Life’s Too Short to Be a Crab

The Provolone Ranger – I distinctly remember this being the first Super Show episode I ever saw, and I don’t even think I had a Nintendo or was that familiar with Mario at the time. The usual suspects are riding a stagecoach in “the western frontier of the Mushroom Kingdom” to deliver some money to the town of Mush Ridge, as they’d been robbed by Billy the Koopa. I wasn’t sure whether King Koopa’s alias in this one was just to fit the Western theme and not the Lone Ranger in particular, but no, there really was a radio episode in 1944 where the Ranger encountered Billy the Kid. Whether the writers knew about this, I couldn’t say. Regardless, Billy the Koopa is ready to spring an ambush, accompanied by a Koopa Troopa who has the usual sort of dense voice combined with a hick accent. On the Hard Times Super Show Show podcast, they pointed out that he sounds like Gomer Pyle. Koopa knocks Mario off the coach and drives off with the others still inside, which means there isn’t a lot for Luigi, Toad, or the Princess to do in this one. It occasionally cuts to them tied to chairs at Koopa’s Double Cross Ranch, with the reptile gloating and their saying he won’t get away with it.

Mario, meanwhile, runs into a Toad named Pronto, because he’s really fast. I agree with the podcasters that it might have made more sense to just go with “Tontoad.” There’s probably no way to use Tonto without making it kind of racist, but they really don’t go any further here than having him speak in the typical broken English. His term of endearment for Mario is “plumbosabe.” Anyway, he teaches Mario how to tap a cactus for water, ride an Ostro, and fire a gun. He’d already ridden an Ostro just fine in earlier episodes, and fired a Cobrat like a gun, so why does he need to relearn them? Maybe this is a wild Ostro instead of a tame one, or maybe this one takes place before the other Wild West episodes. It is strange that Mario just uses a regular gun this time, although he loads it with silver plungers instead of bullets. He also decides to wear a mask so Koopa won’t recognize him, but there’s no indication that it works. Mario and Pronto walk into a trap set by Koopa despite realizing that it probably is one. Pronto is able to steal the Troopas’ Cobrats before they can fire them, although the badly-paced animation makes this less impressive than you might think. Koopa manages to capture Pronto, though, and says he’s captured all of Mario’s friends. The thing is, throughout all this, he never once identifies the Provolone Ranger as Mario, but he presumably knows it’s him because otherwise he wouldn’t have any reason to think Luigi, the Princess, and Toad were his friends. I guess when Koopa is constantly taking on new identities with no attempt to disguise who he really is, he respects his opponent doing the same. The Ranger makes his way to the Double Cross Ranch, jumps on a Pokey so he’s just a bouncing head, and frees the penned Ostros. Koopa tries to run off with the money, but Mario manages to lasso the money pouch and knock Koopa off his Ostro. They also have him say “Hi-ho, Ostro!” twice in a row for some reason.

Goodbye Mr. Fish – Nedra Volz, who played a dotty old lady back in “Time Out Luigi,” is here playing another dotty old lady, Mrs. Periwinkle, who wants Mario and Luigi to watch her goldfish Kenneth while she goes horseback riding. I found it interesting that, when she brings in the fishbowl, it plays the underwater music from Super Mario Bros. After she leaves, Mario tries to give the fish a meatball, and he dies (the fish, not Mario). That’s kind of dark, but it leads to the typical gag of their trying to replace the fish. They can’t find a replacement at first, but after Mrs. Periwinkle returns and Mario hides under the table to avoid talking to her, the Ratigator brings a new goldfish and the dumb plumber totally gets away with it. Interestingly, the original fish shows up again in “Defective Gadgetry,” one of the live-action segments aired with a Zelda cartoon, in which Inspector Gadget appears. That one actually aired before this one, though.

Escape from Koopatraz – The Mario gang has been arrested and put on trial by Koopa, who is also the judge. The courthouse, which says “Just Us” over the door, is in an unidentified city. At the opening, you can see a newspaper blowing down the street, where the headline is “Koopoe,” then a Greek sigma, then “ras.” Okay, I get that TV sets were smaller and lower-resolution back then, so I’m sure they didn’t expect anyone to actually read it, but then why even make the first word look like it says “Koopa”? Is it really harder to use actual words than random letters? I also noticed a weird stylized picture of Koopa behind the judge’s bench, and there’s a Troopa wearing glasses in the courtroom.Mouser serves as the bailiff in the trial, and he and Judge Koopa make a point of mentioning how the charges against Mario and company are phony, as if this weren’t already obvious. I know this is for kids, but give the audience a little credit here. Was the editor worried that viewers would think the good guys really DID commit crimes?

The jury, made up of a Shy Guy, a Birdo, a Phanto, and a Pokey, finds the defendants guilty, and they’re sentenced to 500 years in Koopatraz State Prison.

