Okey dokey, it’s been a while since I looked at this show, but once again, we’re going to look at – duh-duh-duh-duh – Dr. Zitbag’s Transylvania Pet Shop. Just one episode this time. A rather obscure cartoon set in a toony world of monsters, Transylvania Pet Shop revolved around a zombie-goblin thing called Dr. Zitbag running a pet shop in a castle while performing a shitload of kooky experiments or whatever.
I’ve reviewed this show thrice before, and one consistent problem I’ve noticed is that Zitbag is, well, a unlikeable dickhead. ‘Ants in Your Pants’ had him charge too much for his wares, and then when a new guy, Sherman Vermin, came along selling cheaper pets, Vermin was the one who got punished, Zitbag was praised for basically cleaning up his own mess and continued to sell his stuff at inflated prices at the end. In another episode, he incapacitated Officer Deadbeat – who wants the castle to turn into a police station, which would be more beneficial for the people of Transylvania – in order to avoid eviction, and wasn’t brought up for it. Sure, there have been other times in the show where Zitbag got punished at the end, but watching this show, I can’t help but think the best comeuppance for him would be him in prison having his undead arse stretched to kingdom come and his castle being handed over to Deadbeat.
But how can I say that, you might ask? A lot of shows I like have assholes for protagonists! I’m British, after all. For example, Only Fools and Horses has a character slightly similar to Zitbag; both Del Boy Trotter and Dr. Zitbag are criminals always attempting get-rich-quick schemes despite the fact that they are dumber than a sack of bricks. Thing is, though:
a) Only Fools is a live-action programme for adults, so obviously it’s going to approach certain subjects with more detail and knowledge
b) Del Boy has some redeeming qualities to him; he actually does have some affection for his family as evidenced by him bursting into tears at his brother’s wife suffering a miscarriage
c) Del Boy is sympathetic in some regards – his father left him when he was young, he had to raise Rodney after his mother died and he lives in a crappy flat as opposed to a spiffy castle
d) ONLY FOOLS IS ACTUALLY FUNNY AND ENTERTAINING
(And the actor who played Del Boy also did the voice of the title character in Count Duckula, a much better horror-related cartoon).
Zitbag, on the other hand, has no redeemable or sympathetic qualities about him. Even when he felt sad about losing Horrifido, it was his own fault and he was crying over the help and profit he lost. This might be forgivable were he actually funny, but he isn’t. Transylvania Pet Shop seems to utilise the Family Guy line of thought, where they think a character being an asshole is funny just because he’s an asshole. And lo and behold, this line of thought is on full display in the episode ‘Food, Glorious Pet Food’.
We begin with Zitbag and skeleton dog sidekick Horrifido using a machine to concoct ‘Brand X’ pet food. Yup, he actually called his pet food ‘Brand X’ like wot they do in ads when they want to show an inferior brand. Well, at least they’re not pretending he’s not crap at his job. Zitbag wants to win a ‘Pet Food Manufacturer of the Year’ award since his rival Sherman Vermin is entering too. Zitbag even says his pet food is so good ‘[he’ll] eat it [him]self’. Who wants to bet that’ll come back to bite him in the ass later?
Zitbag then notes he’s low on the all-specific ‘pet food ingredients’ and gets his other lackey ‘Franken-Octopus’ to mix up a new batch. Franken-Octopus. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Ol’ Frankie is like all Frankenstein monster analogues in cartoons – thick as porridge and can only speak in ‘Dwuhs’. Guys, in the Mary Shelley book, the monster could speak in full sentences and was pretty intelligent and philosophical. Even Boris Karloff’s version was more naive than anything. Stop dumbing down the classics, cartoons. Come on, you even do it with books intended for children (I’m looking at you, Disney).
So Franken-Octopus mixes up the wrong ingredients, creating a horrific stench. Before we get to that, though, we have a clock-killing “comedy” moment where Zitbag falls on the conveyer belt and ends up getting trapped in a can. What is this, a generic, by-the-numbers kids’ show? He gets out and then realises Franken-Octopus has mixed up the wrong formula. That should not deter him winning the award, though, as he also had Franken-Octopus steal the voting papers. See, what did I tell you? He sure is a swell guy, breaking the law like this just to win a stupid pet food competition. I dunno about you, but I’m sure rooting for him. Got me pennant and everything.
Next, we pay a visit to our “villain”, Officer Deadbeat. He even has a Wanted poster with Zitbag’s face on it. So, if Zitbag’s wanted, and Deadbeat knows where Zitbag is, why hasn’t Zitbag been arrested already? Certainly deserves it. At least with Dexter Morgan and Walter White, they were characters we didn’t want to go to jail. Deadbeat receives a call about the votes being stolen and a rancid smell wafting through Transylvania. When said smell snakes through the street, we also see a witch doctor that looks like he was designed by Rudyard Kipling and two people magically switch cars (?).
