Napoleon Dynamite (TV series)
by Jared Hess
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||6|
|Running time||22 minutes|
|Picture format||720p (16:9 HDTV)|
|Original release||January 15 – March 4, 2012|
Napoleon Dynamite is a 2012 American animated sitcom based on the 2004 indie film of the same name. Set in the small town of Preston, Idaho, it follows the adventures of the titular 16-year-old boy, who thinks he is skilled at everything. The series was created by the film's co-writers and directors Jared and Jerusha Hess, who developed it with Mike Scully and proposed it to Fox.
The series received mixed reviews; critics were divided on how well the source material translated to animation. The premiere episode had a Nielsen rating of 9.5 million viewers, but the ratings later dropped and the last four episodes averaged only 4 million viewers. The series ranked sixth in viewership among teenagers. The series aired on Fox's Animation Domination lineup from January 15 to March 4, 2012.
Married couple Jared and Jerusha Hess were co-writers and directors of the 2004 film Napoleon Dynamite, and had wanted to do an animated version since the film's release. They thought animation was the best way to continue the world of Napoleon Dynamite as the original actors had grown too old to play teenage characters. Following the film's success, Fox Searchlight Pictures wanted a sequel, but the Hesses delayed due to commitments to other projects and fear that audiences would tire of the Napoleon Dynamite characters.
Development of the series began in 2009 when Jared Hess met with writer-producer Mike Scully to propose an animated version of the film to him. Scully stated that "Napoleon Dynamite as an animated series made "perfect sense" to him, and the two presented a nine-minute pilot episode to Fox in 2010. That May, Fox officially confirmed that an animated series with the original cast was in development with close involvement from the Hesses. Fox placed an order for six episodes as a trial run, and in July 2011 ordered seven additional scripts to be put into production if the series was renewed for a second season. The show was overseen by the Hesses and Scully.
The series premiered on January 15, 2012, as a mid-season replacement for the animated series Allen Gregory. During its six-episode run, Napoleon Dynamite had no consistent schedule; it was constantly shifted on the Fox schedule in favor of football and award shows. On May 15, 2012, Fox announced a schedule for its 2012–13 season that dropped Napoleon Dynamite from the listings. The complete series was released on a single DVD in November 2014 by Olive Films.
The Hesses set the series towards the end of the Napoleon Dynamite film; Scully said they transferred the characters and premise, but not the events of the film. In the film, set in the small town of Preston, Idaho, Napoleon (Jon Heder) is an awkward 16-year-old boy who loves practicing ninja moves, dancing and drawing pictures of a liger, an animal he says is bred for its skills in magic. He also makes up stories about himself about hunting wolverines in Alaska and a gang wanting him to join because of his skill with a bo staff. His brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) is an unemployed 32-year-old; flimsy and gawky, he is the target of Napoleon's outlashes, although he often brags of his wrestling abilities and overall coolness; he spends his days in an internet chat room talking to a woman named Lafawnduh. The two live with their grandmother, Carlinda (Sandy Martin), who enjoys riding all-terrain vehicles. Deborah "Deb" Bradshaw (Tina Majorino) is a shy, quiet, sweet, and artistically inclined girl who is infatuated with Napoleon upon first meeting him. Napoleon's uncle Rico (Jon Gries) is a middle-aged man who lives in a camper van and is obsessed with his failed football career and with attempts at get rich quick schemes. Rex Kwon Do (Diedrich Bader) is a self-declared martial-arts master who runs a dojo.
Napoleon also becomes friends with a Mexican exchange student named Pedro Sánchez (Efren Ramirez) who rarely conveys emotion or speaks. Pedro runs for class president after seeing a poster at the school dance. On the election day, he gives a mediocre speech in front of the student body. Napoleon does a dance routine as Pedro's skit for the election and receives a standing ovation, saving the campaign and winning Pedro the election. Following the campaign, Kip and Lafawnduh meet each other in real life and are wed. Jared Hess has stated that the series takes place before the marriage, but after Pedro's election, and several new characters are introduced.