There turns out to be only one other prisoner there, and it’s Toad’s grandfather, as they find out because his son and Toad’s father was Moldy, Top Toadstool of Fungusville. I don’t know of any other attempt to work out Toad’s family tree, so that’s pretty cool. In retrospect, though, Gramps recognizing the name Toad loses some poignancy when the games put “Toad” somewhere in the names of pretty much all Mushroom People. Gramps says to himself that he’s been locked up for fifty-four years and seven months, but later tells Mouser he’s been alone for thirty years, so the Koopas (and quite possibly not even Bowser himself) have apparently kept this whole prison operational for one guy for all that time? He must have been considered a real threat back in the day. When are we going to learn his story? It’s funny that the guards are Goombas carrying batons, even though I’m not sure how they’d use them. For that matter, why use guards who are routinely defeated by unarmed people? The Princess has her own cell, and Koopa comes back to serve as the warden. Oh, and Toad’s prison number is 1/2. Anyway, the prisoners distract the guards with a food fight so they can sneak some forks into their cell and dig their way out, as they did in previous episodes with little resistance. Everything in this show is apparently built on really loose earth. The second act starts with their digging while Mario narrates, something he usually only does at the beginning of the cartoon. I wonder why they broke the rule this one time, especially when he only repeats what’s just been established. The plan to dig out fails, however, as they end up digging right into Warden Koopa’s room. He says his plan is to plunder the Mushroom Kingdom while the Princess and her defenders are locked up, even though other episodes suggest he’s already been doing that. They eventually do escape when Mario makes a fake Bob-omb out of soap from the laundry room (not sure whose laundry they’re doing, since the prisoners never seem to change their clothes, so maybe it’s just for Koopa and Mouser) and shoe polish, and uses it to trick a guard and take his keys.  They run away and steal a boat, pulling a plug in a storm drain in the process, which somehow sinks the whole prison. Koopa and Mouser get away, but with Trouters chasing them. This was a pretty good episode, even if it might have made more sense for there to have been more prisoners in that huge facility. Blame the animation budget, I guess. And it seems like they reiterated the obvious with unnecessary exposition even more than in other episodes.

French – Luigi is learning French to impress women, and Mario thinks he’s crazy for it, but then he shows up with a new girlfriend. Mario then decides he should learn French himself. That’s really all that happens. What’s kind of entertaining if you go beyond the bit itself is that Danny Wells was born in Montreal, so he probably can speak fluent French, yet here he stays in character by getting the pronunciation wrong. The CooKoo Bird shows up a fair bit in this one.

Mario of the Deep – Hey, didn’t they just do one with the title “Mario of the [Something]”? Mario and company are in the underwater Aqua Land, which is sort of Atlantis-like, with Greek-styled architecture.

Barra-Koopa has taken over, with help from some Bloopers, which here are called Bloober Octopuses despite only having six arms. The good guys travel underwater in a bathysphere, but once there they can move around, talk, and breathe normally. That’s typical for this show, and for 2-D Mario games. What isn’t typical is that they never actually swim, instead just running and jumping. They do jump higher and farther than on land, but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense, as they do swim in other episodes. They see a trident-wielding Blooper chasing a mer-mushroom, but Mario and Luigi save her with their plungers and an anchor. She tells them that Barra-Koopa has imprisoned King Neptune, who here is a merman himself, and has a relaxed beatnik personality.

Koopa is forcing the mer-mushrooms to bring him treasure from the sunken ships in the area, of which there are a lot. There’s a weird scene where the Princess dresses up like a Blooper and flirts with three real ones, allowing Toad to drop an oar on them.

Koopa shows up and has some other Bloopers throw nets at the heroes, and while they start out as separate nets, they somehow all merge into one. Barra-Koopa locks up the good guys in one of the ships, but they avoid Trouters, Piranha Plants, and Clawgrip and escape through a hatch. Clawgrip is sometimes shown with the bandana he had in his rare earlier appearances on the show, and sometimes not. The mer-mushroom helps the others sneak into Koopa’s dungeon and rescue Neptune, who calls on the help of some sea creatures to fight the usurper. He rides a whale, while the others use swordfish to fight the bad guys. Koopa ends up running away from a swordfish as the episode fades out. One exchange in this one I found memorable was Mario asking a fearful Luigi, “Are you a man or a Mouser?”, to which his brother replies, “Neither. I’m a chicken of the sea.” There was also a Super Mario Bros. 3 cartoon that had mermaids in an undersea city, but those were reverse mermaids with the fish part on top instead of mer-mushrooms.

