January 5, 2013

Pole Position, episode 3 "The Chicken Who Knew Too Much"

While our heroes put on a stunt show, Professor Barney Morrison is running for his life outside the sports arena, a caged chicken in his hands. On his tail are Byron and Shelly, a pair of young goons on motorcycles. They ditch the bikes when they have to enter the crowded arena, where they catch up with the professor, but he paid a kid to take the chicken to the Pole Position team. Shelly catches up with the kid, but not until after the boy puts the chicken in the hands of our heroes with a message that it's for Dr. Zachary. Our heroes call Dr. Zachary, who says Morrison is an old friend and one of the world's pre-eminent archaeologists, and that the chicken must be of vital importance.

Shelly is suddenly banging on their trailer door, pulling out a wad of cash and offering to buy the chicken. Dan and Tess play coy, but Daisy walks to the door with the chicken in hand, so Shelly snatches it and runs off. Our heroes chase after, distracting Shelly so that he trips and drops the cage, freeing the chicken who runs around the corner. Everyone pursues only to find a truck filled with chickens closing its gate and driving off. Tess (and Shelly) spotted the name of the farm on the truck, and Dan finds a business card in the cage with Morrison's address, so the siblings grab their cars and split up.

Dan and Kuma arrive at the farm, only to find Shelly beat them there. The goon is in the farmer's house, waiving cash and trying to work a deal to buy all the man's chickens. While he's doing so, our heroes sneak around back, through the bull and pig pens, and sort through the chickens until they (somehow) find the right one. Shelly finally gets the load of chickens and shoves them in his van, but as he's driving off, he's passed by Dan in Roadie, Kuma waving as he sits next to the main chicken. Dan peels out and Shelly eats his dust.

Tess and Daisy arrive at Morrison's apartment, where the landlord lets them in and points out a map of the desert ghost town where the professor was currently digging. On a winding mountain road on the way to the ghost town, the girls, in Wheels, spot Byron on his motorcycle, with Morrison tied up in a sidecar. Byron spots some oil drums that just so happen to be sitting by the side of the road and pours them over, causing a slick that throws Wheels off the side of the cliff.

Thankfully, Dan arrives at just that moment, and Roadie uses a grappling claw to save the other car. Further up the road, Morrison manages to unbuckle the sidecar. The heroes show up to save him and Bryon speeds off.

In the ghost town, Morrison leads the heroes to the jail where he's set up his makeshift headquarters. He retrieves an ancient parchment and pokes around for a special flute, but it's in the clutches of Bryon and Shelly, who corner our heroes and lock them in the cell. The goons take off, both the chicken and flute in hand. Roadie armors his nose with a hidden "thrust shield", smashing through the jail wall and setting everyone free.

Byron and Shelly reach a sealed entrance in the mountainside. They send the chicken down a small shaft, playing a special tune on the flute which leads the chicken to peck out a sequence of buttons on a control panel, which opens the door. Our heroes arrive just as the goons enter the cave and seal the door behind them. Roadie duplicates the flute's tune, leading the chicken to open the door a second time, and they enter. The cave is lined entirely with glittering crystal, with a large ruby on a pedestal in a central chamber. Our heroes catch up to Byron and Shelly who have the ruby in hand, and the goons blind everyone by flashing a spotlight on the crystal wall as they take off on their motorcycles. Our heroes take to their cars and split up.

Tess chases Bryon into a bumpy field, where she crosses the terrain quickly in hovercraft mode and kicks the fans into overdrive to blow Byron off his bike.

Dan chases Shelly to a ski slope that's closed for the season. Shelly ditches his bike, using the ski lift to get away. Dan also hops on the lift, climbing the line until he reaches Shelly and snatches the ruby. The two struggle over it, but Shelly falls off the lift, landing in the back of Wheels, who quickly ties him up with seatbelts, right next to the already bound Byron.

Back at Pole Position 2, Dr. Zachary congratulates everyone, and Morrison explains the Native Americans who designed the complex chicken system, and that Byron and Shelly were his assistants on the dig. Roadie plays the flute melody again out of fun, but it causes the chicken to peck out the sequence on the trailer's control panel, activating alarms, dropping a net on the heroes, then dousing them with the sprinkler system.

