Alright let’s just get started here. I’ve written a lot about Jimmy Neutron on this blog before. Kane Hughes, a fellow fan and one of my followers, asked if I would take a look at Jimmy Neutron’s spin-off, Planet Sheen. I knew that this show existed and had caught a few moments of it now and again, but I’d never sat down and actually watched a whole episode.
I figured that needed to change. I’m more than happy to oblige my readers’ requests, and since I’m such a big Jimmy Neutron fan it really was time that I gave a good look at what its spinoff was like. So I’ve since watched three full episodes of the show; one 22 minute episode and four 11 minute eps. (These are Pilot, Is This Cute?, What’s Up Chock?, Shave the Last Dance for Me, & Berry Big Trouble.)
What I saw had flashes of competence. But overall, this show is a flop. I think I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s just dive into this review.
Going where no show has (wisely) ever gone before.
The history of Planet Sheen is a complicated one. It was originally pitched to Nickelodeon as a much different program called Red Acres. This pilot pitch focused on an aimless fast food worker accidentally being blasted into space. The result? A search for intelligent alien life actually found aliens dumber than we are.
What went wrong? Was it because there were different writers than the Neutron staff? Did the premise stray too far from the original pitch? Could the new production company not deliver as well as DNA? In the end I suppose the reasons don’t matter, just the end result. Which was this.
“Doo wup doo wup monkey monkey boing.”
Normally I start my reviews off with the positives, but then again most things I review are good. So let’s get the bulk of the Planet Sheen’s attributes covered first.
- Awful Theme Song:
A major thing I’m going to keep harping on in this review is lack of effort. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the worst theme song in existence.
“Dogs like cheese, cows like monkeys…tuna noodle casserole, pomegranate stew. Stranded on a planet, what’cha gonna do?”
This is the worst thing I have ever heard. I understand your show has a wacky and abstract sense of humor, but seriously. “Pomegranate stew?” There’s really nothing else you could think of to rhyme with the word “do?” That’s literally the easiest word to rhyme with.
“To me this sucks, how about you? Stranded on a planet, what’cha gonna do?”
That took five seconds. I’ll take my check now.
- Very Frequent Bad Writing:
I’ll state this again when I get to the good parts of Planet Sheen, but not every single joke or line is cancer-inducingly awful. But at least half of the gags fall completely flat, and much of the character and plot-forwarding dialogue is just awful.
Let’s take the very first line of the series as an example. Get yourself in the right mindset here. You’ve been hired to write the pilot episode of a brand new show. You flip open your laptop and search your mind for the perfect opening line. This is your chance to prove you’re a great writer and set the tone for the rest of this program’s history. You want to blow away your audience, let them know right off the bat that this show is worth their time. Will you make a hilarious joke? Maybe tug at the heartstrings? Start off with a heart-pounding action scene?
No, because this is Planet Sheen, homeworld of utter disappointment. Instead you write this:
“I like chicken, I like pants. But I don’t like chickens in my pants!”
Why did I agree to write this post?
Look, it’s not even that this line is idiotic (it is, though). Look at that first image of the series. This pilot aired four years after the last episode of Jimmy Neutron, a show that touched a ton of lives and inspired countless kids. When they see this image of Jimmy’s backyard and lab, it hits them with a crippling wave of nostalgia. This animation is a false promise to these JN fans; it shows that there is going to be a connection to the old show that they grew up with and loved.
It would have been so easy to replace that stupid chicken / pants bit with something funny and heartfelt that connected to the old Jimmy Neutron world. In a single line they could have hinted at what happened since the Jimmy Neutron series has ended. Maybe Sheen’s running out to the lab to get some new invention that Jimmy wants to show the entire group; showing once again how close the five friends grew over the course of the series. Or he could be muttering to himself that he’s tired of watching Jimmy and Cindy share googly eyes now that they’re dating. Maybe he and Libby had a fight, or the gang is getting ready for one last summer adventure before sixth grade starts…anything is possible here.
But instead we get a line about chickens and pants.
That’s an example of the poor writing, but it’s not the only one. Let’s jump ahead a few minutes in the pilot, right after Sheen crash-lands on Zeenu. In one of the strangest creative decisions I have ever witnessed, there are three voice-overs by Sheen explaining the major characters of this show.
That might make sense, except Sheen just literally repeats what we just learned with no new analysis.
Line right before voice-over: “Why don’t you just call me emperor, grand head leader of Zeenu.”
Voice-over line: “That’s the emperor, he’s a big powerful dude here.”
How in the world is that necessary? Most people in your audience aren’t as dumb as Sheen, they don’t every single line repeated. And how is the word emperor not itself indicative of the type of power this alien wields?
It’s not just the pilot this occurs in. Take episode 19, “Shave the Last Dance for Me.” The plot of the episode is Sheen needs to grow a mustache to help his crush Aseefa win some sort of dance contest.
I don’t underst…sure, whatever.
Aseefa says that if he’s lying she’ll never trust him again. This whole plot has absolutely, clearly been laid out in the opening scenes. But 6 minutes into the episode, after getting his mustache and preparing to enter the ballroom, this exchange happens.
