T.U.F.F. Puppy (2011-?) | Animated and Underrated (TV)
T.U.F.F. Puppy is the latest animated series created by Butch Hartman, who previously created and helmed the massively popular and long running Fairly Odd Parents, and the much more serious teen sci-fi dramedy, Danny Phantom.
Unlike Odd Parents or Phantom, this show is complete and utter comedy, not a smidge of drama to be found here, except maybe scenery-chewing melodrama. With Fairly Odd Parents, despite how I’m sure many people connected to Timmy Turner and appreciated the many death-defying and tense moments that the show (and especially the TV specials) produced, I was never a fan. I never felt like a show that was designed in such a kooky and almost chibi-like style was meant for high-stakes drama and intense moments, despite how well they worked in some cases. It never felt like a cohesive match. Although at the same time, the Powerpuff Girls movie was a very satisfying and intense film, and it worked great with the chibi-style, but that’s because the original show was rather violent and dark half the time. So it was always set up to be equal parts gritty and cutesy.
In the case of Danny Phantom, I think Hartman’s approach to the show worked, and the serious, almost Teen Titans style vibe that came from it was a new and fresh angle. And it proved rather successful story-wise. The art style also worked out well, as there were far less kids that could make the show look too cutesy for its own darker storylines. It was rather adult in many episodes as well, especially as far as relationships and romance were concerned.
But where I think Hartman and his writing team really shines is in ball-to-the-walls comedy. No holds barred. Just lay it on and don’t stop until the credits roll. Now in most cases, trying to cram in that much comedy either over-loads the viewer and things cease to be funny, or it ends up over-loading the writers, and they end up writing less and less funny material to put into the episode, resulting in a story that has a large amount of jokes, but very few that actually stick.
In the case of T.U.F.F. Puppy, however, every single joke freaking works! It’s actually astounding how many puns, observations, and comedic misunderstandings they can cram into 11 minutes, for every single episode, and yet never run out of them. The writers do rely on a certain set of recipes, or particular styles of jokes, which makes their humor fall within a certain range of comedic opportunities. However, this is what creates their unique type of comedy that, as far as I’m aware, no one else has ever used to this great of an effect.
As stated previously, the humor in this show is a mixture of puns, observations, and misunderstandings that an enormous amount of cartoons used to use back in the 90s and early 2000s. And very likely this is one of the only shows in recent memory that still continues to use this particular brand of humor to such a broad degree. Many jokes will be set up with a small joke at first, or even just a small quip, but they they’ll bring the joke back for a part two and a part three, before landing the big punch line with a part four by episode’s end. And it is glorious how well it works sometimes.
Admittedly the show’s humor is not going to be for everyone. I’m sure even some of you will outright hate the humor used here and will despise the show for it. And if so, then this show is simply not meant for you. But for those of you who like to have a good giggle or a good laugh at wacky and dorky humor, then this will be a gold mine for you.
Basically, the show is wholly nonsensical, it’s extremely unrealistic, and most importantly, the good guys and bad guys are displayed in black and white. The good guys are always good, and the bad guys are always bad, even if the audience can see where the gray areas might lie. And I’ll get to some of that as we go through the character descriptions.
Our main cast of heroes is a very simple set of four main personalities.
First there’s Agent Dudley Puppy: a loud, irresponsible, greedy, and often destructive young secret agent, but with a good heart behind his rather dim-bulb exterior. Throughout just about every episode his main gimmick is that he puts food and fun over everything else, despite the fact that he loves to fight crime and help out his friends and his city. This results in many instances where he will flat out lie, cheat, and steel in order to get what he wants, but always in an innocent and child-like manner rather than maliciously. In the end, though, he always rectifies his wrong-doings, and somehow, he always gets forgiving for his actions, despite the fact that he should have been flat out fired from day one.
Next there’s Dudley’s partner in fighting crime, Agent Kitty Katswell: a strong, independent, and very well organized veteran agent, who despite her hang-ups, can’t help but love and care for her complete moron of a partner. She’s also prone to a few vices herself, those of course being her addiction to balls of yarn, fish snacks, and the hunky water-delivery guy who comes by once a week to refill the water dispensers.
