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Popeye begins his movie career by singing his theme song, demonstrating his strength at a carnival, dancing the hula with Betty Boop, pummeling Bluto, eating his spinach and saving Olive Oyl from certain doom on the railroad tracks.
One of those you-love-it-or-you-hate-it shows, it seems. "Mike, Lu & Og" never pretended to be anything more than light entertainment. I loved the show's watercolor-style backgrounds, and the quirky character designs. The voice artists found just the right note for each character. And nobody was supposed to take any of it seriously. Could an island about six miles in diameter support pigs, goats, elephants, crocodiles, wombats, porcupines, turtles, and man-eating rutabagas? Could a seven-year-old (Og) really build a particle accelerator out of bamboo poles, coconuts and conch shells? How can a crew of presumably all male pirates on nearby island have descendants 300 years later? C'mon, folks. It's just a cartoon.
But there was some surprisingly smart stuff just at the edges of the pratfalls and pies in the face. Swenson's "fish out of water" premise (Manhattanite among the islanders) was often a double-edged sword. Mike missed her NYC perks, until Og brought them to life on the island, and Mike was reminded that the Good Life had its price. Whether it was rollerskating, 24/7 neon lights or the mystery of what goes into a hot dog, what seemed at first like a good idea would end up getting way out of hand once reinterpreted by the local islanders.
There was also an amazing amount of backstory. The islanders are actually descendants of two clans (the Albonquetines and the Cuzzlewitts) who survived an 18th century shipwreck (the HMS Betty Anne, piloted by Joshua Wendel Albonquetine), and who parted ways after a bitter feud (reportedly over a bad wig). And then there's Michelline "Mike" Mavinsky, apparently from a New York parochial school, where a Sister Ignatius once accused her of having a terminal smirk. Why does everyone (including Mike) pronounce her last name "Mazinsky"? All that is material straight from the show.
"Mike, Lu & Og" never broke new ground or raised the bar, but then, it never set out to. It was just a cartoon, with an exotic setting and look, likable characters and some unexpectedly sharp quips. The music was fun, too. As I said, you love it or you hate it. Me, I liked it.
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