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Hulu’s Animaniacs: Season 2 Review

Note: this is a spoiler-free advance review of Animaniacs: Season 2, which premieres on Hulu on Friday, Nov. 5. As with Season 1, Hulu made five of the 13 new episodes available to critics ahead of time. Because the series doesn’t have much in the way of an ongoing plot or continuity, we once again figured it’s safe to render judgment on the new season based on those episodes.

With ’90s nostalgia in full swing these days, it’s sure been nice seeing the Warner siblings given a second lease on life. Season 2 of Hulu’s Animaniacs “reboot-y” is every bit as goofy and entertaining as the first, even if this second batch of 13 episodes does very little to shake up the established formula.

You surely know the drill by now. The series revolves mostly around the slapstick antics of Yakko (Rob Paulsen), Wakko (Jess Harnell), and Dot (Tress MacNeille) as they continuously escape the confines of the Warner Bros. water tower and run amok across the pop culture landscape. Nothing about that formula really changes in Season 2, though the writers and animators tend to be more eclectic this time in terms of setting and time period. Case in point — the season premiere features a lengthy segment set in ancient Rome that casts Emperor Nero as a long-winded, populist buffoon.

In case you were wondering, yes, there’s still a fair amount of political humor targeted at the previous presidential administration. That said, the series does succeed in casting a slightly wider net this time and not relying too much on political jokes that became outdated sometime between the scripting and animating phases. If there’s any sort of through-line at all in this very plot-light series, it’s that the Warners are both fascinated with and mystified by 21st Century social media. That’s what winds up driving many of the show’s storylines.

Season 2 further cements the fact that Yakko, Wakko, and Dot have lost none of their edge over the past few decades. If anything, they have a bit more bite now than they did back in 1994. The tone may be lighthearted and silly, but the writers have mostly abandoned any pretense of Animaniacs being a show aimed at children. Whether it’s lengthy musical numbers patterned after Gilbert & Sullivan plays or jokes that veer into surprisingly dark territory, the new Animaniacs can be surprisingly edgy at times. Thankfully, these more adult-oriented moments never feel out of place, and the experienced, talented voice cast certainly help in that regard.

By now, the new series has established a very clear formula. Every episode features one Animaniacs segment, one Pinky and the Brain segment and one shorter segment to wrap things up. As in Season 1, there’s little effort made to introduce new characters and break up that pattern. In the five episodes Hulu screened, there’s only one segment that doesn’t fall into either of those two categories.

It’s hard to say whether this more rigid format is the right approach or not. On one hand, it’s tough to describe the new Animaniacs as a “variety series” when it’s really just a pairing of two elements. On the other, none of the ancillary characters and skits from the original series really measured up to the Warner siblings or Pinky and the Brain. It’s hard to argue the new series actually suffers because of a lack of Goodfeathers or Buttons and Mindy skits.

There is a distinct lack of variety to the current format.


All the same, there is a distinct lack of variety to the current format, one that becomes more evident the longer this show goes on. Perhaps what Animaniacs needs isn’t more side characters, but a more coherent, serialized storyline. Why not, if the target audience has skewed much older? Occasionally the scripts will include callbacks to old jokes, but this is hardly a series that pays much heed to continuity.

Maybe that should change in the upcoming Season 3. It would be a refreshing change of pace to see Animaniacs storylines that stretch out for a full half hour or even continue from one episode to the next. It’s clear from some of the more risque jokes in Season 2 that the writers are being given carte blanche. So why not take full advantage of that freedom?

Animaniacs Reboot: Season 1 Photos

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