(This review may be a day late, but at least it fits within the series’ themes: ANYTHING THAT CAN GO WRONG WILL GO WRONG!)
In this current climate of media, when the masses love something, they cannot help but want more. They want a sequel. They want the same spark, that same bolt-of-lightning-inspired creativity that made the first a hit.
That hit was Phineas and Ferb.
Its successor, Milo Murphy’s Law.
So far… Milo Murphy’s Law, as it pains me to say it, falls somewhat flat in the first quarter of the first season. Phineas and Ferb proper wasted no time in showing, not telling the audience about the world around it. That series juggled sometimes four concurrent sub-plots at once in the span of ten minutes, and almost ten or more characters per episode (again, within ten minutes) and not losing steam or viewer interest. The characters were unique and interesting (just look at Phineas’ head!), the colors were vibrant and the plots exciting…
So… WHAT could go wrong?
The basic premise of Milo Murphy’s Law involves a boy who is the descendant of the original “Murphy” from the phrase “Murphy’s Law” where “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” and that indeed does happen. Initially it seems like a hard premise to accept, but like its sister series, the viewer gets used to the idea that Milo is a walking hazard unto himself and others, but his pluckiness and quick-thinking (along with some help from his friends) help him get out of any problem. Admittedly, I thought this, even though I seriously tried to give this show a fighting chance, it paid off.
It really did.
This show, to me, follows the “artichoke model” of storytelling, as most recent story-driven shows do. There are the “leaves”, the “core”, the “hairs”, and then the “heart” of the story. The first few episodes of the show are the leaves that you grow accustomed to as you make your way through the show. You learn about the world, and the characters. This happens piecemeal throughout the first four shorts or so (episodes being twenty-two minutes of two eleven-minute standalone stories, or shorts). The core and the hairs of this show make themselves apparent in that time: There are no stakes. We all know that Milo will not die, there is no big secret hinging the plot together, and there does not seem to be any major conflict (not yet, anyways).
When we get to around episode 5 or so, the hairs of the “artichoke” shift to reveal the heart of the show (and possibly earlier, depending on how good your eyes are).
Pistachios. (Sorry it isn’t an artichoke heart.)
Throughout the show, there are two time-traveling pistachio salesmen (Dakota and Cavendish, voiced by show creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, respectively) that show up at least once an episode (maybe more, once per short?) in the background. They become more seen as the show goes on, and they finally have their own sub-plot by episode 5. The issue is that it takes too long of a time for them to be relevant. The episodes preceding their main appearance were consisting of one plot: Milo goes somewhere, chaos ensues, he gets out of it. Now with two plots, the show is more even and it drags less. These two bumbling time-travelers designated to protect the pistachio’s existence are fun to watch, especially now that they (rightly?) identify Milo being the direct source of their missions’ failure. Their boss (voiced by Mark Hamill, who I really love, but am afraid is reaching over-saturation) is a good character and I look forward to meeting the character when not behind a screen (Major Monogram, is that you?) Whether they will actually be antagonists or side-characters remains to be seen.
Milo and his friends are standard characters: the plucky, optimistic boy, his cool friend Zack (with a singing history in his past?), and the confident girl who can do it all, Melissa. They also seem bland at first, but they grow into their own, with Milo (voiced by Al Yankovic, a voice that I still cannot get used to coming out of a child) being the character that I still warm up to the least. Much like Phineas, he seems to have no character flaws, but again, that remains to be seen. Melissa is a great character, with a sassy comment or a helping hand at the ready (the female characters are a stand-out in this show. Seriously.) The female characters are all very well-written with motives aside from one objective, something that the Phineas and Ferb failed to do at points.
The other characters are good, with a special mention to the crossing guard character (Christian Slater, who else?) who has the best scene in the show involving a duck. There is no music and the joke goes on for 30 seconds or so and it’s perfect. Awkward comedy is on the rise recently, and I personally am a huge fan, so this show may need more of that. Milo’s family is alright (relatively speaking), with his father having the same curse as him, so their disaster-preparedness is on high-alert. His sister is voiced by Kate Micucci, who also voices Webby on Ducktales, so while it took a bit to get used to the two characters being separate, she still is a good character. She’s into a parody of Doctor Who called The Doctor Zone Files and her plots help identify the side of fan groups that take things a little too far, so that is appreciated.
The animation is smoother in this show, and better that Phineas and Ferb’s. The crisp, clean colors and smooth lines make the show look nice, and the animation style is unmistakably Dan and “Swampy”. The soundtrack is good, also, and while the first songs sung by Al Yankovic have his bouncy, “Weird Al” sound, the music and songs develop into its own thing that culminates in a great lumberjack song (context for this would spoil the surprise) in episode 7A (“Secrets and Pies”), and then keeps getting better and even catchier. The writing, while minimal, is still very good, and getting better with every short, sometimes referencing and poking fun at Phineas and Ferb, which it knows is a returning demographic. My top three episodes so far are 7A (“Secrets and Pies” with the best visuals), 8A (“The Substitute”, with the best humor), and 10B (“The Math Book”, with the best plot and character use).
This show is good, and it’s finding its groove fast, and I look forward to it picking up speed. The characters, plots, and are coming into their own, and with the last episode I have watched 10B (“The Math Book”) setting such a high bar, I hope to see the show be incredible by the Season 1 Finale…
If everything goes right, that is.