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SuperMansion is Better the Smaller it Gets

Created by: Zeb Wells & Matthew Senreich
Watch now on Crackle
Three episodes watched for review

“That does not sound like something you can say.”

One of the main talking points surrounding the discussion of “Too Much TV” centers on the influx of online providers. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and others have thrown various, digital hats into the ring with series that are both unique and vital, to varying degrees. Crackle, while not new to the scripted show game, has yet to make a mark on par with its Internet siblings. After SuperMansion, they still haven’t cracked the code, but they have made a fun diversion, which isn’t nothing.

SuperMansion is a stop-motion animated sitcom that looks at a team of inept and bumbling superheroes. Most are based, in some fashion, on an existing property. Captain Ranger (Keegan-Michael Key) is Captain America, frozen in the ice for decades and all. Although here, Ranger is perplexed why a black man is drinking from the water fountain and claiming to be president. Black Saturn (Tucker Gilmore) is a play on the broodiness of Batman, complete with rich parents (one of the best jokes the series makes is turning the Dark Knight into a trust fund baby). The team is led by Titanium Rex (Bryan Cranston), an aging Superman-type. Each of them resides, along with Cooch (Heidi Gardner), Brad (Tom Root) and Jewbot (Zeb Wells, co-creator of the series), in the titular abode. Most of the conflict arises from personal failings or mild confusion rather than tights & capes hijinks.

In this way, along with the animation style, SuperMansion most obviously resembles Robot Chicken. No surprise then that creators Wells and Matthew Senreich wrote for that show, and Seth Green, co-creator of that series, executive produces this one. So this sits firmly in the sandbox of adult kids treating action figures with reckless abandon. One sub-plot revolves around an abusive relationship, with a pet pony standing in for a malicious boyfriend. Captain Ranger looks for a new sidekick in a Craigslist post that reads suspiciously like something else that involves a search for young boys. Playing the purity of the setting against the darkness of the material is a common tool for this crew, and that method comes early and often.

That stuff, the grimy crudeness for crudeness’ sake, is perhaps the least interesting aspect of SuperMansion. Some of the specific parody falls flat as well. It’s odd to hear Gilmore basically mimic Will Arnett as Batman from The LEGO Movie in order to spoof the original character himself. That’s merely one redundancy among many this far into the superhero craze. Despite that, there’s a welcome strain of casual absurdity in the series’ best moments. Gardner, the highlight of the vocal cast, adds to this, slipping around ordinary turns of phrase until they come out like bizarre moans.

The best way to look at both the best, and worst, of the show is to focus on Jewbot. Originally, in the pilot, he goes by the name “RoboBot” which is an incredibly simple yet genius joke that never got old in the short time it was used. Then he discovers religion. The initial conversations on this are amusing as well, with debates over what he can and cannot say. But it quickly gives way to a tired running gag about the Jewish faith and comedy and it all kind of stalls for a bit. SuperMansion is so much better when it taps into the former mindset, cracking weird asides and letting them slowly burn. When it goes for big, vulgar jokes it gets lost in the wave of other programs delivering the exact same thing. Bigger isn’t always better. That’s true for superheroes, and it’s certainly true for SuperMansion.

Grade: B-


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Josh Oakley is a writer for Cut Print Film and runs the pop culture blog Wine and Pop.

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