Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pepper Ann

Pepper Ann; animated comedy series, USA, 1997; D: Brad Goodchild, S: Kathleen Wilhoite, Clea Lewis, Danny Cooksey, Pamela Segall, Don Adams, Pamela Adlon, Kathy Najimy, Jeff Bennett, Luke Perry, Brittany Murphy

Pepper Ann is 12 years old and in her family Pearson she gets often bossed around by her kitschy mother and younger sister Moose. But behind an unattended girl lies a person full of imagination and kindness who constantly experiences various adventures, among the most absurd ones are the one involving her friend Milo and Nicky: she stars in the main role of a Romeo & Juliet play, a new soccer team is build, she falsely accuses a company of pollution, gets visited by her old friend Brenda, gets mistaken for an 8th grader by some girls, writes a touching essay in the school newspaper, helps Nicky with her boyfriend Stuart...

Behind ordinary episodes, a simple construction, there lies a surprising and dynamic series which with only half the effort and restrained humor manages to achieve a maximum satisfaction from the viewer. Admirable, but "Pepper Ann" gets the most from the interesting, authentic plot concept from the author Sue Rose: the main heroine is a dynamic and spontaneous girl whose adventures indeed are without some big meaning or high concept, but which leave nobody cold and seem wonderfully sympathetic. How much everything is benevolent testifies also the fact that Pepper Ann even wears glasses while nobody makes fun of her, while the authors have to be congratulated for having the courage to actually provide a real ending for the story, in the final episode where she becomes a 28-year old in a wonderful future where Mark Hamill became the president of the world while her colleague, the school bully, in the meantime became a priest. Naturally, not every episode works, some naive elements seem troublesome and the caricature humor needless, but they are all minor complaints.

The best gags of this comedy of character come swiftly, in small details and seem unessential, but actually turn out amazing, like the scene where Pepper Ann makes her friend Milo walk some 20 yards away from her but some old lady still misinterprets them for a love couple. The episode where the perfect Nicky rebels and tries to become a wild girl called "Nickey" is smashing, while the legendary bra episode is simply unbelievable: in it, Pepper Ann figures her gym teacher meant the girls have to wear a bra when she said they must have "support" during the trampoline exercise, so she goes to buy her first one. On D Day, while on the trampoline, the gym teacher and Pepper Ann exchange this dialogue: "Pepper Ann, where is your support?" - "Here!" - "Where? I don't see it!" - "Well, here!" - "Pepper Ann, stop kidding and get your support!" - "It's here!", before Pepper Ann pulls her shirt up and shows her bra to an astonished class - only later figuring the teacher actually meant a real person who will help her as a "support" during the jumping on the trampoline. Kathleen Wilhoite's voice for the title heroine is great while so many emotions throughout the story are delivered in a great and unobtrusive way. Many kids shows don't work for the adult audience because their toned down humor isn't sharp enough, but this is one example where it really captivates everyone with ease because the effort of the authors can be sensed with every fibre of the events. "Pepper Ann" is a real successor of animes.


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