Cartoon Network’s hit animated show, The Amazing World of Gumball, recently concluded the New Gumball in February event, in which one new episode was released every weekday for the entire month of February.
The series, created by Ben Bocquelet, centers around the titular Gumball Watterson, a 12-year-old anthropomorphic cat living in the town of Elmore, a place where everything and anything can be (and is) alive. He is joined by his half-brother/pet-goldfish Darwin, his genius rabbit little sister Anais, his idiot rabbit father Richard, and his high-strung mother Nicole, who is also a cat, along with the near-endless cast of recurring characters.
Gumball gained notoriety upon its 2011 premiere for its superb blending of different animation styles. Characters are traditionally animated, computer animated, or even live action in some cases. The backgrounds are even a mish-mash of real-life photos and digital alterations.
The show’s comedy has been described as a mixture of classic Simpsons and SpongeBob, parodying the inane drudgery of small-town life while also combining it with weird and wacky antics all of its own. One of the series best episodes, for example, is “The Remote,” in which the Wattersons turn fighting over the TV remote into a crosstown thriller chase, complete with a twist ending.
The first episode of the month was “The Copycats,” which lampoons the infamous Chinese Gumball knock-off, Miracle Star. This episode will likely go down as one of the series’ best, or at least most notable. Miracle Star has been noticed by the fanbase for many years by now, and “The Copycats” gets practically runs it through the wringer at every turn.
Up next is “The Potato,” which is an amicable episode about Darwin attempting to stop eating potatoes out of respect for Idaho, their sentient potato classmate. There are a decent amount of good jokes, which ultimately hold together the admittedly predictable plot.
It took a minute to grasp the premise of “The Fuss,” but it turned out to be a very well-done showcase for Richard and Nicole. In this episode, Nicole gives the family the cold-shoulder for forgetting a “very special day,” without telling them what day they’re forgetting.
In “The Outside,” the Wattersons go to visit Richard’s estranged father Frankie and, upon seeing his poor living conditions, assume he used to be in prison. As a result, they decide to make their house like a prison to make him feel better. Spoiler alert: He was never in prison. The entire episode seems to relish in making Frankie suffer in the harsh prison the Wattersons create, and, to be honest, just comes off as unpleasant and awkward.
The premise of “The Vase” is quite simple: Granny Jojo, Richard’s mother, gives the Wattersons an ugly vase as a gift, and Nicole entrusts the kids with getting rid of it. What follows is the three children attempting to destroy the vase, but it being indestructible. The episode feels very season 2 in its simplicity, and simplicity is probably when Gumball is at it’s best.
“The Matchmaker” is an episode with a bit of buildup. In “Halloween” and “The Scam,” it was heavily implied that Darwin and Carrie, a ghost girl, had romantic feelings for each other. This episode is the summation of that, but it’s just a predictable misunderstanding plot: Gumball sees a picture on the computer, and assumes the person in the picture Darwin has a crush on is Teri, the sentient piece of paper. The twist can be foreseen from that moment: Carrie, a ghost, does not show up in photographs.
“The Box” is a lackluster venture: The Wattersons find a box on the porch that doesn’t belong to them, and debate its contents and what they would do with it. It’s another entry into the Gumball genre of Vignette Episodes, which consist of segments centered around a theme, though this one seems to take more time on the framing device of the box instead of the fantasies themselves, which all go on too long, oddly enough.
“The Console” is a welcome return to excellence. It is, in essence, a send-up to video games, specifically RPGs, which they nailed perfectly: The Playstation One-style backgrounds, the Watterson Siblings posing repeatedly after every victory, the tedious side-quests required for 100% completion, forgetting to save before the final boss, and so on. It is probably the best episode of the whole month.
“The Catfish” is good; Not great, but good. It begins with Gumball and Darwin receiving a Friend Request from their Step-Grandfather, Louie. They pity his lack of friends, and create a fake profile who he hits it off with. But of course, Granny Jojo finds out about this, thinks Louie’s been cheating on her, and then tries to kill the woman Gumball used for the profile picture.
“The Cycle” is an odd one. Harold Wilson, father of wannabe cool-kid character Tobias Wilson, gets thrust to the forefront here, insulting and taking advantage of Richard’s “unmanliness” at every turn. Surprisingly, it turns out pretty good, as the bulk of it is Richard attempting at exacting revenge on Harold, which is ultimately satisfying when he succeeds.
“The Stars” is a great return to form for Larry, the sole provider of Elmore’s service jobs, be it cashier, waiter, etc. In this one, Gumball and Darwin threaten Larry’s businesses with one-star ratings, forcing him to comply with their demands. This episode makes Gumball’s jerk-tendencies work really well, and shows that having bad things happen to good people can be funny if handled right.
“The Grades” is pretty good. Here, Gumball’s teacher, Miss Simian, finds out that Gumball failed a test in Kindergarten, meaning that he has to go back and retake it. But when Miss Simian finds out she’ll be fired if Gumball doesn’t end up back in the eighth grade, she and Gumball work together to help him to pass his re-entry exam (first by studying, then by cheating in humorously backfiring ways).
“The Diet” centers around Gumball and Darwin helping Richard get in shape (via Rocky-style training montage of course) but having to stop him once he becomes a vain, muscle-bound jerk. It becomes somewhat uncomfortable in the second half, but there are a few good moments that put it just below average instead of way below average.
“The Ex” turns out pretty jumbled, to be honest. This is disappointing, because it features the return of Gumball’s archnemesis Rob, who decides to start threatening someone else instead, making Gumball jealous. The first quarter is Gumball being uncharacteristically excited for Rob’s threats. The next is just Gumball playing out stereotypical ex-lover tropes, and the final half is him ruining Rob’s evil plans, making Rob hate him again, which basically undoes all the terrific development from “The Rerun” for a cheap joke.
Closing out the event is “The Sorcerer,” which involves Gumball, upon realizing how he lacks a special talent, trying to learn magic from a local witch-lady, when all he’s really doing is helping with her chores a la The Karate Kid (complete with an ‘80s montage). It’s absurdly hilarious, with endless nods to fantasy works, from Harry Potter to Ghostbusters. The climax is even moreso, as well as action-packed as Gumball has to stop a troll (both the literal meaning and the internet meaning) from wrecking the town at every turn.
It is important to note that this month was the last time Jacob Hopkins and Terrell Ransom, Jr. voiced Gumball and Darwin respectively, having taken over the roles from Logan Grove and Kwesi Boakye in 2014. At the conclusion of “The Copycats,” the two take on the voices of Nicolas Cantu and Donielle T. Hansley, Jr. respectively, and the duo, while younger, turn out to be excellent replacements.
In the end, the event overall amounts to a moderate, slightly-above-middle-ground feeling. There were a decent amount of good or even great episodes (“The Copycats,” “The Console,” “The Sorcerer,” etc.), but there were an unusual propagation of mediocre or failed episodes (“The Outside,” “The Matchmaker,” “The Box,” etc.), worrying for a show with such a good track record. With the announcement of the creator’s departure at the end of next season, the show’s future is in serious doubt. However, the above average episodes of this month were way above average so perhaps there is still hope for The Amazing World of Gumball, at least until Bocquelet leaves next season. From then on, nothing is for sure.