established themselves in an earlier live-action segment as big Elvis fans, so they’d want to meet his double. After a brief bit where Luigi can’t understand some fifties slang, King Koopa…sorry, KOOL Koopa…drives slowly down the road in a hot rod followed by a bunch of Greaser Goombas on motorcycles.

He replaces an Elvin billboard with one of himself, then declares he wants the Princess as his steady girlfriend and prom date. Is he still in high school? Well, maybe, if Herlock Solmes was right about his repeatedly failing kindergarten. Mario and company push a Dumpster at the bad guys, with a ridiculously long setup; and walk to Elvin’s home, Parsleyland. So they didn’t even try to do a joke on Graceland? In a closet, they find Elvin’s blue suede shoes, which move on their own and talk in rhyme. The shoes show them to Koopa’s hideout, the Half Life Malt Shop, a good Cold War kind of name. Mario, Luigi, and Toad pretend to be a band to distract the Goombas. They’re not disguised or anything, and while they’re announced as the Toadstool Trio, the drum head says “Mario 3.”

Nobody seems to care about that, but they aren’t too keen on the band’s terrible music. They’d do pretty much the same thing again in the Super Mario Bros. 3 cartoon with Milli Vanilli, even playing the same instruments poorly. The Princess sneaks into the back to find Elvin frozen solid, but for some reason she says he’s been turned to stone. He’s just as immobile either way, but it’s such a weird mistake. The shoes say he’ll come back to life if she puts them on his feet, but Koopa captures her first, and the other heroes start a food fight in order to escape with the shoes. Kool Koopa then drives his car down the road with the kidnapped Princess in it, and Mario says they should get a hot rod of their own to chase him. They come across an old truck and work on it, with Mario going underneath, the shoes accidentally trapping Toad under the hood, and Luigi inflating a single tire. The tire explodes and the truck turns into a hot rod. Even for this show, that makes absolutely no sense. And why would the truck be theirs to take anyway? They chase after Koopa, but a Goomba blows up one of their tires with a Bob-omb, crashing the car. And after all that nonsensical work they did on it, too! But Mario and Luigi find some Fire Flowers, and in this one transformation scene, Mario briefly gets fatter and Luigi really muscular.

I have to wonder if the writers or animators, if not both, were just trying to see what they could get away with. The Mario Brothers jump repeatedly to catch up to Koopa again, and drive his car off a cliff. They then disenchant Elvin, who has only one line, and it’s “I feel good!” in a James Brown voice. Did they forget which celebrity they were impersonating? It can’t be that hard to find someone who does an Elvis voice, especially since they had one in a live-action bit. The cartoon ends with Elvin in front of a crowd playing the chords to “Jailhouse Rock” over and over again without singing anything. I want to say this one was lazy, but it kind of seems like they made it stupid on purpose. Having Mario immediately find a car when he needed it would have been lazy. Having the Marios turn a totally different vehicle into a car is just freaking insane. And Koopa spends most the time just driving around, hardly on par with his usual evil schemes.
I guess it was a precursor to his getting a convertible in Super Mario 3D World.

Home Radio – Mario and Luigi are chosen to have a radio DJ, the Wonderfully Wacky Willy White, come over to their place and do a broadcast with them. The song he announces having played at the beginning of the episode is “Passover in Norway Polka,” by Joe Banana and His Band of Appeal. So is Willy a Dr. Demento equivalent? Anyway, the DJ is played by Gary Owens, the announcer from Laugh-In and original voice of Space Ghost. The brothers spend all night practicing, and by the time Willy shows up, their voices are shot. People call in to say how much they love the Whispering Plumbers, but by then Mario and Luigi have fallen asleep.

Plummers Academy – No, I don’t know why “plumbers” is misspelled in the title, but it is. The show tries to do something different this time, with a flashback to how Mario and Luigi became plumbers. It’s a good idea, although the execution is pretty sloppy. Still, I’d say it’s one of the more significant cartoons in terms of expanding the mythology. The Mario team is in a castle and surrounded by evil Koopa and his Troopas. Mario takes out a golden plunger (although it’s miscolored at times) and throws it at Koopa, and it gets caught on his snout. The reptile throws them into a pit, where Mario is upset about losing the plunger he got from the President of the United States. So he’s been carrying this around the entire time, and only just decides to use it? Instead of trying to find a way to escape, Mario tells them the back story for the plunger. The flashback starts with Mario and Luigi at their first day training to be plumbers, and the plumbing academy is run like military training, complete with a sadistic drill sergeant. He’s called Sergeant Kooperman, and is basically Koopa in human form. When we see the new recruits lined up, one looks quite a bit like Wario and another kind of like Waluigi, when Wario’s official first appearance wasn’t until about three years later.