Then there’s our resident Q, gadgets expert, inventor extraordinaire, and secretly an illegal extraterrestrial alien on the run from his home world, Keswick: a short, highly intelligent, but very socially inept and self-conscious wombat-like character who serves as the Chief’s right-hand confidant. They also clearly felt that without Mr. Crocker around, the show was sorely lacking a character who spontaneously burst in to twisted poses every time they spoke. So they gave Keswick a stutter that causes him to pose in weird twisted ways every time he does so.
And then there’s of course the Chief: a loud-mouthed, raspy voiced insect who has an inferiority complex, and is actually rather cowardly despite his days in the field back in the old days. He can also exhibit moments of old-fashioned values, which result in him mislabeling people and judging them too harshly based on his 1960s world-view.
All of these characters work for T.U.F.F., the Turbo Undercover Fighting Force, which works to serve and protect the city of Petropolis, as opposed to the country or the world at large; even though they periodically get orders from the President, and not just the Mayor of Petropolis. And no, the name actually has nothing to do strictly with animals. And as you will come to realize while watching the show, the rules regarding animals acting like humans and animals acting like animals really has no logic.
Our villainous Rogues Gallery for the show consists of a vast array of stranger and stranger individuals whose rosters have steadily grown to a healthy size by the end of season 2.
There’s D.O.O.M: which is led by the show’s leading villain, Verminious Snaptrap, and his cronies, Olie, Larry, and Francisco.
Snaptrap is by far my favorite character on the show. He’s manic, he’s diabolical, but he always does his evil whilst treating everything like it’s normal. He’s a dark and twisted character that really doesn’t come off as such, because despite his darker tendencies, he can also be a complete moron, and a bit of a child when it comes to his mommy issues. His jokes and gags are actually some of the best in the show. He also has one of the best original voices I’ve ever heard for a comedic character, let alone a villain. So despite the character calling his own voice irritating, I absolutely love it every time he’s on screen.
Then there’s Bird Brain, who works with his ever-growing list of oddly named henchmen, including his sidekick Zippy, the owl, the bat, Ewe, a female sheep, Fly, Peck Me (a goose), the holey cow, and Duck. Each of these perfectly chosen henchmen always cause their boss to break into a game of Who’s On First, as every time he tries to explain his plan, his henchmen constantly get confused. The Bat always asks “where?” because it’s blind. The Owl always says “who?” The Ewe gets confused every time someone says “you” because that’s how you pronounce “ewe.” The Holey Cow pops up every time Bird Brain swears. And each time that the writers can come up with another pun, Bird Brain will inevitably get another henchman.
The other villainous league is named F.L.O.P.P.: the Fiendish League of Potential Perpetrators. Their gimmick is that they always claim that they’ll strike with a major crime, but then never follow through on it, essentially terrorizing the city of Petropolis with emptry threats. They even call in a specialist known as the Bluffalo who teaches them the fine art of bluffing, in order to really cause some damage while not actually doing anything.
Their ranks consist of their leader the Meerkat, the Wanna-Bee, and the Escape Goat, but they’ve had another member or two in the past.
The rest of the main villains begins with perhaps the third most popular seen in the series, the Chameleon: a Peter Lorre inspired character who uses a transformation suite to shapeshift into any person or any form that he chooses, even objects and vehicles. One time, Snaptrap asked the Chameleon to turn into a box of tissues just so Snaptrap could blow his nose. The Chameleon is almost harmless as a villain because he’s often just too nice for his own good. He makes a lot of serious threats and even almost follows through on a few of them, but he also tends to get tricked easily, and is perhaps far too lonely to ever really destroy anything or anyone for fear of losing a potential friend.
The Cape Cod is likely one of the only villains without a good side to him, at least to us as an audience. He so far has never teamed up with the protagonists against a larger threat, and he’s so ego-maniacal that he’d likely want to take over the entire world if he could only sink it all under water. He mainly goes after Agent Dudley Puppy, as the Cod assumes that Dudley is the King of the surface world, always referring to him as the Dog King. Therefore he considers Dudley his one true adversary which he must defeat in order to take over the city of Petropolis.
One particular villain who could almost get away with anything, but just doesn’t get lucky enough, is Quacky the Duck. He’s the former host of a children’s television program popular with kids and adults alike, and was fired from his job due to low ratings from the network, and for his attempt to destroy the network executive. Ever since then, Quacky, along with his muscle, the Sharing Moose, has continuously broken out of jail in order to lewer Agent Puppy into a false sense of security with birthday parties or special performances, in order to destroy both him, and the rest of the TUFF Agents. But despite Dudley’s blind trust at first, he always manages to see through Quacky’s lies, and foil his plans.
