So if you're Butch Hartman -- the creator of Nickelodeon's white hot hit, "The Fairly Oddparents" -- what do you do to try and top yourself? Well, how about taking a walk on the weird side by liberally mixing superhero heroics, paranormal phenomenon, teen angst as well as a pretty twisted sense of humor and then calling the concoction "Danny Phantom"?
To be honest, this new Nick series (which debuted on the kids network back on April 4th) hasn't quite gelled yet. The three "Danny Phantom" episodes I've seen to date seemed to be struggling to strike just the right balance between satire and scares. But -- that said -- this new Hartman series still shows plenty of promise. And -- given time -- may yet grow into a "Oddparents" sized hit.
So what's the deal with "Danny Phantom"'s other-worldly-sounding title character? Well, Danny Fenton was once an average teen attending Casper High. Until his dad -- a somewhat dim-witted scientist -- invented the Fenton Portal. Which accidentally turned Professor Fenton's son into that half human/half ghost superhero, Danny Phantom.
As the show's pilot, "Mystery Meat," gets underway, Danny is still struggling to get his new supernatural powers under control. Which isn't exactly helped by the fact that his parents seem to be obsessed with capturing a ghost.
But eluding Mr. and Mrs. Fenton's Ghost Finder becomes the least of Danny's worries when a ghostly school lunch lady suddenly slips out of the Fenton Portal. Upset because the high school cafeteria has suddenly switched over to an all vegetarian menu, the late lunch lady conjures up a massive monster made entirely on meat. And who's the only person who can stand up to this terrifying 10 ton pile of tenderloin and tongue? You guessed it. Danny Phantom.
At 22 minutes in length, this new Nicktoon seemed (to me, anyway) to run a bit long. But -- then again -- "Mystery Meat" was "Danny Phantom"'s pilot. Which meant that much the show's running time was spent getting series exposition out of the way.
As for the other two shows that I saw -- "Parental Bonding" and "One of a Kind" on April 9th -- these "Danny Phantom" episodes came across as being much more amusing and assured. With "Parental Bonding" (which featured Danny using his ghostly powers to prevent his father from doing anything too embarrassing during a parent / teacher conference) being a particular stand-out.
So do I have any real complaints about "Danny Phantom"? Well, Danny's dad seems to be cut of the very same dim-dad cloth that Butch Hartman used to create Timmy Turner's father in "Fairly Oddparents." So it would be nice if -- in future episodes -- if Hartman could find a different to make Danny's dad funny.
However, given Butch's track record, I'm sure that Hartman will be to strike just the right balance with Nick's new show, eventually be able to work out "Danny Phantom"'s minor kinks. Which will (hopefully) finally give Nickelodeon its very own "Kim Possible" (AKA a cartoon series with tween appeal).
"Danny Phantom" airs on Nickelodeon on Friday nights from 8:30 - 9 p.m.