Previously, I tried my best to put into text as to what bothered me the most about Game Over, UPN’s failed attempt to strike a resonating chord with a young audience. But maybe, once I beat that paradox out of my noggin and watch the show itself, perhaps there is some merit. A minute glimpse of promise that might show what this comedy may have been. So now it’s time to look at each individual episode and main cast of this series to find out. Episode 1: Meet the Smashenburns The pilot episode starts, of course, with introductions to Game Over’s family. The basic plot is pretty much the go-to story device of the loving family that doesn’t get along. The parents, Rip and Raquel Smashenburn, are grasping at straws as to what they can do to connect with their teenage children. I’m going to stop briefly and gloss over some character introductions and my personal opinions about each of them. Rip: The archetypical father of your sitcom, thought at the very least, he isn’t portrayed as just lovable lunkhead dad. His occupation is that of a racecar driver, as his name implies, he crashes quite often. He is voiced by Patrick Warburton (Family Guy, The Tick) and is easily the funniest character in the show. Warburton is great in the role and has one of those instantly recognizable voices that’s always a treat to hear. A loving dad and husband, he mostly bumbles around in confusion, but is very good-natured and patient. As far as TV dads go, Rip gets lost in the shuffle, as when you take the racing aspect away from his character, there isn’t much there. That being said, most of the scenes involving him are generally worth paying attention to. The choice of making his video game persona of that of a racer was interesting, as by this time most traditional racing games were not as successful as the repackaged Need for Speed series, which as of 2004 were closer to mimicking a hybrid of Midnight Club and Grand Theft Auto. I suppose Nascar Thunder series, if you wanted the father of the series to have a positive occupation. It leads to some great physical comedy. Raquel: Rip’s wife and mother of her two children works as a special agent/treasure hunter, obviously playing towards the Tomb Raider parody. Raquel is the only character in Game Over whom embodies what I thought this series was going to be, in terms of crossbreeding a superfluous job with normal everyday life as a homemaker. She’s the most prominent personality in the show to the point that her job takes up about 60% of what Raquel does throughout. Raquel is voiced by Lucy Liu, which is good. She balances the scale perfectly, sounding like a sweet, patient person who speaks in a tone that says “I know we can see eye on this issue, but so help me, I will beat you into the earth if you act difficult”. Her acting tailspins in certain scenes and can be grating at times. They needed a pretty big name to push the product and Liu was just coming off the sequel to Charlie’s Angels, so there isn’t any other viable option. Liu’s name did not generate enough interest, sadly. Alice: Your prototypical neurotic, melodramatic 15-year-old, Alice does not fair well in the first episode as nearly every line of dialogue out of her mouth is just nails on a chalk board. I know it’s supposed to be a pilot episode and she IS the teenage daughter, but this was too much to bear for twenty-four minutes. Fortunately, after this episode, she improves a bit and her character comes off a bit more grounded and doesn’t fly off the handle. Her personality borders between that of a brooding goth girl and a progressive, individual activist. Alice’s problem is that it’s never consistent. Episode 1 here has her emotions all over the place, ranging from “Fur is Murder!!” to “It’s my first date with Chad!!” in literally the same scene. She’s voiced by the incredibly annoying and unfunny Rachel Dratch, formerly of Saturday Night Live, and for what it’s worth, she does a decent job with the character enough that I bought into it. Billy: The trend-following, 13-year-old son, Billy is where comedy goes to die. He’s essentially a yuppie white boy who talks in urban slang and shamelessly does what everybody else says is cool. As a black man, I’ve never found the “White guy talking hood” act to be particularly funny. I’m not offended by it on a racial level, I just find that particular brand of humor to be lazy. Wigger humor isn’t far off from black face and those who laugh at it only encourage its destructive nature. It dumbs down the senses and accepts stereotypical images and references as jokes instead of writing humor. That’s why I don’t laugh just because a midget is on my screen. Sorry, I know I got off topic there, but this character just bites. He’s a completely watered down Bobby Hill knockoff without any of the charm that made Bobby Hill so amusing. Unlike Alice, Billy doesn’t show anything other than being a one-note character that provides nothing of any value. He’s voiced by veteran voice actress E.G. Daily, which his only quality. Also note that none of the children are based off any kind of video game background. More on that later. Turbo: The family pet and the focus of the pilot episode. The Smashenburns all pile into the car to find a pet, hoping it will bring them closer together. And it’s here where they meet Turbo, a 300 lbs Sonic the Hedgehog parody (they do nothing with this, whatever would’ve been. This character is a complete waste outside of the jab at video game mascots, which is dated, since outside of Mario, mascot characters for signature consoles (or companies, for that matter) were mostly a foregone conclusion and seldom used. Voiced by raunchy comic Artie Lange, Turbo isn’t funny enough to be amusing and his humor isn’t edgy enough to be controversial. Perhaps the creators assumed that if we just had a smoking animal that looked like a popular video game icon, we wouldn’t have to write jokes for him.
Episode 1 doesn’t really have a secondary plot since it really is all over the place, but we do meet the Smashenburn’s neighbors, a Shaolin Monk named Sam, playing the role of the uppity suburban who tells you your trash cans are out too long (a role the late Phil Hartman made a career out of playing) and his wife simply named Dark Princess. Why she’s called this is never explained, we just have to roll with it. After about 16 minutes of constant bantering, they make their way to the pet store and are all set to buy acute little Pokémon-ish critter until Turbo pretty much saddles himself with the family after Rip completely levels the place with a missile from Raquel’s Spy Hunter car. Turbo causes chaos immediately and Rip and Raquel attempt to get rid of him by dropping him off in a bad part of town, home to monsters from Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey apparently. When they realize the kids love Turbo, they agree to keep him anyway and the episode ends.
Episode Grade D- Even by pilot episode standards, this is just not good. Rip and Raquel are entertaining, but this was bad introduction to the children whom both came off very annoying and unlikable. The Shaolin Monk neighbors seemed amusing, but had no context to base them off anything. “Hey, you fight foot soldiers in video games, so here you go!!”
+ The art and animation are done well enough for 2004, though closeups on characters show the limitations a bit. Good voice acting all around.
– A pilot episode that tried to cram too much into a short amount of time and gives you little reason to tune in the next week.