BUY FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO: Cartoon Network
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
Nine episodes plus commentaries
Behind the scenes
Anatomy of a sequence
Voltron gets the Robot Chicken treatment.
Breckin Meyer, Rachael Leigh Cook, Dan Milano, Eden Espinosa, Seth Green
Created by: Tom Root, Matthew Senreich
From the creative team behind Robot Chicken, this series follows the misadventures of Titan Force Five, a group of five pilots who defend the galaxy by forming their ships together into the giant Mecha, Titan Maximum. Several years after the team had been disbanded because of budgetary cuts, they must re-unite to stop the evil advances of their former teammate Gibbs (Green) who has now turned to villainy. The new team consists of hotshot team leader, Palmer (Meyer), Palmer’s nerdy little brother, Willie (Dan Milano), goodie-goodie Jodie (Rachael Leigh Cook), super slut Sasha (Eden Espinosa), and a mute monkey janitor, Leon.
I really like Robot Chicken. It was a great idea for a show, and when it hits its marks it is seriously funny. The show’s secret weapon has always been its unabated pacing. Every episode features a decent percentage of jokes that fall flat on their ass, but with sketches that are rarely more than a minute long (and often as short as a few seconds), it never really matters. If a bit or character isn’t working, it is gone before you know it. Titan Maximum’s greatest problem is that it doesn’t have this luxury. For all intents and purposes TM is just a Robot Chicken paromage of Voltron strung out for an entire nine episode season, and many of the characters and on-going bits are either weak or completely bankrupt from the moment they start. But we’re stuck with them.
Given where the RC team’s strengths lie, it isn’t surprising that many of the show’s best bits are with throwaway characters that we never see again. These guys are great at non sequiturs; not as much with actual characters that we need to give at least a partial shit about in order to sustain interest for more than two minutes.
It isn’t that the show is bad, because it is not. It is beautifully put together (the animation is just fantastic), and every episode has a smattering of good jokes strewn about. If it is 1am and you’re stoned and chillin’ your way through an Adult Swim programming block I’m sure Titan Maximum would prove a pleasant time-filler. But as a legitimate TV show, and especially as a DVD one might ponder owning, it falls short in the raison d’être area.
The quality of the background artwork really starts to slip mid-season.
Starting with Space Ghost Coast to Coast, the Cartoon Network has pioneered an improbable style of comedy that focuses on unrelatable and quite often unlikable characters. Shows like Aqua Team Hunger Force defied all common television writing wisdom when they were able to keep their series compelling after more than a few episodes. Generally speaking, even if your show is going for absurdity, you still need to ground it in some kind of basic sympathetic way. Outside of sketch comedy it is very hard to make complete absurdity engaging for very long. ATHF pulled it off. Frisky Dingo pulled it off. Archer is pulling it off. Titan Maximum not so much.
Midway through the season it seems like Titan Maximum realized where its creative problems lie. An effort is made to shift away from the totally frivolous cynical nature of the first several episodes and flesh out the characters a little, even add a little heart, all while ramping up the drama of the on-going storyline. But the writers already saddled themselves with a bunch of deficient characters who don’t necessarily make this shift easy to do. They started from a pretty deep hole.
The pilot is an unfunny chore to watch. There is nothing I find less edgy than trying to be edgy, and TM’s first episode showcases the pitfalls of thinking that swearing is comparable to an actual joke. It is clear that the TM creative team felt that it was inherently funny that what outwardly appears to be a children’s show has characters acting and speaking in an adult fashion. That can be a good gimmick from which to squeeze some jokes, but it certainly isn’t a joke in itself. The show also feels weirdly stale. This is because the characters are stale. The only stand out is Willie, the overly enthusiastic boy genius noob. The rest are all just riffs on well worn comedy stereotypes: the egocentric and clueless handsome jackass, the prissy conservative girl, the wacky and “shocking” slut. Even Leon – who is very visually amusing – feels uninspired.
Titan Maximum seems like the end result of some overconfidence on the Robot Chicken team’s part. This is particularly represented in the voice work. In the past decade it has become all the rage for the creators of adult animated TV to do the bulk of the voice work themselves: Trey Parker on South Park, Christopher McCulloch on Venture Bros, Seth MacFarlane on Family Guy. Same goes for Titan Maximum, where almost all our side and random new characters are voiced by Seth Green and Breckin Meyer. Difference is that Parker, McCulloch, and MacFarlane are all astoundingly good voice actors – any of whom could have had a legit career in the VO business even without creating their own show. I love Seth Green as an actor, and Family Guy shows that he’s certainly not out of his depth in voice work, but Titan Maximum also shows that he doesn’t have much range. Neither does Meyer. So the show ends up feeling like a couple of guys just fucking around and having fun. Good for them. But in this capacity the fun is not contagious.
Like I said, this show isn’t bad. It’s just not good enough to bother watching unless it is sandwiched between two other shows you want to see.
The DVD on the other hand is great. I imagine that there are people out there who won’t agree with my assessment of the show (and maybe I would’ve reacted differently watching this show on Adult Swim instead of ep-after-ep on DVD). Titan Maximum fans will be happy to know the DVD is jam-packed with features. Every episode has a commentary track featuring a changing array of actors and writers farting around and cracking each other up. For those interested in the animation there is also a lot of excellent background on how the show is made – I dug learning how they cut corners building a lot of their set and props by just repurposing random junk.
6.5 out of 10
8 out of 10