Yuck yuck.


I want to track down Jean Chalopin circa 1984 and kick him in the freakin' shin.

Our last episode was about two middle aged goons - one hefty, one gaunt - who are out to kidnap a professor's special dog. This episode is about two 20-something goons - one hefty, one gaunt - who are out to kidnap a professor's special chicken. A chicken that's been trained to enter a tiny tunnel and peck out a sequence of buttons when it hears a specific tune played on a special flute. It's a tunnel built by a Native American tribe, who not only left a detailed set of instruction behind with the flute showing someone how to train a chicken to do this, but apparently had an advanced knowledge of electronics, because the buttons all bleep and glow after they're pecked.

We've covered a lot of crap on this blog. Even the shows we liked all had stinkers of an episode. There was the time Street Hawk faced down a gigolo who kidnapped a dead horse. Or that time Robotix flew completely off the rails half-way through and never recovered. Or the times where both Leoric and Quark rapidly aged into bumbling old coots. All these episodes were painful, but nothing we've written about has been as awful as this episode, which comes on the tail of the devolving pair of stinkers that preceded it. I'll say it right now: Pole Position was short-lived because it was crap, and cancelling it was completely justified. I know it still has ten episodes left to make something of a positive impression, but it's already set the bar so low as to qualify for immediate disqualification and a kick in the pants for even trying.

I don't have any grand overview analyzing this show because I had to keep picking up the pieces of my perception after they were constantly shattered by events. I will admit it has a couple of genuinely clever bits - like the professor giving a kid $5 to take his clucker, or the chicken getting lost on a truck full of chickens, or Dr. Zachary feasting on some fried drumsticks when the kids call him about the chicken, or the neat visual of the light blinding everyone in the crystal cave - but even some of these don't even make sense. Like, why is there a truck full of live chickens at the loading dock of a sports arena? Do they dice up and deep fry nuggets on the spot? Or how is Dan able to magically find the right chicken while searching the coop?

I have so many more questions!

I know DiC didn't want to include violence or guns in their show, but when the crooks corner our heroes in the police station, how do they get everyone to go into the cage for them to lock up? I mean, they're just standing there, outnumbered 4 to 2 (I'm counting Daisy and Kuma as a person, because this is a kids show and spunk often triumphs). Why didn't our heroes kick their ass and send them packing instead of just being all "Well, I guess you've outsmarted us" and walking into the cells of their own free will?

I get that the entire plot is about a rare, priceless ruby, but isn't it a very distinct ruby that authorities would keep an eye out for on the open market? If so, who are the goons going to sell it to? I know there's a black market, but these kids struck me as interns on a dig who saw riches and ran with it, so who would they know to fence this stuff off to? And where did Shelly get the wad of money that he's already waving around in everyones' faces?

Why did Shelly buy all the chickens? Given his nature of goonery, couldn't he just sneak onto the farm and steal the chicken, just like our nefarious heroic figure did? And again, how did Dan know which chicken was which, but Shelly didn't? Didn't Dan just meet the chicken today? Whereas Shelly was a part of the dig and the months of training in which he would have spent time with the chicken?

What is Dan's upper body workout routine? Climbing hand over hand along a rope is extremely taxing, so how did he hang on long enough to traverse over 100 yards of space between himself and Shelly, and still have enough strength left to fight over the ruby instead of just flailing his limbs like limp rubber bands?

Why does Roadie have a massive plow blade "thrust shield" under his hood? Wouldn't a piece of metal that dense completely throw off his speed and ability to perform stunts? And why does Wheels come up with using it and not him? Since it's a part of Roadie, wouldn't it be in his programming instead of Wheel's?

Why did Native Americans train chickens to open the door to their tomb when they play a special flute? Why did they write down directions on how to play the special flute and train chickens to open the door to their tomb? Why does it matter if everyone loses this chicken when they have the instructions and can just train another chicken? The hole looks large enough for Kuma to slip into and he's already shown he can operate and understand tools, so why can't he learn the button sequence? Why do the buttons bleep and glow?