Kooperman is particularly mean to the Mario Brothers, making them carry bathtubs up and down a fire escape, unclog a sink in a few seconds, and dig a deep hole for no apparent reason. They apparently already have some jumping ability, since they leap straight out of the hole. Kooperman then forces the brothers to assemble a bunch of pipes without wrenches, then runs water through them, which somehow makes a watertight cage around them. He then throws more pipes on top and leaves them to drown. They’re able to get out by knocking the structure over, but the whole thing makes no sense. I wonder how many recruits Kooperman has casually murdered in the past. He just goes on to try to fix someone’s drain, but accidentally uses quick-drying cement instead of drain cleaner, causing the sewer to back up. So now he’s attempted murder AND damaged a bunch of property. And it just so happens that this is when the President of the US is riding through Brooklyn with the President of the Soviet Union. They only show a brief glimpse of the two heads of state, but they do appear to be based on Gorbachev (who actually didn’t hold that title until 1990, but close enough, I suppose) and George H.W. Bush.

The problem is that Bush took office the same year this show started airing. So did all of the live action segments and some of the cartoons all take place within a year? It’s not like the Marios were drawn to look any younger either. I suspect they just didn’t think about it. There was a live-action segment where it’s established that the year is 1989, even though the first Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985. Did the game take place in the future? Getting back to the episode, Mario and Luigi buy some scuba gear, borrow a jackhammer, and go down into the sewer, where somehow the cement has all formed into one big wall. They destroy it, saving Brooklyn and the two presidents, and the Marios are invited to the White House where they’re presented with a golden plunger and wrench. Also worthy of note are an alligator in the sewer and a statue of Salvador Drainado from “Brooklyn Bound.” Back in the present, Luigi uses his golden wrench to open a pipe, and the prisoners swim up out of the dungeon. Mouser is trying to get the plunger off Koopa’s nose and failing spectacularly at it, making for a pretty funny scene. The Marios and friends burst into the room, wrap Mouser up in a carpet, and throw him off a bridge. Well, the carpet part is true, but they actually lock him in a cabinet, which might be worse. Mario takes his plunger and everyone leaves, with Koopa still strapped to the device Mouser was using to try to take off the plunger. Oh, and you can see Mario wearing a scuba mask during this scene, and I can only assume that the animators didn’t realize this scene didn’t occur immediately after the sewer part in the flashback.

Glasnuts – From what I can recall, this is the only live-action bit that really relates to the accompanying cartoon, as Gorbachev appears in both of them. Mario and Luigi get a phone call from the US President, and just assume it’s a prank call and mess with him. But no, it really IS the President, telling them that Gorbachev wants to come over and see how they make pizza. He’s heard they make the best in Brooklyn, which makes me wonder why there’s always getting takeout. In fairness, though, who has the time to cook every day? As the podcast at Hard Times pointed out, the fact that they did air two segments with similar themes makes it strange because presumably the President and Gorbachev WOULD know about the Mario Brothers after the events of the flashback, but they still think it’s a joke. They also mentioned that this episode first aired the day the Berlin Wall was demolished. The guy who plays Gorbachev is an actor named Martin Garner, accidentally identified on the Mario Wiki at least once as Martin GARDNER, but that’s someone else. Gorby puts borscht, sour cream, and caviar on the pizza; and Mario and Luigi are afraid he’ll hate it and it will cause an international incident. But he loves it so much that he decides to open his own pizza parlor in Brooklyn, which will deliver in thirty days or it’s free. The title of the episode comes from “glasnost,” a policy of greater transparency initiated by Gorbachev in the mid-eighties, and (probably) doesn’t have to do with testicles. Also, I feel it worth mentioning that Gorbachev was later in a Pizza Hut commercial.

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2 Responses to When the Plumbing Gets Tough, the Tough Get Plumbing

  1. Pingback: It’s Koopa Clobbering Time | VoVatia

  2. Pingback: Life’s Too Short to Be a Crab | VoVatia

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