Two Bums from Brooklyn – The Mario Brothers receive a visit from Tommy Lasagna, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Does this mean this segment takes place prior to 1958? And Lasagna is named after Tommy Lasorda, who really did manage the Dodgers, but they were in Los Angeles at the time. I mostly only know who he is through Slim-Fast commercials. Joe Bellan, who plays Lasagna, was in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Mrs. Doubtfire, and would go on to do voice work for the Godfather video games. At first the brothers think he’s come to recruit them for the team, but it turns out he actually wants to test their meatballs to use as concessions. He says they taste like horsehide and string, but that he can still use them as baseballs, and that Mario and Luigi can toss peanuts at the park. It’s not clear why Lasagna had them practice baseball when he first showed up, but this time, Luigi actually questions that as well, and Mario says it was a warm-up. You can clearly see a Domino’s Pizza box in the background of the apartment at one point.

Flatbush Koopa – As the episode starts out, Mario’s narration says that Koopa has finally been chased out of the Mushroom Kingdom, and the Princess is back in her castle. Some earlier episodes give the impression that she lived there all along, but it’s never quite clear. Mario and Luigi decide to go back to Brooklyn, which they do through a pipe in the side of a hill, making me wonder why whether or not they used the Last Drainpipe to Brooklyn back in “Brooklyn Bound” was such a big dilemma. Did they only just learn about this other warp pipe? Regardless, they end up on a Brooklyn street where they can see both the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty, which I doubt is possible. But the statue has been changed to look like Koopa, and Mario even calls it the Statue of Kooperty without thinking about it.

They then see some Koopa Troopas robbing a bank, and get a cab driver to follow them. The Marios discover that Koopa is on Coney Island, changing all the signs to “Koopa Island.” He also says he wants to change other signs to read “Kooplyn” and “New Koopa.” Does he think conquering a city can be done just by changing all the signs? He did try something much like that before in “Elvin Lives,” and it’s really not much different from European colonizers and their flags. It’s a fun twist on the general plot of the show, but that’s not to say there aren’t flaws. He uses his scepter to transform the cab driver into bricks, and even though the rhyme he says only mentions the cabbie, it transforms the taxi itself as well. Aside from changing signs, his plan is to turn all the humans into bricks, which would have to take a really long time. And what if someone shoots him before he can enchant them? While I like the idea of the Mario characters interacting with the real world, which they do a lot more in the SMB3 cartoons, the real places are typically shown as uncharacteristically defenseless except when the Marios intervene. Meanwhile, Toad and the Princess are bored, so they go to Brooklyn to visit their friends. Mario and Luigi have a chase scene with some Troopas on what Koopa calls “the old roller coaster,” so probably the Cyclone, although it’s not very accurately depicted.

The Princess saves them by driving a garbage truck, which fortunately she knows how to do, into the coaster supports. When one Troopa falls to the ground, he mentions that he should have joined the Paratroopas, because they get parachutes. Don’t they get wings, too? Koopa alters his plan to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge to trap his enemies. Um, Koopa, it’s not like that’s the only way in or out. You can probably SEE the Manhattan Bridge from there. Oh, well. Toad steals Koopa’s scepter, and the repulsive reptile chases them back to the Mushroom Kingdom, where Mario uses a Bob-omb to blow up the warp pipe. Koopa points out that they’re stuck there with him, takes the scepter back from Toad, and chases his enemies as the cartoon ends. It’s a pretty typical cartoon sort of ending, but it always bugs me when someone just stands around stupidly while someone else disarms them. I suppose Toad was tired after the chase, but still. So Koopa is back in the Mushroom Kingdom, but he left a lot of his troops behind, so this could be the beginning of his downfall. Later episodes don’t exactly confirm or deny this, but we don’t really know the order in which they take place anyway. The back story for SMB3 has it that he was eventually trapped in a Banishment Zone, but we never see this on screen. A series finalé would have been nice, but it really wasn’t that kind of show.

Opera – The segment starts with Mario and Luigi asleep on the couch, with their snoring moving a vase back and forth, when they’re rudely awakened by Mrs. Gamliss in Apartment 5C. She’d been briefly mentioned in “Game Show Host,” but this is her only appearance; and we don’t even see her, just hear her voice. It’s provided by Karen Hartman, who was Patty’s mother back in “Day of the Orphan.” She thinks she’s an opera singer, but she’s terrible at it, causing objects in the vicinity to break. Mario and Luigi try to go about their normal routine, the latter fixing a toilet by pulling a Slinky and a fish (another one?) out of the tank. Could they not show him rooting around in the bowl on children’s television? Regardless, Mrs. Gamliss’ singing drives them crazy until they decide to start singing themselves, which is bad enough to get their neighbor to agree to stop if they do.

There’s only one week of Super Show episodes left, but I’m not sure when I’ll get around to covering them.

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2 Responses to Life’s Too Short to Be a Crab

  1. Pingback: May the Pasta Be with You | VoVatia

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