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"Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries" Vol. 1: Flawed Concept, Fitful Laughs

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Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries is a mish-mash of two very different genres: Scooby Doo-esque mystery show and slapstick comedy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t excel at either one.

The plot has Granny starting a detective agency, which takes her globe-trotting with cat Sylvester, bird Tweety, and dog Hector. While Granny is solving the cases, Sylvester is using every opportunity to nab the yellow canary (oh why doesn’t he just order take-in and call it a day?), while Hector keeps Sylvester from harming Tweety. Often that trio’s antics will inadvertently uncover clues in the chaos. Their adventures take them everywhere from Japan to Scotland to an international cruise, among many other places.

I give the writing team credit for trying to do something different with this part of the Looney Tunes franchise; and to be fair, the characters at least act like their old-school selves.

But the concept just doesn’t work. First of all, I always felt the original S/T shorts worked better when Sylvester was a stray instead of Granny’s pet. It’s a more believable scenario; why would someone keep a pet who perpetually wants to kill another pet? So that’s one strike right there. Strike two: Why is Hector even here? While he was in some of the original S&T shorts, he adds nothing to the show that couldn’t have easily been filled by Tweety himself. Is Tweety not capable of protecting himself any more, or in letting Sylvester foil himself with his own bad plans? Guess not.

And perhaps worst of all, as I alluded to above, the combination of genres doesn’t gel well. Besides the fact that Granny and the pets weren’t detective characters in the original shorts, so that they feel forced into a concept they weren’t made for, there’s often barely enough material to cover the running time, as each 20-minute episode only contains one story. As Looney Tunes were only seven minutes to begin with, three times the length means things get really stretched, even with the added mystery element. It’s incredibly easy to figure out even at the beginning of an episode who will be the culprit (much like Scooby), so the rest of the running time is padded with murder attempts, S&T chases, and sleuthing, which is all relatively pointless and uninvolving. And there are times when Granny’s investigations will be separate from the Sylvester and Tweety chase, which only adds to the feeling of an unnatural combination.

In addition, Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries didn’t have me laughing too much, which is a crime for a series starring Looney Tunes characters. Tweety’s jokes to the camera are corny. We’ve seen most of the physical comedy before in some capacity, whether in the old shorts or on Tiny Toons or Animaniacs, and too often the execution on the gags is off: Sylvester taking all sorts of comic abuse isn’t automatically funny; it’s in the context, which the show doesn’t understand most of the time. In the original shorts, he often brought about his own misfortunes in his efforts to catch Tweety, but here, where he’s beaten to a pulp so many times and in all situations, the impact is lessened. Many times when Granny is interrogating the suspects or searching for clues, the comedy is diminished or absent entirely. And the cameos by Looney Tunes stars such as Hubie and Bertie, Little Red Riding Hood (“TO HAVE!”) and Yosemite Sam doesn’t do the characters justice; nearly every line by Sam falls flat, which is a shame because he’s one of my favorite Looney Tunes characters.

That’s not to say the show is a total failure. Some of the sight gags and facial expressions are funny and well-executed, at least on the Tokyo Movie Shinsa-animated episodes. (The ones by Koko don’t fare quite as well.) The scene-specific orchestral music is always welcome. (Speaking of music, I can at least say that the opening theme is just one of the many catchy, memorable WB Animation theme songs.) The variety of locales means each episode offers something new from a visual standpoint. And most episodes open with an amusing gag where a top notch detective is called about the case, but they’re busy and recommend a call to Granny instead. There are also a few clever exchanges here and there, such as in an episode about a sheep thief: “How many sheep do you have?” “We’ve tried counting them, but ended up falling asleep.”

This 2-disc DVD set is pretty bare bones; outside of some WB trailers, it’s void of special features, which is unsurprising, since this wasn’t exactly one of WB’s more popular entries like, say, Tiny Toons or Animaniacs. Stiil, at least the video quality was acceptable, though the TMS episodes definitely were more crisp and sharp than the comparatively softer Koko episodes, but that’s a difference in animation studios, not transfer errors.

If you’re a Sylvester and Tweety fan, I’d recommend just watching the old shorts again; the comedy is better executed and they aren’t saddled with uninspired “whodunnit?” plotlines, either. The show has its moments, but sadly not enough of them. That said, I have heard that the series improves after the first season. But these initial thirteen episodes left me fairly underwhelmed.