Fairies are real. They live in the otherworldly Fairyland, and, with their magic, some of them interact with humanity in secret. The Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, Cupid, and myriad other creatures of human myth are, in fact, occupations filled by high-ranking fairies. Judging by the turnout at Fairy Idol, the most highly sought-after of these positions is that of Fairy Godparent. A Fairy Godparent plays the role of magical guardian and companion for the loneliest and most miserable of human children.
Enter Timmy Turner of Dimmsdale. Once his parents' "precious gift," until their discovery of Vicky's Babysitting Service opened their eyes to the possibility of having lives outside the home, Timmy is an average kid who no one understands (so says the opening theme). What his parents don't realize is that Vicky is a sadist who despises younger children. Outside the home, Timmy is equally miserable; bullies, popular kids and vindictive teachers do everything they can to ensure Timmy's continued doom and gloom.
So it is that Timmy is seen a fit candidate for Fairy Godparents, and is assigned the husband-and-wife team of Cosmo and Wanda. A grand entrance is made, "Da Rules" are explained, and Timmy is granted everything he asks for in the form of a wish, regardless of whether it's a good idea. Aside from wishes that are off-limits (tooth-related wishes are the domain of the Tooth Fairy, for example), the only rule that matters is that he can't tell anyone that he has them.
Daily existence for Timmy is an adventure, typically following a pattern of
A) Timmy encounters some manner of unpleasantness or dissatisfaction
B) Timmy makes a wish he believes will eliminate this unpleasantness (often against Wanda's recommendations)
C) Timmy enjoys the outcome of the wish until it backfires
D) Timmy unwishes the wish or otherwise finds a way to undo the damage his wish has wrought.
The nemesis Timmy faces most often are Vicky, whose ability to inflict pain and suffering without leaving marks is actually quite remarkable and Mr. Crocker, the teacher whose every waking moment is spent attempting to prove the existence of Fairy Godparents, and the school bully Francis, who either suffers from a pituitary abnormality or has been held back several times. The trio also encounters difficulties from magical creatures, such as Jorgen von Strangle, the toughest Farie in the universe and Cosmo and Wanda's direct supervisor, among other positions of prominence, and the Pixies, a business-like class of wish-granting beings who favor a sterile monotony over the Faries' colorful whimsy and frequently attempt hostile takeovers of Fairyland. Da Rules expressly forbid the most direct means of eliminating these obstacles, so Timmy is forced to be creative in his wishing when dealing with any of them.
I really enjoy this show. As an avid watcher of cartoons, I was likely to become a fan of this one anyway, but I became hooked when I first saw the episode "The Temp," one of the original shorts on Nickelodeon's Oh Yeah! cartoon showcase. Wanda and Cosmo hire a temp to fill in for them while they go back to Fairyworld to re-train, and the temp, Jeff, turns out to be one of Santa's elves. When Wanda and Cosmo return, Santa comes along with them, flanked by two other elves, to retrieve Jeff. The episode was kind of funny but nothing special, until that last scene where Santa is retrieving Jeff. Jeff panics, shouting, "I won't go with you! I'm not one of your drones!" Santa responds in a singsong voice, "Yes you are!" and the two elves behind him begin to chant "Join us..." That dark little twist took an otherwise unremarkable cartoon and launched it to brilliance.
Still, I went a long time without watching the show, letting episodes accumulate since "The Temp" first aired in 1999. I recently started recording it on my Tivo, sparked by Nick's recent airing of all three "Jimmy/Timmy Power Hour" crossover specials between OddParents and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.
Now I've watched quite a few episodes of the show, and it would be impossible to pick out any single episode that really encapsulates the show's brilliance for me, so instead I'll just single out some concepts and characters of which I am quite fond.
The Oh Yeah! cartoons, most clearly identifiable by the fact that Cosmo's character and voice were slightly different, are all actually a bit darker than the series proper, and while that is the trait that won me over to the show, I'm not sure I can honestly say the episodes are better. They do provide an excellent contrast, though; In these episodes Wanda and Cosmo seem to treat their position as more of a job, lacking an emotional connection to Timmy and even cracking wise when his wishes invariably backfire. The tone was fairly misanthropic, and while I really enjoy it, I can see why the relationship dynamic among Timmy, Wanda and Cosmo was changed.
Teen heartthrob pop singer Chip Skylark is extremely likeable. His first appearance, in which everyone forgets Timmy's birthday because they're all too excited about Chip's concert, was actually a really cute episode. I'll cop to the ignorance of teen heartthrob pop singers that prevents me from knowing of whom Chip is a parody (as opposed to my regretfully lacking the ignorance to know who Britney Britney, the platinum pop princess, is a parody of), but in the handful of episodes he's appeared, he's just too darn likeable. Also, I fear I'm not growing old fast enough, because I actually like his music, especially "My Shiny Teeth and Me," his song about how much he loves his teeth.
Norm the Genie is... well, he's Norm MacDonald, and I love Norm MacDonald. He's hilarious. "Oh, here's something you might have wanted to wish for... human-sized teeth." It's kind of a shame Norm wasn't available when they needed the character for the 90-minute special Fairy Idol, but I don't think he can sing, so it's probably for the best.
Cosmo's backstory is a rich tapestry of incompetence. While his characterization as a supreme nitwit is only modestly funny (it's a bit of a cliche, especially since he's paired with a smarter yet still somewhat bumbling partner), but every time we see the things Cosmo did in his early life (before he married Wanda almost 10,000 years ago), it cracks me up. For example, visiting the lost city of Atlantis and learning that Cosmo is the one who sank it -- nine times -- just kills me.
The writers have an excellent sense of when a story calls for a longer episode than the standard 15 minutes. Channel Chasers was a highly entertaining movie (the TV parodies really got me, especially the Blues Clues parody) and Fairy Idol, School's Out: The Musical, and Abra-Catastrophe! are all great stories that make excellent use of the full hour or ninety minutes allotted.
The show's general sensibility is great, though a little hard to quantify. A combination of a frenetic pace, pop culture savvy and a healthy appreciation for the absurd and the ironic make for an excellent Nickelodeon production that won't bore parents (or, for that matter, the single and childless, like myself).
- Mike Albright