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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Eek! The Cat

It’s no secret that some of my favourite cartoons that have ever been made are those that like to make fun of themselves.

Some examples that I can think of at the moment include some of the more recent prime-time animated hits that are currently airing.  “South Park”, “Family Guy”, “American Dad”, “The Cleveland Show”, and “The Simpsons” often spoof pop culture and bust through the fourth wall.  And, I think that’s why I enjoy them so much.  For one, it offers a creative new twist to old favourites, but another reason is that I find it refreshing when people can take the time to laugh at themselves once in a while.  I remember that there were some times in which I have been a little stiff and have been instructed to loosen up a little bit.  Thankfully, I think I’ve done a fairly good job stopping and smelling the roses.

In most cases, these types of cartoons have aired during the prime-time hours.  Whether you watch “The Simpsons” or “South Park”, or used to watch “The Critic”, “Futurama”, or “King of the Hill”, you’d be hard pressed to find a channel on television that aired episodes of the program before one in the afternoon.  This makes perfect sense, when you consider that the majority of these episodes are marketed towards an adult audience.  There were hardly any Saturday morning cartoons that made an effort to spoof everything under the sun because I believe that some television executives weren’t convinced that young kids would grasp the humour.  The closest example that I could think of when I was a little boy was “Muppet Babies”, and even that was considered tame compared to the adult prime-time counterparts.

Yet, FOX managed to create one show that did all that.  It was a show that began airing when I was eleven, and yet I was able to understand most of the pop culture references that the show was spoofing, and it made me chuckle.  There was just something about this show that made me want to watch it week after week.  It was brilliant enough that people got the references and the humour right away, but it was fun enough for kids to enjoy the slapstick comedy that often befell the main character.

I’d say that the show format was sort of like Family Guy, minus the adult vibe, combined with Sylvester the Cat and a little dash of Rocko’s Modern Life.  Put them all together, and you get this big purple cat!


(No, I didn’t scream.  That’s the name of the character of the show that we’re focusing on.)

The show was Eek! The Cat, and it debuted on the FOX channel on September 11, 1992.  The show was created by the team of Bill Kopp and Savage Steve Holland. (Kopp himself voiced Eek).  The duo had previously worked together nearly ten years earlier on a particular game show.

Yes, Kopp and Holland were the team behind the dastardly Whammies that appeared to take away the hard earned dollars won by the contestants of “Press Your Luck”, which aired between 1983 and 1986.

The idea for Eek! The Cat was inspired by the living situation of Savage Steve Holland.  In his younger years, Savage Steve Holland shared his home with several cats, one of which was named Eek.  Initial character designs of Eek were slightly different than what appeared in the cartoon.  Eek was originally coloured pink instead of purple, and the show was originally titled “The Six and a Half Lives of Eek the Cat”.

And, given all the things that happened to poor Eek, he needed every single one of those lives.

You see, all Eek ever wanted to do was help people.  In fact, one of his favourite sayings was “it never hurts to help”.

Too bad that in Eek’s case, it almost always did.

In almost every single episode of the series, Eek had the very best of intentions when it came to assisting others in need.  And, for the most part, he succeeded in his quest...even if he ended up falling down a flight of stairs, getting squashed by household objects, or running away from his nemesis, Sharky the Sharkdog.

At least you can say that Eek always meant well.

And, just who are some of the friends that Eek tried to help?  Well, let’s take a look.

There’s Elmo the Elk (Savage Steve Holland), an elk who is extremely loyal to Eek...but also ends up being incredibly dumb as well.  He often finds work in performing stunts, which seems to have affected his brain.  After all, he does insist that June has thirty-one days.  Or, maybe he just doesn’t like Canada Day?  Who knows?  He tries to act courageous, but then again, he never was praised for his acting ability.  He would probably make Wade the Duck from U.S. Acres look like the Terminator by comparison.

And, then there’s Eek’s beloved girlfriend, Annabelle (voiced by both Tawny Kitaen and Karen Haber).  Annabelle is a big, bold, beautiful cat with a heart as big as her entire body.  As you have seen in the picture included with this blog, Annabelle is certainly no skinny pencil, and that suits Eek just fine.  Eek doesn’t see Annabelle as being fat, and often seems shocked when other people comment on her size.  All he sees is her, and he’s proud to say that he’s lucky to have more of her to love.

NOTE:  You see, everyone?  Not EVERYONE is so hung up on looks.  When a person is in love, all they see is them.  Not their flaws.  Eek, you are totally my hero!

Ahem...moving right along...

Eek is a typical housecat where he lives with a single mother (Elinor Donahue), and her two children Wendy Elizabeth (E.G. Daily) and J.B. (Charlie Adler).  In many ways, Eek is considered to be the sane member of the family, as the mother is too busy trying to listen to foreign language tapes, and the kids are mesmerized by “The Squishy Bearz Rainbow of Enchanted Fun Minute”.

TRIVIA:  The Squishy Bearz were a spoof of the popular “Care Bears” show.  Three of the bears, Kozy (E.G. Daily), Puffy, and Wuz Wuz (Cam Clarke) are happy and want to spread happiness and friendliness to all.  The fourth bear, a French accented green bear named Pierre (Bill Kopp), is contrastingly bitter and angry at the world.

Eek has also made some enemies during his lifetime.  The most obvious one is Sharky, who happens to be Annabelle’s  Guard Shark?  Whatever the case, Sharky hates Eek with a passion, and he goes well out of his way to make Eek’s life a misery.  Consider their relationship to be similar to Garfield and Odie’s relationship on steroids.

Eek also has an enemy that is truly out of this world in the form of the evil alien Zoltar (Brad Garrett).  Zoltar’s main concern is destroying the world with a giant laser beam.  But in order to make that happen, he has to abduct Annabelle to use her large frame as a battery to power his laser.  Of course, Eek being head over tail in love with Annabelle won’t let that happen.

There’s also a couple of characters who make sporadic appearances in the form of running gags.  Piggy the Penguin resembles a certain character from “Lord of the Flies”, and in the example below, you can see that the psychotic character of Alice kind of resembles the character of Amanda Woodward from “Melrose Place”.

TRIVIA:  Yes, that really is Heather Locklear voicing Alice.  She was just one of several guest stars who appeared on the program.  Others included William Shatner, David Duchovny, Weird Al Yankovic, Fabio, Kurtwood Smith, Tim Curry, John Landis, Jaid Barrymore, and the late Phil Hartman.

The first season of Eek! The Cat were full length episodes.  By the second season premiere in 1993, the Eek segments were edited down to ten or eleven minutes in length.  The rest of the time was allotted to a cartoon series called “The Terrible Thunderlizards”.  As a result, the title sequence was changed slightly.

A third title change, “Eek-Stravaganza” was implemented in 1994, right around the time that a new segment called “Klutter” was added, which rotated with the Thunderlizards.  This was the final change to the program, which lasted until the show aired its last episode in August 1997.

Eek! The Cat even had its own video game release for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1994, which itself was a re-porting of a 1993 Amiga game.  Have a look at a portion of the game play below.  It was quite a fun game to play, though at times could be quite frustrating.

It’s therefore quite frustrating to know that Eek! The Cat doesn’t have a release on DVD or Blu-Ray yet.  Maybe one day it will.  Heck, I may end up buying it myself.  I always loved the show.

And, after writing this blog, I hope those of you who remember the show loved it too.  Hey, maybe I’ve even converted some new fans to the program.  You never know.

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