‘Breadwinners,’ ducks deserve better
So do our kids. Nickelodeon cartoon series just isn't funny.
February 11, 2014
Some of the best comedy writing feels free-associated. Think of many of Monty Python’s classic sketches, full of barbers who want to be lumberjacks and Vikings chanting about Spam.
Perhaps emboldened by the Pythons’ success, too many less gifted comedy writers have produced whimsically illogical concepts that build and build but go nowhere. Such writing has even infected children’s programming.
The latest example, Nickelodeon’s “Breadwinners,” is a cartoon about two ducks who deliver various bizarre forms of bread to the mostly anatine residents of their city. The loaves, which are mined underground, are baked by a mystical character named the Bread Maker, whom the ducks can summon by rubbing a magic toaster.
Too noisy and violent for little kids and too stupid for big kids, “Breadwinners” is also too hectic for the stoner niche of the Adult Swim audience, who might otherwise appreciate its randomness. Even its creators probably don’t think it’s funny.
Premiering next Monday, Feb. 17, at 7:30 p.m. (its regular time slot is Saturdays at 11 a.m.), “Breadwinners” tells the adventures of the bossy SwaySway (voiced by Robbie Daymond) and the manic Buhdeuce (Eric Bauza), who deliver bread in a rocket-powered flying van. They’re ridiculously enthusiastic about their job.
In the first episode, the friends are despondent when they have an extra dozen loaves that no one seems to want. Then they get a call to deliver the bread to the toughest part of town, the Lower Yeast Side, where they encounter a gang of biker ducks and an alley monster.
When the bikers and the monster sneak onto the van, Buhdeuce knocks them out with a “booty kick.”
“Your butt, your butt,” raps SwaySway. “You saved us with your butt.”
In the second cartoon in the premiere, Buhdeuce and SwaySway venture down into the bread mines, where they meet the Bread Maker. Told they should use the magic toaster only in emergencies, the awestruck friends can’t resist summoning the Bread Maker to ask him questions like “What’s your favorite kind of bread” and “Are your pecs bigger or smaller than coconuts?”
In the second episode provided for review, Buhdeuce eats a loaf of “stank bread,” which could give him permanent bad breath, and the friends train their pet frog to fetch.
There’s no evidence that the creators, Steve Borst and Gary Di Raffaele, wrote the scripts in less time than it takes to read them aloud, but we wouldn’t be surprised to hear they had. The SwaySway and Buhdeuce’s alpha-beta male bond is hackneyed, and the dialogue and plots are witless.
The songs, which have a lite hip-hop feel, are deliberately repetitive and annoying.
The character design is derivative, and too many of the sight gags are accidents that involve innocent bystanders. But in a welcome departure from most modern TV cartoons, the bystanders usually survive.
That’s an unexpected bit of mercy. Nickelodeon could have been more merciful by refraining from airing “Breadwinners” at all.
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