Warner siblings Dot (Tress MacNeille), Wakko (Jess Harnell), and Yakko (Rob Paulsen) return to TV as if they never left, immortalized by their cartoon biology and ready to thrive on a whole batch of jokes at the expense of modern society. From the beginning, this Hulu series goes all-in on being a reboot, using a funny “Jurassic Park” parody to reintroduce Warner siblings Dot, Wakko, and Yakko, while Sam Neill and Laura Dern’s characters are amazed that a scepter-wielding Steven Spielberg has revived the series. A man in a green suit with a button that says “HULU” then simply says, “We are gonna make a FORTUNE with this show,” and the fourth wall topples entirely. The entire first episode in general, which has the Warner siblings running around the studio lot and breaking into a meta song as they do, is all about laying clear the type of transaction that comes from the show: you’re going to help Hulu get richer, and hear lots of jokes about that. But at least you have the Animaniacs back, and they still have bologna in their slacks (though Bill Clinton doesn’t play the sax).
For a show like this, which is high on sugar as much as its references to trending topics, it’s a matter of whether the nods are distinctly funny, or just familiar. That’s where the show can run into a few lulls, especially when it seems like pop culture Mad Libs, trying to clown on the many things that it missed. Or, when it seems like it’s taking pot shots (at both hipster donut shops, or slobbish Americans), just for the sake of keeping the show’s slight edge. In the world of “Animaniacs,” the best jokes often come in the deep cuts, like one about, of all things, the “Oldboy” remake.
You can’t have “Animaniacs” without “Pinky and the Brain,” and the series returns the saga of the two mice seeking world domination despite their Of Mice and Men dynamic. Even more than the Warner siblings sketches, these segments certainly feel like unabashed continuations of the same series. And even with some peppering of jokes about memes, or references to the movie “Ex Machina,” it’s easy for the show to feel like it’s on autopilot. It’s the same thing they do every night, but it’s still a segment that pales compared to Dot, Wakko, and Yakko’s antics.
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