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Real-Time Running Diary: The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants on Netflix

This afternoon I watched the first episode of The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants on Netflix.

Tough gig, watching a tv show in order to write a blog post about it, but I am nothing if not dedicated.

What follows are my scattered thoughts presented in a running diary style (I don’t think I’ve tried this since this Coraline review way back in aught nine)

3:13 (ET) – I have no idea what to expect here. Will the first episode be a retelling of the Captain Underpants origin story? I guess that would make sense. Or will it do the thing where every episode is its own completely self-contained thing, where the order of the episodes doesn’t matter? Did SpongeBob start with an origin episode? Must investigate. And how many of the book elements will be incorporated? Will we see a Flip-O-Rama, for instance?

3:14 – Starting the show. There’s sort of a formal introduction of the main characters – George and Harold – going on. The animation style is interesting – a bit more of a hand-drawn look than the full on CGI 3D of the movie version.

Here are the two side by side:


3:16 – This narrator sounds like Patton Oswalt – is it? Must wait for credits.

3:17 – First appearance of Mr. Krupp – the alter-ego of Captain underpants.

3:18 – Oh, cool – they do the Captain Underpants origin during the theme song for the show. That’s a smart way to do it. Since Krupp will be turning into Underpants every show, it makes sense to show how the transformation works at the beginning of each episode.

Here’s the theme song so you can see for yourself:

3:19 – Now the episode is officially beginning. They incorporate some different things into the animation – elements that look like they were made with paper – and did I just see a dancing felted Mr. Krupp during the theme song?

3:20 – Title screen: Chapter 1: P.E. is P.U. Ah, they’re making the story sort of book-like by presenting it in chapters.

3:21 – What’s it called when a show cuts away to illustrate an aside? Like what 30 Rock or Ally McBeal used to do? That just happened where they cut away and George and Harold were sock puppets eating marshmallows all of a sudden, then back to the show.

3:22 – Krupp is giving the boys a hard time about not taking part in P.E.

3:23 – Title screen: Chapter 2: No, There Is Not. Mr. Meaner (P.E. teacher) is giving everyone a strength test. The character Jessica talks like a character on that SNL skit The Californians.

3:25 – Melvin Sneedly is introduced. He’s from the books. He created an invention to grow muscles for P.E. class.

3:28 – Forced to carry a heavy couch around the gym, George and Harold make a comic instead.

3:29 – Now it’s showing the comic the boys made. The P.E. teacher is wreaking havoc on the city – Captain Underpants arrives to save the day. The narrator is reading it as the camera moves from panel to panel.

3:30 – Back to the regular story – the P.E. teacher sees the comic and is not happy with his depiction.

3:31 – Title screen: Chapter 3: Mad, Madder, Maddest

3:32 – The boys are back in Mr. Krupp’s office.

3:32 – Title Screen: Chapter 4: A New Hope, But Not For Long. Boys are trying to figure out how to pass P.E. – they decide to try Sneedly’s machine that makes big muscles – The Pumperupernator.

3:33 – But wait – the P.E. teacher sat on the machine and it made his butt huge. He has turned into the character the boys created in their comic. I’m wondering if this will be the usual template for the show – the boys make a comic and then it becomes real.

3:34 – Short chase segment where all the characters are sock puppets in a cardboard school. Adds a nice zany touch to the show.

3:35 – Title Screen: Chapter 5:Things Fall A-fart

3:36 – The boys realize they need Captain Underpants to save the day. The narrator comes back in to make sure we know A) That Mr. Krupp is Captain Underpants, and B) That a snap of the fingers turns Krupp into the Captain.

3:39 – The boys visit Krupp and snap their fingers. Now Captain Underpants is ready to stop Mr. Meaner.

3:40 – The battle between the Mr. Meaner and Captain Underpants is interrupted – it is announced that the battle will be shown via Flip-O-Rama!

3:42 – Ha! The Flip-O-Rama is pretty much like how it is in the books.

3:43 – Now it’s back to the show as before.

3:44 – Another quick cutaway – this time a felted hand is advising viewers to turn down the smell on their television.

3:45 – Title screen: Chapter 6: To Make a Loooong Story Short, It Worked

3:46 – Melvin is back – the boys need big muscles to catch a falling Captain Underpants.

3:47 – Water has turned Captain Underpants back to Mr. Krupp.

3:48 – Mr. Meaner (P.E. teacher) has turned back to normal. Problems solved.

3:49 – Question answered from watching the credits: Sean Astin is the narrator – I think that’s the guy who played Rudy (and Samwise)? Checking. Yep.

Final thoughts: It’s a pretty good representation of the books. It’s sort of wild that this show didn’t exist earlier, given the popularity of the books.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.