Deadbeat then goes to Zitbag’s castle to investigate, and thus confiscates all of Zitbag’s pet food cans to bring to the police lab. So Zitbag realised Frankie (I’m not typing out his full name again) brewed up the wrong formula, but didn’t bother correcting the error? He still tinned the pet food and displayed the tins proudly? If he gets sued, it’s his own damn fault, so yeah, I’m eagerly awaiting him to go to court. YAY FOR JUSTICE! (Also, when Deadbeat steals the cans, Zitbag speaks in Horrifido’s voice for a bit. Did they suddenly switch vocal chords?)
Horrifido then suggests they go to the supermarket and buy some pet food to replace theirs. Yeah, strange how Horrifido acts unsure about Zitbag’s schemes – he did look annoyed by the whole ‘steal the voting papers thing’ – but is normally the one who comes up with them in the first place. An asshole main character can work if his sidekick is sympathetic, but Horrifido isn’t. He enables Zitbag and is whiny to boot.
Zitbag goes to his ‘Zitmobile’, as a lawyer-friendly version of the 60’s Batman theme plays. Kinda ironic, considering Zitbag looks like the Joker hit with the ugly stick, or rather, the ugly shovel. He enters the supermarket and it’s pretty damn surreal seeing ghosts and mummies shopping at a completely ordinary-looking supermarket. No freezers shaped like coffins or anything. It’s like we have two shows mashed haphazardly together.
So they buy all of Vermin’s pet food and Horrifido even asks why despite the fact that it was his idea. Also, Zitbag gets a trolley with a wobbly wheel. Delightful, this show is on the same level of humour as a Garfield comic. When he goes to the till, oh look, it’s Jennifer. She works at the till and is strangely still wearing a bikini, not an uniform or anything. So, is she in some sort of Being Human state where she’s stuck in the clothes she died in? I wonder what her story is, she’s got to be more interesting than Zitbag. Anyway, here when she sees Zitbag’s tin-filled trolley, she gets her only (to my knowledge) line on the whole show: ‘Sorry, 10 items or less at this checkout.’ Zitbag replies, ‘But I have just one that’s all the same.’
Zitbag then sticks ‘Brand X’ labels all over Vermin’s food as a news report announces the voting papers have been returned so the competition can go on as scheduled. So…they don’t see anything suspicious about the papers disappearing and then magically turning up before the awards? And hell, shouldn’t Deadbeat have questioned Zitbag about the papers, since Zitbag had a motive, and, you know, is also wanted? Oh yeah, and despite being wanted, Zitbag managed to get TV airtime to advertise his pet food. Deadbeat watches the ad and goes ballistic. To tell the truth, part of me wants to see Deadbeat’s reaction become an internet meme, you know, where someone replaces Zitbag’s ad with Twilight or something.
Then he gets the lab report and finds out that Zitbag’s food is indeed illegal. Oh, so Zitbag’s gonna get arrested and you’ll get the castle? Huzzah!
Meanwhile, Zitbag is selling Vermin’s pet food to some unsuspecting customers, and after finding out he won the contest – hip fucking hooray – he goes off to screw the Exorsisters. Yes, he all but says that, stating they’re ‘waiting in [his] boudoir’, boudoir always means fuck-place. Oh god, Zitbag. Got. Laid. There is no justice in this world. And also Horrifido calls the Exorsisters ‘girlies’ because being in this show has caused him to regress into a five-year-old mentality.
The ‘Pet Food Manufacturer of the Year’ ceremony begins with Vermin appearing, pissed off at Zitbag. Maybe Deadbeat and Vermin should be the protagonists. I relate to them more, as their feelings for Zitbag mirror my own. Anyway, Frankie-O returns, bringing in Vermin’s relabelled pet food, and wants to swim in some nearby water. Hmmm…water, cans with changed labels, I wonder what’s going to happen? Horrifido is worried people will find out Zitbag changed the labels…IT WAS YOUR IDEA YOU ENTRAIL-LESS SON OF A BITCH!
Sure enough, the cans get splashed, revealing them to be Vermin’s pet food, Zitbag loses the prize money and is forced to eat his own pet food. Huh, Zitbag actually gets his comeuppance. He gets humiliated in front of all of Transylvania, that’s actually kinda satisfying. Where was this ending with ‘Where Mouse’ and ‘Ants In Your Pants’?
Still, the fact still remains that Transylvania Pet Shop has little going for it. It isn’t funny or interesting or even fun. I mean, that’s what’s lacking from this show: the energetic, kooky fun the likes of The Trap Door and AAAHH Real Monsters had. The characters of Transylvania Pet Shop are supernatural, but they could have been replaced with normal humans and nothing would have changed.
And Zitbag. Like I said before, he’s no Del Boy. He’s no Blackadder, nor a Basil Fawlty, nor an Arnold Rimmer, nor a Rik Mayall. He’s not a funny asshole, just an asshole. He’s not a likeable asshole, just an asshole. With a good dickhead main character, you feel as if he deserves his punishment, yet you have a little bit of pity for him. Zitbag eating the dog food and losing his prize money was too good for him.
Oh, enough of this. I should be watching Only Fools and Horses.