Cartoons! Men love cartoons! It must have been screamed as loud as a 49er striking gold back when the TNN brass, having shed their Nashville duds, mined the idea of Spike TV and an all-male network. Well, with Spike temporarily spiked, TNN still intends to unveil its trio of adult toons. And while Pam Anderson-voiced “Stripperella” should nab ratings for no reason other than the drool factor, “Gary the Rat” is likely to struggle as the appeal of an animated legal rat in Manhattan doesn’t appear particularly high.
The animation in “Gary the Rat” is proficient yet hardly distinguished (think “Pocahontas”) and the central characters are all too familiar. Gary (voiced by exec producer Kelsey Grammer) is Frasier Crane at his most bombastic. His boss Harrison (Billy Gardell) calls to mind another toon character, Mr. Frog. a nemesis from 1960’s “Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse.” Exterminator Johnny Bugz (voiced by co-creator Robb Cullen) is a generic Looney Tunes bad guy.
TNN was unable to supply review cassettes of “Stripperella,” the revived “Ren & Stimpy” or the pilot of “Gary the Rat.” In tonight’s episode, attorney Gary Andrews wakes up to find himself transformed into a rat and Harrison initially gives him an ultimatum to return to human form. Once the firm gets publicity for its legal rodent, Harrison gives in and lets Gary continue to appear in court.
In the episode supplied for review, the designer suit-clad Gary is fending off two attackers — a neighbor and an exterminator — while winning a case for Big Tobacco. Script by Robb Cullen and brother Mark is a bit of a train wreck as it slides down one tangent after another as if three seven-minute episodes were stitched together to fill the half-hour block. There’s an odd sexual abuse trial with a kid on the stand, a visit to the psychiatrist who bizarrely resembles William Shakespeare and a purposeless courtroom interrogation of a blond bombshell.
If “Gary the Rat,” which began as a series on the fine MediaTrip.com, had some in jokes, perhaps it would elicit a few chuckles here and there. As is, even with Grammer’s verbal sharpness on display, it’s tone is too serious to hold casual viewers for long.