Doppy: “Why don’t you just take the mustache off and tell Aseefa the truth?”
Sheen: “I can’t! I told her I’d have a real mustache for the dance and she said she’d never trust me again if I didn’t!”
This goes against one of the biggest rules of screenwriting: you don’t repeat things. Every second you have is precious, episodes of any TV show rarely come in under the allotted time. You need to make room for the great jokes and lines you want, which means cutting out anything unnecessary. So why in the middle of this 11-minute episode is there a recap of the plot we just learned about 200 seconds before? Did they honestly think the viewers forget why they were watching that quickly?
This section is getting really long, so I’ll just quickly give one example of the jokes falling flat. In the pilot, Sheen meets his crush for the rest of the series, Aseefa. After she saves his life, Sheen asks when he’ll see her again. She says Sheen will know when she is near when she hears her people’s war cry.
Cue insane, incredibly annoying yodeling.
I don’t know whose idea the yodeling was, but I hate them. This doesn’t work as a one-time joke, it just sounds utterly ridiculous and irritating. But for the rest of the series, Aseefa keeps up this trait. I would cringe every time I heard the opening notes of her stupid yodeling. I don’t know how to analyze it further than that, it’s just not funny.
Stop it, stop it right now!
- Awful Colors
Let’s make this fast. Planet Sheen looks like Willy Wonka vomited on screen.
It’s like looking into the sun.
Maybe this is just me, and I’m not at all an artist, but come on. This show is just way too bright. There’s no balance in the color scheme at all.
This is the show’s villain. Subtlety is not Planet Sheen’s strong suit.
Even beyond that, there is no semblance to Jimmy Neutron’s art style. I get that this is a different show and the animators wanted to try out a new style. If there was more of a connection to the original Jimmy Neutron in other ways, then this visual dichotomy probably wouldn’t bother me as much. But with no real connection to Planet Sheen’s forebearer, the look of this world just makes me angry and ill.
- Complete Character Betrayal
I’ve saved the worst for last. Nothing about Planet Sheen stings more than its utter disregard for Jimmy Neutron’s characters and their incredible growth.
It doesn’t just make me angry to write about this, it fills me with palpable sorrow.
I’ve written before about how some of Jimmy Neutron‘s biggest themes were how important friendship, unity, and family were. That show gave a great deal of focus showing the five main kids coming together as a family, of Jimmy and Cindy moving from rivals to friends to lovers, and of Libby and Sheen becoming good friends and a couple.
Wonderful moments that capture the spirit of a beautiful show.
Planet Sheen came along and trampled on all of this.
Let’s start with the least egregious, Sheen himself. Most of his character is gotten across well: his hyperactivity, obliviousness to danger, and sheer idiocy. Some would argue (and I am among them) that those are awful traits to have in your show’s lead, but whatever, I’m not dedicating ten hours to harping on every single mistake. At least as a whole, Sheen is much the same person as he was in Jimmy Neutron. There are three major exceptions to this rule, though.
The first is Sheen’s Ultralord obsession. This was his defining trait in the original show, yet he rarely mentions Ultralord on Zeenu. The second is his anger. Sheen would often turn on his best friends in the blink of an eye on Jimmy Neutron; it took extremely little for him to snap in humorous rage.
“Get his legs, Libby!”
Sheen never gets angry in his titular program, at least not in the three episodes I’ve seen. Not even when Dorkus tears apart his holographic Ultralord card.
The Sheen I know would have murdered him for that.
The last critical mistake is Sheen barely seeming to care about returning home. He writes letters to his grandma and mentions in them that he wants to get back to her soon, but you need to show, not tell. Sheen never has any sense of urgency in returning to Earth; it’s as though his family and friends mean absolutely nothing to him.
As bad as all that is, it’s nothing compared to the betrayals Planet Sheen inflicted on two other characters. Let’s focus first on Libby, specifically on how much she meant to Sheen.
Carl, can you get out of the shot please? Jeez.
The Jimmy / Cindy relationship was a huge reason why I watched the original Jimmy Neutron series, but by the show’s end I cared about Libby and Sheen just as much, if not more. It came completely out of nowhere for fans; this coupled with the relationship showing a softer, more serious side of Sheen made it one of the show’s best aspects. I loved watching these two start off as classmates, spotting hints at Sheen’s attraction to Libby, watching them become friends, and ultimately admit that they were a couple.
She’s never mentioned in Planet Sheen.
Please correct me if I’m wrong; I haven’t seen every single episode. But from what I’ve watched her name was never even brought up. Sheen became obsessed with her during JN’s run, how was she just completely and utterly cast aside? Having him still interested in Libby would have made this show so much better. He’s thirteen years-old and attracted to someone else he meets on this strange new planet that he doesn’t know if he’ll ever escape from. Can he resist this temptation? Does he even want to? Does he feel guilty for betraying Libby? Does this guilt make him less open to the idea of returning home and facing her? Those are all questions Planet Sheen could have explored if its crew had half the aspirations and drive as the old JN staff.
And now, finally, we must address this show’s biggest sin.
That’s right, Sheen. You eye that shady jerk with contempt.
