Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Remembering Disney's Fillmore!

Well, this day was bound to happen eventually. I was going to write a remembering post about a television series. And you have to believe me when I say this: Disney doesn't own any part of my soul, which is what makes this particular selection on my part a little surprising I admit.

Yes, when I was a kid, I enjoyed DuckTales and the like, but after a certain age, well, I wasn't into what the Disney animation studios had to offer on television.

And then I saw Fillmore! a few years ago, and I was impressed by what I saw. The series was a loving homage to 1970's cop shows and movies, the NBC Mystery Movies, and various other bits of pop cultural ephemera. It followed the exploits of the X Middle School Safety Patrol, and in particular, Cornelius Fillmore (Orlando Brown), a former juvenile delinquent who turned to the side of right and his partner, Ingrid Third (Go-to voice actress Tara Strong), a gothy enigmatic genius with a photographic memory.

And like every good cop show, they didn't always see eye to eye with their superiors, Commissioner Vallejo (Horatio Sanz in one of the few roles he excelled in) and Principal Folsom (Wendie Malick), who represents the type of role the Mayor would fulfill on a classic TV cop show.

And in keeping with that same 1970's cop/mystery series vibe, the art style, story structure and action sequences reflect those conventions. From the three act structure to the camera angles on the unconventional chases to even the occasional direct reference to a particular series like Columbo, Fillmore! demonstrated that while the subject matter was suitable for children, it was also designed with adults of a certain age in mind. The characters and the story lines are often not black and white, as there are sometimes more complex motivations behind the events than it initially appears.

And a neat little fact about the show is that every surname from the show's wide variety of characters comes from a street in San Francisco, from the lead characters all the way down to the random names that pop up in dialogue and written down in documents, which given that city's association with Dirty Harry and of course, The Streets of San Francisco, it feels very fitting.

To me, the show is as much of a loving tribute to 70's cop shows as Hot Fuzz is to blockbuster cop movies, and I think that is why I like it so much... it respects the material while co-opting it to tell its own stories.

Given the fact that the show only had about 26 episodes over two seasons, it also seems fitting that it has many of the same qualities of being compact and self-contained that many BBC series have, which to me, is a selling point in itself. I wish that Fillmore! had been renewed or had a larger initial order (like Ducktales 65 episode first season), but perhaps that brevity was indeed the soul of this show's wit.


Schadenfreude said...

Well damn, I clicked the YouTube link and now I'm diggin it. The last thing I need is another addiction. Thanks, Senor Enabler. :P

MC said...

Well, it is something you can eventually get the young'n into.

Anonymous said...

It's actually back on tv right now- on family channel

DaVon Walker said...

I never bothered with watching this show when it originally aired on ABC, but would make up for it a few years later when I caught some of the episodes on Youtube. Only to find out what I've been missing all this time for as long as I had, now I wish I'd checked it out sooner. It's since then been one of my favorite Disney animated T.V. series of not only the last decade, but of all time. I think the show should've lasted longer and deserved more than it got, but I doubt that even if I had caught it sooner, me being the only extra viewer who contributed to the ratings, really would've mattered all that much nor made a difference. This is in my top 5 and definitely ranks with the best of them.