How is Roadie able to duplicate a tune he's never heard at the pitch of an instrument he's never seen?

Why did Tess say the ruby is the property of the United States? Isn't it the property of the Native American tribe whose tomb it was stolen from?

Why did these Native Americans write in hieroglyphics when that's a form of writing specific to Egypt? Are they Egyptian Native Americans? Is this further evidence we were all created by the Engineers? What is the black goo?

Why does Tess forget about the cars' hovercraft feature? When they're on the mountain road, Byron leave an oil slick behind them and Tess notices it, saying "Look, an oil slick!" a good five seconds before she hits it. Instead of activating the hovercraft feature, or even just slamming on the brakes, why does she just drive into the oil slick at full speed, throwing herself and her little sister off a cliff? Was the hovercraft feature broken? Had it been retconned out of the show by this point, like most of Automan's early features?

Oh, but when they chase the goon onto the field, she activates the hovercraft feature. It doesn't require any complex key code or transformation sequence. She just says "Hovercraft mode, Wheels!" and Wheels replies "Roger!", and in less time than it took them to hit the oil slick after first spotting it, they're airborne. Why did she use the hovercraft this time, but not that time?

Were the makers of this show complete morons? Was this a case of too many cooks in the kitchen who wanted too many different things, so that the only things which made it to screen were compromised crap? Did they just not care, taking one look at the plotless video game laid before them and saying "Screw it, here's something I pooped on paper!"? Did nobody read these scripts before they made it through the development stage? The design stage? the storyboard stage? The recording stage? The animation stage? The packaging stage? The release stage?

How did something so abysmally stupid get made? Was it to sell toys? Because no toys for the show were made. Was it to sell the game? Because it has just as nothing to do with the games as the Hitchcock films it parodies with every episode title. Who wanted this to exist, who were they marketing it for, and for what purpose?


I keep wanting to tell myself that this has to be the bottom of the hole, that it can only get better from here, but that's what I told myself after the last episode, and the one before that. Not only is this show bad, but we're seeing it get worse before our very eyes. What will next week bring? Will it improve? Will it sink to depths so low that it almost becomes watchable again just out of a purely absurd level of ineptitude? Or will it be the same misery we've inflicted on ourselves three weeks in a row now?

I will say one final thing before we go. I'm amused that the goons in this episode look very much like the goons of the last episode, only 20 years younger. I've created a headcanon where they're fathers and sons. And there's an entire family industry built around goonery. Just like the family industry built around professors, shown by the identical Dr. Zachary and Dr. Hastings in the last episode, and even further into the family industry of orphaned agents that is Pole Position itself. But then I realize that, in the space of a paragraph, I've put more thought into this show than the creators themselves did. As with Dan's adventures on the farm this episode, the entire show is full of bull and pig slop.

Tony, weep with me.


Noel, pass the tissues.

I contemplated submitting the following as my full review...

The episode begins with a panicked, middle aged man running through a crowd carrying a chicken cage...

*drops mic* Boom!

...however, in the interests of professionalism, I will trudge on.

If you go back to our review for the first episode of Pole Position, you’ll see that I attempted to interpret the meaning of the theme song’s lyrics. Having now suffered through watched two more episodes, I decided to go back and amend that interpretation.

“From now on, like your parents were, you are the secret force of Pole Position!”

Translation: The show probably would’ve been more interesting had Uncle Zachary told them that their parents called their organization “Pole Position”, not because it was centered around the world of high performance automobiles, but because “Position” is what they want the audience to assume, and “Pole” is what they’re going to jam up our ass.

“They're movin' real fast. They're the only ones who can get there on time.”

Translation: Chickens are faster than they look.

“They're never too far behind, they're always fighting crime.”

Translation: Keeping barnyards safe for democracy!

“On the curve or the face of adventure in the danger zone.”

Translation: Seriously, is that even English?

“Pretty soon they'll be off on a mission, come and watch them go!”

