16 August 2013

Nerd Rant: Teen Titans vs. Teen Titans GO!

Like anybody else who really has nothing to do but binge watch Cartoon Network, I was pumped for the premiere of Teen Titans GO!

I had watched Teen Titans back when it was still a thing, so seeing the news of a comeback show looked promising. I kept seeing the previews, the commercials, the advertising just about every waking second I was watching Cartoon Network, then the day finally arrived and...!!! Well, there's some bone pickin' to be had.

WTF Happened?
The original 2003 Teen Titans series had the group kicking ass, learning how to work together, and generally being a good superhero cartoon aimed at tweens and teenagers. Robin was a formidable leader, Beast Boy was loveable albeit a troublemaker, Cyborg was level-headed, Starfire was learning the ropes of Earthling living, and Raven was...Well, Raven. So, what exactly happened between then and now?

With the new show, there seems to be a reoccurring theme: everyone feels out of character. The team doesn't do much in terms of crime fighting and the show is mostly revolved around them simply living together like mutant roommates (And we already have a show for that). In one particular episode, Robin wants to build something worthwhile on a vacant lot and is torn between building a center for old people or a swimming pool so he can see Starfire in her new bikini. Meanwhile, Beast Boy and Cyborg are trying to cheat a pizza shop out of being paid by purposefully making the delivery person late. Raven is mostly in the background and not seen much or even heard.

And this seems to be the formula for the rest of the show: Robin vying for Starfire's love while being incompetent at running his own superhero team, Beast Boy and Cyborg in an endless pursuit of free pizza or playing video-games all day, and Raven kinda just floating there with a phoned-in line.

What's the deal? Perhaps the Wikipedia entry for Teen Titans GO! can shed some light: "Teen Titans Go! focuses on the 'funny business' that happens between the Teen Titans when not saving the world and when living together as teenagers without adult supervision.[3] The Teen Titans must deal with situations such as teenage pranks reaching a whole new level, or having to retake a driver's test after wrecking the Batmobile."

... Oh. Let's put those pitchforks away for a minute.

It's not rare for cartoons to go through facelifts in order to stay relevant or aim their focus at a different age range. We've seen it with Batman, The Avengers, Justice League and countless other comic book related cartoons. And this show is no exception. However, despite the change in pace, there is a definite miscommunication between fans and a one-dimensional flair that the characters can't shake. Since it's no fun to be logical when it comes to being a fan of something, let's point the blame at Cartoon Network.

Cartoon Network & Confused Advertising
The rest of Cartoon Network's new programming has been aimed at "older humor," as seen in their headlining shows Adventure Time and Regular Show. Both of them fit a niche of being appropriate for both kids and adults, although it feels they're mostly catering to childish grown-ups like myself. Teen Titans GO! doesn't quite fit into that same niche.

A majority of cartoons on Cartoon Network have an overall continuous storyline with the episodes being predominately self-contained. We see reoccurring plot points in Adventure Time being integrated, such as Princess Bubblegum's age or the Ice King being a nice guy after all. But, another very important aspect is that all of these new, popular shows on Cartoon Network also follow the day-to-day of their lead characters in a fantastical or over-the-top way.

Even shows beyond Adventure Time and Regular Show on Cartoon Network follow the same formula in some form. The Amazing World of Gumball follows the day-to-day of a dysfunctional cat-and-rabbit (plus adopted fish) family, The Looney Tunes Show follows the day-to-day of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck living together post Looney Tunes fame. However, they all revolve around ridiculous storylines that are normally mundane or average in real life. Perhaps watching the Teen Titans grabbing a cup of coffee together and talking about life is too real, but it's not really their fault.

No, it seems the fault is with the advertising. Check out this sneak preview commercial.

Explosions! Fighting giant robots! Robin at the grocery store!(?) It seemed like it was going to be a mixture of fighting baddies and the Teen Titans being, well, independent teenagers. A tag line one particular commercial (which has become the show's catchphrase) is "AND THEY'RE TOTALLY GOING TO SAVE THE WORLD ... OR SOMETHING." It's not quite the old Teen Titans, but there was an effort to bring back old fans as well as engage new ones.

The Verdict
The new Teen Titans seems to fit nicely into Cartoon Network's new content and programming direction: it uses a simple art direction, bright colors, and stories revolved around everyday life with a hint (or giant wallop) of disbelief. So, why do so many people seem to hate on Teen Titans GO? Nostalgia goggles.

Most of the fanbase for Teen Titans remembers the old cartoon and expect the same kind of show out of Teen Titans GO! These same fans have also grown up--they're twenty-somethings who still like to watch cartoons and remember the good ol' days, like myself. When we're presented this new Teen Titans show, we want to see the old formula and become cranky or pissed that this new show, aimed at teenagers and teenager problems, doesn't cater to our individual wants.

Despite all of the GO! bashing, there are some funny and entertaining moments in the show and I will admit I do like the new style direction. Also, it is great that all of the original voice actors came back to reprise their roles. With that said, the characters still do feel incomplete and one dimensional, as if their sole focus is being incredibly childish or avoiding calls from Batman.

All in all, Teen Titans GO! is for a different generation and will more than likely be enjoyed by viewers who aren't familiar with the older Teen Titans show or older fans willing to take the nostalgia goggles off and willing to just enjoy the silliness. If you're feeling too disillusioned by this change of characters and story style, Teen Titans is now on the Boomerang channel for us old farts. Or, you know, you could always just watch the old show by downloading it.

Sound off in the comments below on Teen Titans GO! or Teen Titans in general.


  1. Well that's depressing.

    I was an adult when that old Teen Titans show came out though.
    And I'm an adult now and....

    If you want a chronological gap though, the line-up for these programs are based on an iteration of the Teen Titans first seen in comic books in 1981, about when I was born.

    The last time these characters were seen like this before the show was roughly 1985 or so. Because about that time, or a little earlier, Dick Grayson became Nightwing!

    So the people that were first excited for the first Teen Titans cartoon were excited because of stuff they read from over 20 years before.

  2. the 2003 teen titans was WAY better the episodes followed after the last one and when they cut it off they left us on a cliff hanger. Like what the heck at least finish it first and in the new on they don't mention Slade! totle bummer man


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