There’s nothing really wrong with casting Adam West as Razzle Novak, cocksure daredevil stuntman and father of Moonbeam City cop Dazzle Novak. But after decades of semi-ironic West appreciation, and plenty of adult-targeted animated shows happy to riff on semi-ironic icons for laughs, there is something about the guest role on “Stuntzstravaganza” that feels a little less than inspired. Nothing against West or the low, slightly cheesy and always engaging quality of his voice; he does well enough as Razzle. In fact, it’s probably not even West in general so much as his role not being conceived in an especially clever or distinctive way.
“Stuntzstravaganza” delves a little into Dazzle’s backstory, revealing him as a slightly plump teenager mooning over his father’s car stunt show, yearning to earn his old man’s respect by learning to drive skillfully and recklessly enough to pull off the “quintriple flip ‘n split.” He’s reminded of this quest by the show’s breakneck cold open, in which he encounters Rad on the way to work, quickly escalating insults into a racing challenge: If Rad makes it to police headquarters first, he gets to park in Razzle’s primo parking spot. After an amped-up chase and a filed quintriple flip ‘n split, Rad wins, whereupon it is revealed that his own parking spot is, in fact, the second-closest to the elevator. Still, Dazzle’s relinquishing of his first-closest spot stings, and he seeks out his father, now employed as an ersatz cop in a cheesy stunt show at Mooniversal Studios.
This plot turns into police work quite accidentally (and then only briefly); eventually, Dazzle must solve his father’s murder. It’s amusing stuff, and Dazzle’s racetrack-set flashbacks add some extra visual pop with their hot yellow haze. The storyline also provides a welcome opportunity for Chrysalis, probably the least reliably hilarious of our four main characters, to get some funny stuff to do, clumsily affecting a masculine stuntman voice in a bulky get-up slightly reminiscent of the MacGruber drag Kristen Wiig’s character is forced into wearing in MacGruber (I know Archer is the reference point for a lot of people with Moonbeam City, but I keep coming back to MacGruber, possibly because left to my own devices, I will always keep coming back to MacGruber). But really, the best parts of this episode don’t have much to do with the main plot, which includes some gags that feel almost fill-in-the-blank predictable, the kind of lines where you can say the punchline along with them as it rolls out. There’s a certain pleasure in some kinds of inevitable jokes, especially when the joke in question is a deeply silly pun, but it’s also antithetical to the kind of sudden surprises these kinds of animated shows purport to offer.
Where “Stuntzstravaganza” shows its real inspiration is in Rad’s subplot. After triumphantly parking in Dazzle’s slightly closer parking space, he attempts to exit the parking garage, only to realize he has misplaced his validation card. Valid-8, the smiley-faced robotic guardian of the exit, makes maddeningly polite and repeated requests for his card, and informs him that a lost card will cost him thirty dollars. Harkening back to past intimations that Rad is, perhaps, either not great with money or downright poor, he refuses to pay, and is eventually pursued by a vengeful robot into the bowels of the parking garage. He eventually makes it all the way down to P174, and this is the kind of insane escalation of something relatively mundane that Moonbeam City does so well. The parking-garage adventure sort of peters off before rejoining the main story at the end, which is probably the right move if the idea is to make an episode about Dazzle, Razzle, and, eventually, the ghost of Razzle. But I could’ve stayed down in the depths of the garage with Rad for all twentysomething minutes.
- This week in Moonbeam City names: Actually, not their best effort. Yes, it’s funny enough that Dazzle’s father is named Razzle and that his grandfather is Frazzle. But kind of first-level for this show. “Speed Damon,” the imitation cop Razzle plays in the stunt show, isn’t bad, though, and there’s a certain simple silliness in the single-minded ticket validation machine Valid-8. Ditto Mooniversal Studios; this show can be funny even when it seems like maybe they’re not trying so hard, which is an endearing quality.
- Further possible proof of Rad’s cheapness: his personal effects, as inspected by a frustrated Pizzaz, include a “barely-used condom.”
- I didn’t love the stuntman story, but the gag work in the stuntman bar, where the jukebox can only be operated by smashing a head through it, is pretty strong stuff.
- I admit, I don’t really have much affection for the old Batman TV series, which may be why Adam West guest spots leave me a little cold.