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Archive for Friday, July 29, 2011

‘ThunderCats’ find new lives

July 29, 2011

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For reasons too complicated to go into here, I missed “ThunderCats” the first time around. I guess I had other priorities when the cartoon first aired in the 1980s. “ThunderCats” (7 p.m., Cartoon Network) is not the first cartoon to blend Saturday morning sensibilities with a ponderous, vaguely New Age-y take on the Arthurian legends. It seems like only yesterday that I was smirking my way through the pilot of “The Last Airbender” cartoon and eagerly awaiting the shambles director M. Night Shyamalan would make of the live-action adaptation. I was not disappointed.

Back to “ThunderCats.” It’s your basic tale of half-cat/half-people creatures battling a race of resentful lizards. There’s a king, two rival princes, a wizard and a sacred weapon called the Sword of Omens.

To make matters interesting, Lion-O, next in line to the cat people throne, is interested in something called “technology.” In the upside-down world of “ThunderCats,” the occult realm of magic swords and incantations is treated as fact, while technology, reason and science are scoffed at as mere mythology. Gee, that sounds to me like the programming philosophy of the History Channel.

Lion-O’s fixation on old gadgets discarded in ThunderCat pawnshops is met with a certain amount of derision. It’s seen as yet another sign that he’s not quite up to the task of heir. And that’s not lost on Tygra, an adopted brother who is superior to Lion-O on the field of battle and the all-around apple of the old man’s eye.

Not to give too much away here, but technology and its “magic” loom large by the end of the debut episode, much to the chagrin of some of the big cats.

It’s also interesting to note that anytime Lion-O gets in a major fix, he seems to be saved by the lithe female cat named Cheetara, described as the fastest ThunderCat. To my mind, Cheetara shows a tad too much cleavage for a character in a kids’ cartoon. But it’s nothing the tykes haven’t seen on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Don’t let the cartoon sensibility fool you. “ThunderCats” can and probably will be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Especially the kinds of adults who dress up in costumes and leave their mothers’ basements to attend Comic-Con every summer.

Sure, it’s about fighting felines, but there are also references here to everything from “Star Wars” to “King Lear.” It’s alternately violent, silly, supernatural and absurd. In short, it’s “Game of Thrones” for children.

Tonight’s other highlights

• X Games (6 p.m., ESPN).

• A mother-daughter abduction on “Flashpoint” (7 p.m., CBS).

• “Who Do You Think You Are?” (7 p.m., NBC) examines Steve Buscemi’s roots. The durable character actor can also be seen in two episodes of “Boardwalk Empire” (9 p.m. and 10:15 p.m., HBO) and very briefly in “Pulp Fiction” (5:45 p.m., IFC).

• The vessel Bob Barker fights back on “Whale Wars” (8 p.m., Animal Planet).

• Equipment failure on “Swamp Loggers” (9 p.m., Discovery). Not to be confused with “Swamp Wars” (7 p.m., Animal Planet).

• Audrey’s identity is questioned on “Haven” (9 p.m., Syfy).

• The team arrives in California on “Torchwood: Miracle Day” (9 p.m., Starz).

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