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Not the Simpsons, but still a sophisticated combination of satire and slapstick
Taz-Mania is not a cartoon for children -- or at least, not only for children. How many children are going to understand Taz's father Hugh is a thinly disguised Bing Crosby? Or that Hugh's brother, who makes occasional guest appearances, is Bob Hope, and the episodes featuring him are take-offs on the Hope-Crosby Road movies? How many children will identify the neurotic Wendell T. Wolf as a Woody Allen impersonation? Even the adults may overlook Taz's nemesis Francis X. Bushlad as a reference to Francis X. Bushman (look him up if you must), or perhaps they might not make the connection between Francis's super-rich, gadabout father and Jim Backus as Thurston Howell III.
The sophistication extends beyond the characters to the very structure of many of the cartoons. Many of the characters break the fourth wall to address the audience. Often their commentary is on the absurdity of cartoon conventions, such as falling from a cliff, or being smashed by a giant boulder, which adds an extra level of humor to these cartoon conventions when they are inevitably inflicted upon the characters commenting upon them.
Some characters go beyond breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience, and actually confront their creators: writers, producers, directors. When Taz the actor steps away from Taz the character and laments, in a cultured, refined, and eloquent manner, that his dialogue is limited to "spit-growl", you know you've come across a gem that never had a chance to shine.
Taz-Mania was a mixture of equally hilarious wit and slapstick that was squandered in the pre-adolescent Power Ranger/Bobby's World gutter. It still airs in reruns on the Cartoon Network; catch it if you can.
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