Jon Heder as Napoleon Dynamite
Aaron Ruell as Kip Dynamite
Sandy Martin as Grandma Dynamite
Efren Ramirez as Pedro Sánchez
Tina Majorino as Deb
Jon Gries as Uncle Rico
Diedrich Bader as Rex
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||Prod.|
|1||"Thundercone"||Dwayne Carey-Hill||Jared Hess & Jerusha Hess||January 15, 2012||1AST04||9.5|
|After Kip pelts him with a piece of chicken, Napoleon breaks out in acne. At the recommendation of Uncle Rico and a suspect pharmacist, he takes an illegal skin cream called Rack-U-Tane whose side effects make him aggressive and give him increased resistance to pain. Soon he is invited to participate in blood sports at the Pioneer Punch Club. While working out, he draws the attention of Misty (Amy Poehler), a girl whom Kip has met on the internet.|
|2||"Scantronica Love"||Raymie Muzquiz||Julie Thacker Scully||January 15, 2012||1AST03||7.2|
|Science teacher Professor Koontz (Jemaine Clement) uses a computer dating program run on his Scantronica 3000 to set up the students with each other: Pedro is matched with his crush Summer Wheatley (Haylie Duff), Deb with Summer's boyfriend Don Moser (Jared Hess), and Napoleon with katana-wielding Japanese exchange student Tokiko. Deb is drawn into the Moser family, finding herself in a pre-engagement wedding ceremony on a houseboat, but discovers the unsavory side of the family—in particular Don's mother (Jennifer Coolidge). Her friends invade the ceremony and rescue her with the help of Summer. Meanwhile, Uncle Rico and Kip unsuccessfully try to earn riches by performing as a magic act.|
|3||"Ligertown"||Crystal Chesney-Thompson||Jared Hess & Jerusha Hess||January 29, 2012||1AST01||4.4|
|Napoleon gets a job at a liger sanctuary and learns the animals are not the magical beasts he had imagined. Disappointed with the peaceful animals and their uneventful lifestyle, he kidnaps a newborn cub and attempts to raise it with Deb. The ligers learn of the kidnapping and invade the town. The Mayor and Police Chief flee, leaving Student Body President Pedro in command. Meanwhile, a near-blind Grandma enlists Kip to be her eyes for her, reading romance novels to her and navigating for her as she drives.|
|4||"Pedro vs. Deb"||Edmund Fong||Dan Vebber||February 12, 2012||1AST05||3.81|
|Deb has become reporter for the Preston Bugle newspaper, but finds it will fold if she does not find a front-page story to lure readers. She interviews Pedro, and cherrypicks a quote that Preston is "the most boring city in America". Pedro and Deb's friendship is strained as Pedro gains the censure of the townspeople. Napoleon wants to bring his friends back together, and sets out with Kip to find the Mine Shaft Monster, hoping a front-page story on it will make the town forget about the Pedro story. They find instead Dave the Ghost, whom Uncle Rico owes money.|
|5||"Bed Races"||Frank Marino||Tom Gammill & Max Pross||February 19, 2012||1AST02||4.41|
|It is time for the Annual Preston Bed Races, in which competitors push beds around Preston. Rico and Napoleon compete in against six-time champion Grandma. Rico in particular is desperate to win so as to recover his pride from having lost an important football game when in high school, which he details to Napoleon as they race. The pair stoop to all sorts of tricks, including weighing down Grandma's bed with lead. They win, and Rico gets the fame and women he craved. Grandma resigns herself to a life as a regular, embroidery-loving grandmother, too old for the rough lifestyle she was used to—going as far as to donate her car to a local convent. Napoleon is tortured by dreams of guilt and reveals that he and Rico cheated. Grandma reverts to her former self, saying, "I knew I wasn’t an old lady." Rico loses his fame and prestige, but he and Grandma develop an affection for one another, and Grandma commissions a sculpture from Rico. The pair then raid the convent to retrieve Grandma's car.|
|6||"FFA"||Stephen Sandoval||Mike Scully||March 4, 2012||1AST06||4.05|
|Napoleon enrolls in a Future Farmers of America competition, which he had won the previous year. His partner Curtis drops out on him when he realizes that the FFA is unpopular with the cool kids. Napoleon enlists Pedro instead. Napoleon is swarmed with groupies who remember his last year's win, until the long-haired former champion Filson (Sam Rockwell) arrives in a sleeveless jacket and steals the attention. Filson connives to win again this year and enlists his girlfriend to distract Napoleon and Pedro with her charms. The two end up buried in soil together, and must scramble to catch up to Filson's lead. The competition ends in a tie that Pedro breaks by improvising a song of friendship. Meanwhile, the Dynamites find their home infested with innumerable spiders, and have to have the house fumigated. Rico offers them a place to sleep in his Dodge Santana van and teaches them his tricks for getting by as a homeless man.|
Reviews for the show's premiere episode were mixed. Linda Stasi of the New York Post praised its humor as almost as funny as the film, and Nancy Smith of The Wall Street Journal called it "a dream come true" for fans of the film. Ed Bark of UncleBarky.com enjoyed the show and said it was "far funnier" than the Fox animated comedies Bob's Burgers and Allen Gregory. Simon Moore of Flickering Myth compared the show's "left-field laughs" favorably to the humor in The Simpsons and Futurama.
David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle found the writing not funny, writing that he could not see "Jon Heder's expressionless face" as he talked in the animation. The Staten Island Advance said the change to animation freed Napoleon from real-world limitations, but thought it "lessen[ed] the overall appeal of the character and setting". Lori Rackl of the Chicago Sun-Times did not like the movie and liked the animated series even less; she thought the emotions and physical humor were lost in the change to animation.
Brian Lowry of Variety gave the show a neutral review: "To say the show represents an improvement over Allen Gregory is not much of an endorsement, but there is something amusing about Heder's monotonic voice and Napoleon's utter lack of self-awareness, along with fast-paced gags like a miniature golf course where hitting the ball into Hitler's mouth wins a free round." Robert Bianco of USA Today called the first episode a "vulgarized premiere" that detracted from the film's qualities, but called the second one a "sweeter, funnier improvement". Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times wrote of the pacing that the "satirical silence or non-sequitur scenes slowly compiled to establish tone" in the film, but were sacrificed for the faster pace of a network TV show.Mirna Valerio
Simon Moore of Flickering Myth disagreed the faster pace was to the show's detriment, calling the film's "snail-like pace ... its biggest flaw".
Despite canceling the show, Fox touted in a press release that it had an averaged 2.8/7 Nielsen share and 5.8 million viewers for the six episodes, and that it ranked sixth in teenage viewership against other television networks. The show ranked #56 in the adults 18-49 ratings and #103 in the total viewership rankings for the 2011-12 television season.
The series is available on Hulu in the United States.
|Argentina||FX Latinoamerica||April 15, 2012|
|Australia||The Comedy Channel||January 7, 2013|
|Brazil||FX Brazil||May 27, 2012|
|Canada||Global||January 15, 2012|
|Colombia||FX Latinoamerica||April 15, 2012|
|Mexico||FX Latinoamerica||April 15, 2012|
|Philippines||Jack TV||January 28, 2012|
|Russia||2×2||August 24, 2012|
|United Kingdom||E4||March 20, 2012|
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