CLARENCE – “Mystery Pinata” DVD Review
I love Clarence. Really, really love it. What’s not to love? I’m not sure of the numbers the show gets– Cartoon Network’s press information tells me that it is pretty well-rated during its first season, averaging 6 million kids in the 6-14 range, and it’s the #1 show among kids and boys 6-11, 6-14, and 9-14 in its timeslot, which is impressive– but if you’re not watching it, you’re totally missing out. It’s the funniest show you’re not watching by far.
Cartoon Network has had a triumphant few years with shorter shows. 11-minute cartoons are kind of becoming the norm on the network with stuff like Adventure Time, Regular Show, Teen Titans Go!, and Steven Universe dominating the primetime slots (and a good amount of the daytime ones too). Clarence is another one with an 11-minute runtime and I’m not sure if any of the others is this funny and original. Regular Show is a pretty good sitcom, but I’d put Clarence up ahead of it personally. The show is absurd, hilarious, frantic, colorful. It looks really good. It has really easily likable characters. Clarence is essentially childhood encapsulated. Everything is so carefree about this show, and even episodes that get really weird and over-the-top (including the episode “Rough Riders Elementary”, which isn’t included on this DVD but has fast food restaurant Rough Riders Chicken literally take over the school and turn it into a dystopia where the kids work a giant fast food place and learn nothing but chicken) make sense because, well, they’re kids. Imagination is key. And imagination goes wild easily when you’re this young.
The show, if you haven’t given it a try, is about Clarence, a super overly-optimistic boy living in a town named Aberdale. He lives with his mom Mary and her boyfriend Chad, and hangs out with his two friends Sumo and Jeff the most. Jeff is a clean freak and an incredibly intelligent kid with a big cube head who loves game shows and procedural crime drama cartoons about Supreme-Court-judges-turned-robots. Sumo is a crude kid with a ton of siblings who’s a bit dirty, but pretty smart when it comes to problem solving. He’d also probably tell you some gross stories that would maybe make you puke. They’re an unusual trio, but they’re held together by the glue that is Clarence and wind up being pretty faithful friends.
This DVD collection, the show’s first, “Mystery Pinata”, is both a really good intro to the show if you’ve never seen it and a nice collection to have if you already like it. It’s also good for the kids, if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s pretty reasonably priced at $14.97 SRP, and has 12 episodes including some of the best and also the original pilot.
What you get, episode wise:
- Fun Dungeon Face Off
- Pretty Great Day with a Girl
- Lost in the Supermarket
- Clarence’s Millions
- Jeff’s New Toy
- Rise ‘n’ Shine
- Average Jeff
- Slumber Party
- Dream Boat
- Too Gross for Comfort
- Neighborhood Grill
Plus, like I mentioned, you get the pilot. Not the episode “Pilot Expansion” (which is a little tiny bit disappointing because the “Expansion” version includes the “Hit the Pinata” song, which I love dearly, but also great because the pilot deserves to be seen in its original form), but the short that got the network to even pick the show up in the first place.
You also get to see some little bits that Cartoon Network usually cuts out so they can air promos over the credits, namely the credits themselves. They all have a song (the standard one seems to be a little acoustic song that goes “early to bed, early to rise, pickin’ my nose”, but some have others, like the kids’ teacher Ms. Baker’s “everything is cool in California” dream song in “Zoo”), and the show has its own Cartoon Network Studios vanity card animation, although it isn’t a pencil test like most shows but rather a dancing cardboard Clarence and some whistling.
The episodes included are a showcase of the show’s strengths. “Rise ‘n’ Shine” shows everyone Clarence’s everyday routine– wake before the sun does and greet everyone doing their job in the early hours, no matter how much they try to push him away. Sanitation workers, paperboys, and police. There’s a mountain lion on the loose, so animal control is on the hunt, and when it shows up in Clarence’s backyard, the show does the first of what would be many sitcom trope jokes: Clarence finds the lion hassling a group of raccoons he’d befriended and the show fades out with a dramatic music sting like it was going to commercial with a tiny cliffhanger. It doesn’t, of course, and fades right back in.
