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Cartoon series based on Jim Davis' popular comic strip. The star of the series was Garfield, a lazy feline whose only desires in life were lasanga, catnaps and kicking his hapless canine companion, Odie, off the table. The show also starred Garfield's hopelessly-single owner, Jon Arbuckle. Each Garfield adventure featured Garfield's adventures and run-ins with the cast of semi-regulars (including Neurmal, an irksome kitty; Binky the Clown and the mice which inhabited Jon's house); most were satires on American life and pop culture. Each show also featured "U.S. Acres," another of Davis' strips; this strip was set in a barnyard and featured the adventures of such characters as Orson Pig, Wade Duck, Roy Rooster, Bo and Lanolin the sheep, Booker the chick and Sheldon, an unhatched egg. Written by
Brian Rathjen <email@example.com>
At one point when I was very young, 'Garfield and Friends' was one of the after-school cartoons I always looked forward to being able to watch the most every Thursday I would eagerly await getting home and tuning in to the sardonic ginger-tabby and his various musings on life. I LOVED the initial theme song, 'Friends are There' (in fact I can still remember how frustrated I was when they converted to the painfully catchy 'Get Ready to Party' opener ugh!), and the escapades that the overweight kitty got himself into always held my interest from beginning to end. Even when production stopped and the show left the air, and when I grew up and lost my enthusiasm for after-school TV (though I'll always have a soft spot for cartoons deep down, and this show is one of the key reasons why), a whole load of the stories, the characters and of course the theme music stayed with me through the years. I was delighted, a couple of years or so ago, to find a satellite channel that broadcast repeats of 'Garfield and Friends', and decided to watch them chiefly for the childhood memories. It came as quite a pleasant surprise, therefore, to discover just how well 'Garfield' now stood up to even my cynical young adult mind. The writing here could be so smart and dry that I found myself smiling at lines which meant nothing to me at that age. Back then, I just loved it for the visual humour and the easy-to-follow narratives, but really there were so many layers to this show all along that I had to wait to be able to value.
There was one mild disappointment that I probably should try and get out of the way as quickly as possible, and that's that the lesser known Jim Davis cartoon that accompanied it, 'US Acres' (or, as it was titled here in the UK, 'Orson's Farm') proved exactly the opposite that is, it doesn't impress me nearly as much now as it did when I was six or so. I feel like I'm echoing pretty much everyone else here in saying it that they were good for non-discerning kids who wouldn't mind the preachy morals or grating musical numbers that turned up in *every single damn episode*. Older viewers, on the other hand, might want to use the 'US Acres' segments as time to step out into the kitchen and fix themselves a cup of coffee before the next 'Garfield' one starts. That in mind, the inspired opening credits sequence, in which Garfield battles it out with Orson and his farmyard cronies for screen dominance, just about manages to justify them.
Back to the truly great stuff the 'Garfield' segments. There are so many glowing things to be said about those cartoons. Lorenzo Music's voice-work was fabulous. The anti-heroic characters were all wonderful, and so unlike any you could find in other kids' cartoons at the time as well as our sarcastic, self-serving lead, we also had the hapless social misfit Jon Arbuckle, the mindless, relentlessly cheerful yellow canine Odie, and Nermal, a narcissistic little kitten who values his natural cuteness above everything else in life (and yes, he IS officially a male, no matter how feminine his voice-over sounded that's something which always confused me as a kid). Another thing to be admired about 'Garfield' was just how brave and risk-taking it was for a cartoon that came after 'the Flinstones' but just before 'the Simpsons' in between the great success that those two shows each enjoyed, animation had been widely regarded as exclusively juvenile stuff of no importance other than to keep the younger members of the family quiet for half an hour. Such disregard did little to dampen Garfield's attitude. His cartoons were willing to play around with the customs of the format, with its very post-modern self-referring humour (not to mention the fact that Garfield himself appeared to be fully aware that he was really a character in a cartoon show), and frequent stabs at experimental episodes I'm thinking along the lines of the one where Garfield wakes up in the wrong cartoon, or those where he steps out of the context of his own cartoon and gives a lecture on what makes successful comedy, or whatnot. Most of it paid off really well.
And I just realised that I managed to get through most of this comment without reference to that live action movie with a CGI Garfield that 20th Century Fox churned out last year. Well, maybe one day when I'm feeling bored I'll finally give in, sit down and give it a chance, but I don't anticipate that it'll come anywhere close to the standards set by this TV show (for one thing I just can't picture Garfield without Lorenzo Music's vocals). This is, after all, one the finest pieces of animated TV that us kids of the late 80s/early 90s ever had the pleasure of growing up with. And it's not the sort of thing that can be easily repeated.
Grade: A (that's for Garfield, not Orson, mind)
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