Megas XLR Flashback Thing
Once upon a time (the late 90s to be exact) a young film-maker was working as script editor on an animated series he co-created for MTV called Downtown. Unfortunately for George Krstic, MTV decided that their future did not lie with animation. Or music, come to that. Despite being nominated for an Emmy, Downtown was canned in favour of endless shows about rappers modifying cars, pregnant teenagers and generally stuff about ‘people being real’.
Fast-forward a couple of years. A slightly bitter Krstic teamed with friend Jody Schaeffer to create a pilot for Cartoon Network entitled Lowbrow. The concept was picked up, expanded on and became the first episode of Megas XLR. And the rest is history. At least, it ought to be. In typical fashion, Megas XLR also got canned but it at least made it to two seasons of the most deliciously bonkers animation ever to come out of the States. And remember, this is the country that gave us Family Guy.
In the 31st Century, Earth is fighting a losing war against a race of aliens called the Glorft. With time running out and humanity’s last stronghold about to be overrun, engineer Kiva Andru steals a prototype Glorft battle robot and modifies it to human specs. Naming it the Mecha Earth Guardian Attack System (or M.E.G.A.S), her intention is to equip it with a prototype time drive and send the droid back in time a few years to turn a pivotal battle in Earth’s favour. Unfortunately, Glorft commander Gorath shows up as the time drive is being activated, resulting in M.E.G.A.S, Kiva, her personal battle droid and the Glorft command ship being swept into the time warp.
Thus ends the last serious moment of the show. The damaged M.E.G.A.S crash-lands in a New Jersey scrapyard where it remains buried for over seventy years until being discovered in the early 21st Century by twentysomething slacker Harold Cooplowski. Coop is a seriously overweight gearhead who spends his time engaged in one of four activities: video games, eating, watching TV or tinkering with his ride. Finding M.E.G.A.S missing its head/control centre, Coop replaces it with a 1970s Plymouth Barracuda muscle car and just wires the loose connections up to a variety of video game controllers. Renaming it Megas XLR (for eXtra Large Robot), on its first trip out Coop and his idiot friend Jamie accidentally activate a homing beacon that allows Kiva and Gorath to track Megas back to Jersey City. With no clue of how to operate Coop’s jury-rigged controls, Kiva reluctantly agrees to train him into the world-saving pilot of the future she is. Of course, the slight problem of Coop having smashed up the controls of the known universe’s only time machine doesn’t help matters…
The entire series is basically a colossal p@#s-take out of every Mecha anime series ever created, with a few other pop cultural references thrown in along the way. In the course of only 26 episodes we get parodies of both Gatchaman and Power Rangers in one go, Sailor Moon, Godzilla movies, The Blues Brothers, Transformers, Star Trek and The Terminator. And the occasional appearance from Bruce Campbell as a Modok-like wrestling promoter. Groovy.
The series didn’t so much break the fourth wall as dynamite it. Coop’s useless piloting of Megas usually resulted in him causing as much damage to Jersey City as the villains did, smashing up targets with signs on such as “Conveniently Placed Oil Refinery” and “.com, And Therefore Obviously Empty”; Gorath’s robot was once sent flying towards the “Jersey City Gunpowder, Fireworks And Ball Bearing Factory”; and of course there’s PoPTV. The prime example of Krstic’s consternation at Downtown being axed, the logo of ‘Pop TV’ featurig a capital P, lower-case o, and capital P again, this time reversed so it looked like the letter M. PoPTV was frequently the inadvertent target of Coop’s accidental rampages, with a dedicated satellite for the channel (boasting ‘24/7 shows about rock stars remodelling your house’) being destroyed on at least two occasions, several billboards being wrecked and Megas lumbering into shot and disrupting a live broadcast. But the best sight gags tended to be the random controls in the front of the car that Coop wired Megas’s systems up to. Brilliant little tags such as “Exactly the Same Button Coop Just Used Like Five Minutes Ago”, “Bet You Can’t Guess What This Button Does” and my own personal favourite “Five Minutes Until End of Episode” just serve to illustrate the sheer lack of seriousness that was taken by the entire production.
Sadly, this perhaps turned out to be the show’s downfall. The wonderfully quirky nature of the show and the uncertainty about where it belonged within Cartoon Network’s schedule (is it a kids’ show or something suited to Adult Swim?) led to an uncertainty about its future and eventual cancellation. But not all is lost, however: a few months ago George Krstic confirmed that he is in negotiation with Titmouse animation and Disney to purchase the rights to relaunch Megas XLR on Disney XD. Some of us remain hopeful he will succeed.
After all, chicks dig giant robots…