How, in any right and just world, did this decision get greenlit. This is not just a mistake or lapse in judgement. This is clear, intentional assholery.
Remember before how I mentioned Planet Sheen‘s first scene, where we saw Jimmy’s backyard and lab? How it seemed to promise there would be connections to the original series? This is the closest we got. Instead of just giving us Carl, we got an alien that looked like him and had his exact personality.
What blows my mind about this is that there’s no reason not to give us the real Carl. He could have been in the rocket with Sheen incredibly easily, continuing to expand on the boys’ friendship would have been an interesting thing for the show to explore, and most baffling, Planet Sheen actually showed Carl in one scene.
The whole point of this scene was to show how much Carl meant to Sheen!
There clearly wasn’t a legal reason they couldn’t include Carl on the show, so this must have just been a plain dumb, cruel decision. Switching Carl out for alien doppelganger was insulting, mean-spirited, and just plain moronic.
- Excellent Animation:
Aside from my issues with the show’s colors, the animation in this show was really top-notch. The movements are completely fluid, the backgrounds are well-detailed, and there are some really well-framed shots.
Credit where credit is due, those are some beautiful images.
- Occasional Great Humor:
A lot Planet Sheen’s jokes fell flat, and it had tons of limping gags. (Those are running gags that suck.) But sometimes, the should would make me laugh, and that was usually when it clear this show was imitating Jimmy Neutron’s rapid-fire, abstract and character-based style.
Abstract humor is hard to get right. It can just as easily seem completely moronic as it can hilarious. I think the line that divides the two is characterization. If your crazy joke depends on characters and stays true to who those people are, the joke will probably land. But if it’s just nonsense with no person to tether it to reality, it will usually fall flat.
For example, take the mustache dance plot above. That is just so completely random that it boggles the mind. Sheen and the other characters never comment on its oddity, not even the straight-man Nesmith, who usually acknowledges the show’s weirdness. As such, the whole thing just feels weird.
Compare that to one of my favorite scenes, which is from the second episode. The background is that an evil alien is threatening to destroy Sheen, but it turns out this creature resembles an adorable pony.
Stay with me here.
So this pony sucks Sheen up into his nose, and Sheen makes him sneeze to get out. (Seriously, it’s about to get good.) After sneezing out a whole bunch of stuff, the pony becomes super nice. Turns out he was just upset at not being able to breathe. He begins prancing around in a 30-second long tirade where he starts talking like a child, laughing insanely, and saying how he now wants to do so much good in the world.
“I’m going to go build a library and fill it with books that only have happy endings. Ugh HA HA HA HUH!”
When this sequence started, my jaw dropped and I thought the show had completely gone off its rocker. But what pulled me back was the camera cutting to Sheen.
It gets better, because in the show they show his mouth silently and slowly dropping for 3 full seconds.
What would have been completely, irrevocably insane was saved by having another character acknowledge its ludicrousness. This is when Planet Sheen is at its best, when its characters acknowledge the world around them or have funny conversations that stem from their different personalities. The best example of the latter is in the pilot, where a hyper-intelligent monkey named Nesmith tries to figure out how Sheen came to Zeenu.
NESMITH: “You came here in a rocket, yes?”
SHEEN: “No, I came through that hole.”
NESMITH: “I meant to this planet.”
SHEEN: “This isn’t a planet, it’s a cave.”
NESMITH: “I meant the planet the cave is in.”
SHEEN: “The planet’s caving in? Run!”
Nesmith’s growing exasperation mixes perfectly well with Sheen thinking Nesmith is the idiot, and this is a perfect example of Sheen being just stupid enough without going over the edge to annoyingly moronic.
Unfortunately, most of Planet Sheen’s jokes don’t reach these heights.
- Solid Voice Acting:
Yes, the animation is fluid and there are occasionally good jokes. But what really keeps this show from being pure drivel, what might persuade you to keep watching, are the voice actors. Every actor on this show gives way, way more effort than the scripts deserve. Rob Paulsen continues to perfectly capture alien Carl’s simmering rage, crippling fear, and tired acceptance of whatever situation he is thrown in. Sheen’s voice was never meant to be a starring role, it’s just too annoying. But Jeff Garcia does what he can to keep things fresh, and occasionally he nails a quieter moment. Fred Tatasciore does an incredible job as the Emperor; he manages to make the bumbling ruler seem so friendly and cheerful that I can forgive his complete incompetence.
But the absolute star of the show is Thomas Lennon as Pinter.
“No one understands you like I do.”
Pinter is just so obsessed with pleasing Dorkus, and Thomas Lennon throws himself so fully into the role, that I can’t help but smile every time I see this little guy.
Planet Sheen is not a complete failure. Its occasional humor and brilliant actors and animators prevent that. But the jokes fall flat too often and the scripts don’t service the characters properly. If this were an original show, it might be worth a watch for some people. But its numerous insults to the fans of its precursor and betrayal of all the growth Jimmy Neutron lent to Sheen bring this program down hard. There were so many easy fixes that could have been implemented to save Planet Sheen, but none of them were taken, and this show suffered for it.
The 3 episodes that I saw of Planet Sheen get a 3.5 / 10 – Bad