Thursday, August 07, 2008

He learned the game from his uncle James


As many of you out there may have already noticed from the small but growing number of ads and trailers, the latest Bond movie will be hitting the theaters sometime in November. While the ads and trailers may stir up a hunger for a "Quantum of Solace" for most, the ads abruptly triggered in me an inexplicable, acute episode of childhood TV nostalgia. Like some latent pop culture acid flashback, I suddenly recalled for the first time in years, the short lived "James Bond Jr." Saturday morning cartoon series. I was quite surprised (and a bit disturbed) at just how much I remembered: the words to the Bond pastiche theme song, the unnecessarily large, politically correct, mixed cast of sidekicks, the goofy looking updated Odd Job in the loud tracksuit, even the underrated but ridiculously difficult SNES game (that I totally now remember playing at my friend's house).

It does seem a bit surprising that someone who perpetually lives in a state of arrested pop culture development had until recently so throughly forgotten about such an obvious piece of childhood television. I think the best, most logical, explanation is that the show just wasn't all that good or memorable. Bond Jr. basically took the James Bond franchise and stripped it of most of its essential core elements. The violence was curbed to GI Joe levels where only buildings and objects ever really suffered causalities with the villains getting away all the time. There was the inability to do any characteristic Bond activity that required one to be over 18 (drinking martinis, entering casinos, playing adult themed video games). Most egregiously, Bond's legendary womanizing and general manwhoring was neutered to the level of G rated psedo-flirting. In the end Bond Jr. was a lot more "If Looks Could Kill" Richard Grieco than the spiritual successor to his "uncle" James. In fact how does one become the "Jr." to one's uncle? Obviously the implication is that Bond Jr. is the result of an illicit tryst between his mother and his uncle; which would place his nameless father just above Uncle Owen in the great pantheon of "loser brothers of famous father/son characters."

Regardless of the retrospective crappiness of the show, the fact that I did end up remembering so much about it points to the undeniable fact that as a kid I probably enjoyed it. It's like me and "Full House." No matter how much of a positive nostalgic twist I can put on it, I can barely make it through a re-run these days, even though as a kid it was probably one of my all time favorite shows. The older I get the more unappealing "Full House" becomes to me (although I suspect that once I reach a certain elderly age, I'll start to go back to liking it more). It is actually a pretty good yardstick in determining how much I've changed over the years. Such is probably the case with the old James Bond Jr. series. My eight year old self probably found every episode of Bond Jr. (along with episodes of "The New Adventures of Speed Racer" and "The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest") genuinely entertaining and exciting rather than derivative or hackneyed .

So I guess the real lesson in all this is children have generally low standards when it comes to entertainment. If you are a producer of entertainment and want to really exploit the youth market you have to hit them young before they begin to develop troublesome concepts like "taste", "criticism", or "irony." All this then begs the question: Why haven't they made a James Bond Jr. film yet?!? We've already gone through three Spy Kids (with a 4th in production for 2010) and two Cody Banks films. The producers of the Bond franchise have a perfect opportunity to cash in on this bizarre seemingly insatiable appetite for underage secret agent films. Slap together a cute kid, a few cgi stunts, some evil but ultimately bumbling antagonists, a special appearance by the Jonas Brothers and you've got yourself a blockbuster heir to the name!

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