The episode also includes a thing they’ve done more than once, which is make a parody/non-infringing cover of an existing song. “Rise ‘n’ Shine” includes a version of Erasure’s “Always” (you know it from the first Rainbow Unicorn Attack, of course) about lions, kind of. “Clarence’s Millions” has a version of the Ducktales theme song for a scene where Clarence bathes in his vault of money.
“Zoo” is really good and shows a little more human side of the sort-of-bully character Belson when he doesn’t get to see dolphins at the zoo. “Slumber Party” has Clarence get accidentally invited to a girls-only slumber party where he’s hesitant and lonely at first but eventually everyone opens up and has fun. You get to hang out with a crew you don’t usually get to see, since Clarence isn’t with his buddies. “Average Jeff” has Jeff panic over not being put in an advanced class, so he tries to get his way any way he can.
“Clarence’s Millions” is about Buddy Stars, a system set up in the kids’ classroom that rewards each student for doing something good in school, but takes away stars for each bad thing. Sumo’s Buddy Star count is in the negatives, and Clarence’s is at two. It’s a detriment to all students as they worry about their numbers (one kid wonders if she has enough stars to get into a good college) while Jeff racks up points, so Clarence invents his own reward system where he gives anyone a dollar for trying, or pretty much just being themselves. It turns to ruin, eventually, though.
“Dream Boat” is all Sumo. You get a peek into his home life, meet his parents and some of his brothers, and watch him build a boat. It’s a little bit less insane, and a little more heartfelt, and it makes for a great episode. “Neighborhood Grill” takes on the idea that kids may have that teachers aren’t people, but they’re beings who live at the school and are meant only to teach. It’s funny for that trope, and hey, if you have a kid young enough to believe it, it’s a good episode to show them it simply isn’t true.
My favorite episode on the DVD is “Too Gross for Comfort”. I loved this one when it aired, and I’ve loved it in each subsequent viewing. Clarence invites Chelsea, one of the girls, into the boys’ clubhouse and everyone freaks out. So, they try to rectify it by grossing her out so she’ll leave, but nothing phases her– a bucket of spit is no match, neither is a centipede, or a bunch of gross-out stories including one kid having a botfly removed in Belize, and one losing all of his toenails to an accident with a door. Sumo and Chelsea become rivals in the clubhouse and wind up trying to gross the other out with the best stories they can come up with, until they tire each other out and get the episode to its big punchline when the two of them kiss. The boys, except for Clarence, are terrified (they’re kids, they’re still firm believers in cooties, I’m sure) and flee, and Clarence is overjoyed and starts talking about them having kids.
The episode includes a Psycho reference where they parody the famous shower scene with Jeff’s gross-out story (the shower drain backed up for a minute and then fixed itself).
The DVD is overall great. Not much to say about the menus, they’re straightforward, but the content is perfect. I only wish some other episodes were included, namely “Man of the House” (Clarence is left alone for a night and winds up setting up some Home Alone-esque traps for possible burglars), “The Forgotten” (which includes another sitcom trope, a laugh track, inside one big sitcom scene in a sewer), or “Nature Clarence” (especially because it’s actually referenced in “Neighborhood Grill” and it’s a little confusing if you haven’t seen it to see teenager Josh’s flashback). But, the content provided is great and I hope there’s another DVD collection on the way. Perhaps a season collection one day?
I love this show to death. It’s hilarious, it’s cute, it’s smart. It’s a great sitcom for the younger people (and the older ones too, of course) with a nice touch of absurdity. The characters are great and they’re slowly expanding their cast of characters by introducing more kids and that can only ever help a show. Clarence is great for pretty much everybody and anybody, and if you’re already a fan, know a fan, or are just curious and wouldn’t mind becoming a fan, “Mystery Pinata” is a fantastic starting point.
“Mystery Pinata” is out Tuesday, February 10th everywhere that sells Cartoon Network DVDs. It’ll be $14.97 SRP, and really, that’s not too much for some really, really good cartoons. You can also watch Clarence pretty much every day on Cartoon Network. And you should! It’s super funny.
Get this DVD and enjoy being a kid again for a little while with a really great cartoon.