Review by Diana and Wraith6
Chris Elliott -- Dogbert
Kathy Griffin -- Alice
Jackie Hoffman -- Dilmom
Gordon Hunt -- Wally
Larry Miller -- the Pointy-Haired Boss
Daniel Stern -- Dilbert
Executive Producer: Larry Charles
Creator: Scot Adams
Rating: Imperial Star Destroyer
Some people thought this was a dumb idea, and they even thought the episodes were dumb. Broadcast in 1999 and 2000, I'm not sure why the show was cancelled, but needless to say, I loved it and resorted to finding mpgs on the WWW. Now a DVD of all 30 episodes is available!
I think the show got shut down because the humor is convoluted, twisted and clever, and was too much so for the average TV-viewing audience ... this works on a one-joke at a time basis of a 3 panel daily comic strip, where this is room for only one gaglet. A half-hour show likely has too much going on to follow easily -- good ideas are often a matter of execution and media, and it's not always possible to make the jump from one medium to another. But maybe I'm twisted in a manner similar to the way Scot Adams, the creator of Dilbert, is ... the shows are based on his highly successful comic strip series, and I happen to love both of these.
The episodes tend to concentrate of Dilbert's clueless "I want to make the world a better place" angst, Wally's blatant lack of morality or ethics, the Pointy-haired boss's managerial doofiness, Alice's militant competence and femaleness, and of course, Dogbert's general cynicism and genius. It's as if the world has gone mad so that even an geeky engineer like Dilbert ends up looking sane and normal. I love his mother (not Mombert, but Dilmom!) who is more like Dogbert than like her son. She does in-your-face victory jigs when she scores high on Scrabble.
Major themes do come from the comics -- for instance, the country of Elbonia (a 4th-World very non-PC type of place), where mud is the basis of the local economy (as well as a food source) and a the en-bearded men and women are a source of "high quality code for 3 cents a day" and other labor phenoms. Anything the creator might find ridiculous in the corporate or regulatory universe is open for ridicule. I happen to agree with his take on many things. Maybe because I work in computer-y / regulatory / art fields?
I also think Stephen Hawking and relativity vs. Newtonian physics arguements are cool. I think "environmental calamity testers" are necessary but often manipulative and scary smart guys. I think pontificating is an ineffective way of communicating. I think women turn into jellybrains around certain types of men. I think a little egg-shaped dog can not only wear glasses and talk, but can save or ruin the world. And I'm not a pet person!
It was truly refreshing to watch Dogbert sell baseballs to hit a street urchin in the noggin, so you can win a prize pilfered from Dilbert. I think Catbert could have been more evil. And Bob the Dinosaur should have been featured more. To some extent, there is the assumption that you know about the characters already. Like Dilbert trying to achieve normalness while vacationing with intern Ashok in the 5th floor handicapped toilet -- you need to understand that context to think it's not weird. Or the acceptance Dilbert suffers when he finds his long-lost, well-fed, and philosophical father.
While it may be true that Adams and the production company might have needed to do more work to hone the series scripts for the popular masses I don't agree that it would have improved the content. In general, making things more palatable to the public means to water it down a lot. Bulletin boards online tend to compare it to the Simpsons -- which, by the way, is indeed a creation of a comic "strip" creator, was never a comic strip itself. So I wonder why people keep trying to compare the two? Simply because they are both cartoons? Or because of that assumption thing that one experience will be identical to the next? Or maybe it's because Scot Adams sees nothing wrong with grabbing his brass rings while he can? (He also merchandises heavily and owns a food company that sells the very vegetarian "Dilburrito" -- it's true!)
Like for many animated series, people seem to assume that this series must fill pre-established niches from another world. But cartoons are now much more creative, and many are darker and more complex than a live action production might be able to portray. Kevin Smith's Clerks is like that, as is Sam & Max, which ended up on Fox Kids, if you can imagine such a thing! (What were they thinking???) So it might be that an animated show requires a broader mindset. Remember that before you think you're showing off how smart you are when you denigrate them for not being enough like a children's show! (That's the basic premise of every episode, we think. More reason to watch the DVD.)
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