Translation: Noel, have you seen the remote?

“Pole Position! What's behind their stunt show? Pole Position! What's behind their stunt show?”

Translation: Not a thing. Not a Goddamn thing.

“Pole Position! Only their Uncle knows.”

Translation: And apparently he can’t tell us because it’s impolite to talk with your mouth full.

“Pole Position! Sit back and watch them go-oo-oh. Hey-O Hey-O Hey-O Hey-O Hey-O”

Translation: Oh, shut up!

Noel, I don’t know what to say that you haven’t already said brilliantly. And I don’t have the answers to your questions. Not one. Not one answer. Not. One. Answer.

Three episodes in and we’re already on our second animal MacGuffin!? Appropriate, I suppose, since the titles of these episodes are based on movies directed by the Father of the MacGuffin, Alfred Hitchcock. What’s next, “Dial M for Manatee”? “Rear Window Defrost”? Why in God’s name should we care about the fate of this stupid ruby, anyway? Is it going to be used to power a deadly laser? No. It’s either going to make a couple of bumbling goons rich, or it’s going end up in a museum (I don’t suppose it occurred to anyone to track down the ancestors of the tribe who hid it and give it to them). Do you want to know what’s really sad about this plot? If it had turned out that the chicken was instead the first in a line of genetically enhanced fowls bred by a mad scientist who planned to create an army of them and take over the world, it would’ve been 10 times more exciting and less stupid than the actual episode we got. Re-read my alternate plot synopsis and then think about that for a few minutes. That’s how supremely awful “The Chicken Who Knew Too Much” is. How supremely awful this series is.

Noel, I’ve tried to come up with the most evocative and appropriate simile for Pole Position and I’d like your thoughts on which is the most accurate. Is it like a giant black hole, sucking all logic and joy into its dark void and leaving nothing behind but the tracks of our tears? Or is it more like a tornado of stupidity, indiscriminately destroying everything in its path? You’re right, in the two years we’ve been doing this blog, you and I have seen our share of stinkers, but nothing compares to this. In the Shittyanapolis 500 (sponsored by Charmin), this show takes the checkered flag.


Tony, I'd say the show simultaneously fits both of those similies, flailing outward whilst also sucking inward, creating a feedback loop of stupidity that fills one's mind with horrors while slurping out all thoughts of every other nature. Seeing this show is the equivalent of getting a bikini wax on my frontal lobes. Sure, it'll keep things nice and smooth, but I'm still left as a guy lacking a strip of brain matter who has a bikini bottom on his head.

In the nearly two years (anniversary is just a couple weeks away) we've been running this blog, we've never had a show hurt us this bad, and thus never expected to have to resort to alternate measures. Pole Position really is that awful, folks. We're not playing it up. It's genuinely burned us bad.

So Tony and I have talked it over, and decided we just can't do it anymore. No, we're not folding the blog, nor are we just abandoning Pole Position, but we can't keep going through it at the rate we have. We just can't. I'm sure some of you would find it amusing to see us continue pouring out vitriol over the next 10 weeks, but we just don't have enough of it stocked up for such consistent milking. So we're instead going to compress the schedule down to just two posts which will more briefly cover five episodes each, one released two weeks from now, the final two weeks after that. That way, we'll still get through the whole series - and we promise to give each episode a fair shake and spend a little more time with ones we think are worthwhile... should such a thing exist - but also save ourselves from dragging out the misery beyond the point of sustainability.

We've had our fun, but trust me, if we drag it out, it won't continue to be so. This isn't meant to be a blog of just rage and snark. It's meant to be fair and thorough analyses all the way, and every series has brought us ups and downs. But this series has increasingly taken us to such depths that we worry it'll turn nothing but nasty, and that's not where we want to go and the type of material we want to give our readers. So I hope the revised format works for you all, and we promise we'll be returning to the same old structure as soon as we get Pole Position out of the way and start up the Showcase that follows.

The complete series of Pole Position is available on DVD through Amazon or other online retailers, but we strongly advise everyone to avoid it at all costs. Please, just don't. Save yourselves.

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