Last weekend, after some Batman: The Animated Series episodes and the associated nostalgia (and after the fact appreciation) I started thinking about the other dark and moody cartoon of the day: Gargoyles. I recalled bits and pieces of the show, the characters, some of the plots, and, above all else, the seriously epic (for a cartoon aimed at tweens/early teens) opening music and titles.
The related links for that revealed that the entire first season is up on YouTube (it starts here.) That, in return, led to a Sunday afternoon spent watching the entirety of that season. This was the first time I’ve watched this show since I was in, probably, grade nine. And you know what? It holds up pretty well. Considering the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia that always taint later viewings of most childhood memories, that’s quite the accomplishment.
Thinking back to the years when Gargoyles and Batman aired, 1993 and 1994, I was reminded of another show from that era that I used to follow religiously: Exosquad. Unlike the former shows, which aired one after the other in the afternoon after school on the local (Buffalo) Fox station, Exosquad was a relatively niche show relegated to ungodly morning hours. I would wake at 6am on school days, without fail, to catch it. I needed to know how the war ended.
The series featured human-piloted “frames” engaging in battle in space and around the solar system, clearly influenced by the likes of Battletech and Robotech (or any human-piloted robots in space anime show, of which there were a few.) There were toys. That’s worth mentioning because, at times, it felt like some of the poorer decisions in the show were committed because it was a kids cartoon and certain conventions (merchandise related and otherwise) were mandated. My biggest criticisms of season one of Gargoyles are the same. Despite all this Exosquad was one of those rare shows — especially for that time, and doubly so for a cartoon — that had a long, single season story arc.
The series began with the human fleet investigating space pirate activity in the far depths of the solar system. During this distraction, neo sapien forces, a bio engineered race of humans who weren’t permitted to create weapons, launched their attack on the homeworlds from their base on Mars. Earth was captured and occupied while the fleet was away and the rest of the series is their attempt to free it. And that’s just the first five episodes! With all its allusions to the World War and Nazi Germany, this clearly was a cartoon that was as thematically distinct as it was structurally.
In hindsight, Exosquad and Gargoyles and (another little show that first premiered in 1993) Babylon 5 highly influenced my future TV preferences. Tastes that, nerdy sci-fi aside, involve shows that focus on continuous stories, character development, and a more long-form structure (rather than a purely episodic one.) These predilections continue to this day. Sometimes they still involve nerdy sci-fi.
The show’s floated around the internet for a while as a series of low-quality VHS rips, but it’s now available Hulu (if you’re in the US; I’m not). For the rest of us: it’s, finally, coming out on DVD this Tuesday. It’s not the entire series, but here’s hoping that the rest follows.
This also means that I can cross off one of the four entries on my “list of the top shows that I grew up with that do not have a DVD release” that I posted over four years ago. They’ve sure been taking their time, but a quick search reveals two more entries can be scratched off in the next two months: The Dana Carvey Show in May, and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose in June. Oh man, nostalgia boner.
- The show gets a little too lost in the quagmire of its own plots, and the third season, which I haven’t seen, is apparently a Saturday morning-ified abomination without any of the creators involved. But the first season, on its own, was quite good.
- I believe it started at regular-ish hours somewhere, but by the time I started watching the show it was pulled. It was a miracle I found it being aired at those hours anyway since that wasn’t, and still isn’t, the time of day when I’d find myself awake watching TV.
- See below for image.
- Not surprisingly, most of this is on YouTube too. This clip from the fourth episodes sets the tone for the entire show pretty well.