Netflix’s “Big Mouth” – which recently released its second season — marks the latest sea change in Things You Can Do on Television, as it chronicles 12- and 13-year-olds entering puberty. But unlike “The Simpsons” in the 1990s and “Family Guy” in the 2000s, there has been little hand-wringing from parents’ TV groups about “Big Mouth,” which opens with episodes where Andrew (John Mulaney) ejaculates in his drawers at a school dance and Jessi (Jessi Klein) has her first period on a field trip while wearing white shorts. Fortunately for its creators, “Big Mouth” also exists in the most prolific age of TV history: There’s so much out there that watchdog groups can’t keep up.
In its final 10 episodes, “Valerian and Laureline: Time Jam” wraps up by riffing heavily on the “Star Wars” prequels, but it stands as its own thing thanks to its trademark bevy of wild ideas – many involving time travel, as the series fully embraces its title. And as had been telegraphed in the sitcom-esque bickering flirtation (or flirtatious bickering?) heading into the closing credits of many episodes, the saga’s final statement is about Valerian’s and Laureline’s relationship … although it’s not exactly what I hoped for.
The “Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline” writers finally give us the cute romantic sequence they had been so obviously holding back from us in the 30th episode, “Get With the Times,” and darn if it isn’t almost tear-jerking. Laureline must stay on a planet and press a button after Valerian takes off in their ship; they can’t both depart.
Whether it’s because I’m more used to the show’s rhythms or because the scripts are getting better, I enjoyed episodes 11-20 more than the first 10 episodes of “Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline.” These aren’t the comics’ Valerian and Laureline, who love each other and don’t make a big deal about it. These versions of V&L are melodramatic; every time a second male is in the story, we get a love triangle because of Valerian’s itchy-trigger-finger jealousy.
The “Valerian and Laureline” franchise follows a similar pattern to the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” empire. Both started with a comic aimed at adults (or at least young adults), were franchised into a cartoon aimed at kids, and then a movie aimed somewhere in between. In each case, those in charge rejiggered the characters, vehicles, settings, plot and purpose.
There are broad “Star Wars” parodies, and then there are insider-y “Star Wars” parodies, and then there’s a near-perfect mix of the two: The “Family Guy” episode “Blue Harvest,” which aired 10 years ago today. According to the DVD’s bonus features, the project came about when Lucasfilm approved all of “Family Guy’s” “Star Wars” parodies and Seth MacFarlane and company figured why not ask if they could do a whole episode?
Disney’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is getting a lot of buzz, an odd contrast to the last time a “Star Wars” film outside of the numbered episodes premiered. In August 2008, I mentioned “The Clone Wars” movie to friends, and they responded with “There’s a new ‘Star Wars’ movie out?” Although it was a wide-release film, there wasn’t much of a marketing push behind it, because George Lucas decided fairly late in the game to release the first four-episode arc of the new TV series as a “movie.”
Now in its third season, “Star Wars Rebels” (8:30 p.m. Saturdays on Disney XD) has almost entirely caught up to “The Clone Wars” in production value. Even though Disney is spending less money than Lucasfilm did, the animated library of elements is now vast enough to give “Rebels” a more vibrant look, while still retaining the concept that the Ghost crew is operating on the fringes. Also, with the excellent character work done in the back half of Season 2, I like the crew of the Ghost and I care what happens to them. In the first three episodes of Season 3 (“Steps into Shadow” Parts 1 and 2 and “Holocrons of Fate”), “Rebels” keeps the momentum going.
I’ve been slower than most fans to embrace Disney’s take on “Star Wars.” Even though “Star Wars Rebels” features “Clone Wars’ “ executive producer Dave Filoni in one of the drivers’ seats, I still resented the end of “The Clone Wars” and felt bad for all the talented Lucasfilm folks who were laid off in the Disney takeover. And indeed, the Mouse’s tighter purse strings were evident in “Rebels’ ” first season, from the emptiness of Lothal’s streets to Ezra’s hair being cartoonishly still even when he hangs upside down.
After a generally strong first season, “Ewoks” Season 2 (1986, ABC) purposely dumbs things down and lightens things up, apparently in an attempt to draw younger viewers – as in “just learning how to walk and talk” young. Of the 22 episodes, only four are a full 22 minutes long (a half-hour with commercials); the others are 11 minutes (15 minutes with commercials). As you’d expect, the 11-minute episodes are simple fables about how to be a good person/Ewok.