Sigmund and the Sea Monsters 1.1 (2016 pilot)

Wa-hey! Of course Daniel and I sat down to watch this pilot this afternoon. It went up at Amazon Prime this morning (clicking the images should link you to Amazon so you can watch it yourself) and we just had a hoot enjoying it.

Considering that the Kroffts don’t have the greatest of track records in relaunching old properties (although, as I said the other day, I haven’t seen the new Electra Woman yet), there is every reason to be a little leery, but this worked completely beautifully. It’s silly and ridiculous and incredibly fun. It’s grounded in the real world, with some lovely location filming and an eyebrow-raisingly large clubhouse, and the new monsters look superb, retaining much of the original design with a lot more detail and different things that the operators and puppeteers can accomplish.

It’s also packed full of injokes for anyone who remembers the original well. Sid and Marty popped in, and so did Johnny Whitaker, “1973,” and the guitar part that opened the first theme tune, and it even credits Si Rose despite not really having a lot to do with the nuts and bolts of that original teleplay. The director is Jonathan Judge, teleplay by Garrett Frawley & Brian Turner.

The really big difference from the original series is that the principal adversary is a human played by David Arquette. He plays a salvage pilot called Captain Barnabas who insists that a sea monster ate one of his toes years ago. Instead of a busybody housekeeper from whom Johnny and Scott keep Sigmund, it’s their aunt, who dotes on the captain. And happily, there’s something for a girl to do in this one; Rebecca Bloom plays the boys’ cousin Robyn, who’s in on the secret.

Solomon Stewart’s Johnny is the pratfall-prone ringleader, and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf gets all the best lines as Scott. He had me laughing aloud a couple of times. (“What’s a net?” is a work of genius.) They kind of struggled to fit Bloom’s Robyn into things and give her a chance to shine, but she gets a great little scene, and Eileen O’Connell plays the clueless Aunt Maxine. There’s just a tiny, tiny bit of that Nick/Disney school in the kids’ performances – my daughter watched most of those programs from about 2002-2011, so I’ve seen a lot of that – but since this isn’t done before a studio audience, nobody’s playing to the rafters or being aggressively stupid as the boys in those shows are. This is a more grounded and believable environment, despite the supernatural premise, and the kids feel more like real people and not stage school talent.

Back in September, I explained that I didn’t plan to watch the original Sigmund with Daniel (here’s the story), so I’m glad he’s getting the chance here. Briefly, my issue is this: I’ve got no objection to the original series at all – unlike some of the ’70s Krofft shows, it definitely improved with age and time – but the downright delicious nastiness of the bullying Ooze family would really, really bother the heck out of my son. In this version, Blurp and Slurp are present, and stupid, and a little bit mean, but they don’t have that delightful, cruel spirit of the original, and they certainly never threw Sigmund out.

The danger in this pilot episode is being found by Captain Barnabas, and he does indeed trap Sigmund, to which my son immediately shouted “I don’t want to watch this,” followed immediately by a howl of laughter from a very well-timed gag. The slapstick throughout is perfectly kid-friendly, and Sigmund himself is of course instantly charming. He also loved Blurp and Slurp, who, thanks to modern special effects, can do things the original monsters could never do, and he was laughing at them, especially when they completely misunderstand the difference between trash and treasure.

At this stage, the show’s just a pilot, one of six kid shows under consideration. I really hope this goes to series. It’s got heart and brain and slimy defense mechanisms and I would love to see more. I’m not sure how long it’s available to stream, but definitely give it a play and, hopefully, a high rating!

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