Lastly there’s the matter of the Weasle, one of the most recent additions to the list of villains, who is actually so menacing that he even makes Snaptrap shiver in his non-existent boots. He’s more of a quiet villain, working in the shadows and only conversing with his pray when it’s most important and convenient. Otherwise, he carries out his plans rather effectively, even though most are small-time.
The music for this series is once again composed by Butch Hartman collaborator, Guy Moon, who provides his usual array of music interlaced with sound effects: very much in the style of Animaniacs or Tiny Toons. And once again, I think far more than Fairly Odd Parents or Danny Phantom, Mr. Moon’s style of cheerful, hooty-tooty music works best in this purely comedic environment, even though he often tries to write more menacing and dark material for more serious works. This is where I think he shines.
If you are unaware of it, this show is built upon many spy and secret agent-based shows of the past, such as Mission Impossible, Get Smart, Man From U.N.C.L.E., James Bond, and perhaps even something more small-time, like Humongous Entertainment’s SpyFox video games, which one can easily draw many parallels to.
The closest of which being the voice for Keswick, which is provided by master voice actor Jeff Glenn Bennett, but sounds eerily similar to SpyFox’s gadget maker, Professor Quack. The style of humor utilized in the Spy Fox games, and even the design of the world, beyond the fact that all the characters are animals, is also quite similar in taste and tone. But I find the SpyFox games to be a little more classy and subdued in its humor, aiming to create a rich atmosphere rather than a stand-up routine.
Kitty Katswell is clearly modeled after both the hairstyle and catsuit of Emma Peel from the british spy series, The Avengers, but could also be inspired in part by Agent 99 from Get Smart.
Dudley Puppy is very much the bumbling spy that Maxwell Smart is, but he isn’t nearly as charming or clever in a clumsy way, he’s more brash and foolhardy. I also like to think that because all that he wears is a black skin-tight t-shirt, that Dudley’s design is slightly inspired by Tom Cruise from the Mission Impossible film series rather than anyone from the original television show.
Most obviously, the opening theme song is based directly on Johnny Rivers’ 1966 hit song, “Secret Agent Man.” It pretty much has the exactly same tempo, arrangement, and verse/chorus progression.
Bottom line, I love the heck out of this show. It’s pretty much my most recent answer to the hole that was left after shows like Chowder, and Ed Edd ‘n’ Eddy, and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy went off the air. Sure, I can see some of them on Netflix these days, but they only keep two-three seasons up there at any given time, so you can never watch the whole thing. T.U.F.F. Puppy on the other hand has been so satisfying that I’ve bought all four seasons through I-Tunes. So now I can re-watch them any time.
If you ever want to give the show a try, I highly recommend the first season in its entirely, but most specifically Episode 2 Part II – “Puppy Love,” Episode 4 Part II – “Share A Lare,” Episode 6 Part I – “Dog Daze,” Episode 10 Part II – “The Wrong Stuff” (one of the best), Episode 11 Part I – “Mind Trap,” and Episode 12 Part II – “Super Duper Crime Busters.”
Each of these episodes presents some of the best set-ups and plots in the first season, and indeed the entire series, and they contain some of the absolute best jokes and gags. So seek these out first if you just want a taste.
The voice cast for T.U.F.F. Puppy is a welcomed change to the past, along with at least one returning cast member.
First we have Jerry Trainer from I-Carly, as the titular Dudley Puppy, who gives a very colorful and likeable performance, even though the character is designed to be a little irritating. I have to say that Jerry is far more interesting behind the mic than he is in front of the camera. His run as Carly’s brother was fun and all, but this is some really awesome material, and he nails all of it. I dearly hope that he lands some other voice roles in the future, and perhaps discovers a few other voices within himself.
Then there’s Grey Delisle (now going by Grey Griffin), providing her usual array of fun and quirky female and child characters, especially as the elegant but feisty Kitty Katswell. I personally think that Kitty is one of Grey’s best good-guy characters, and should sit right alongside her other notable roles like Mandy, Vicky, Daphne Blake.
Matthew W. Taylor as Snaptrap actually hasn’t voiced a whole lot of roles in the past, and his main previous roles actually came from the Open Season movie franchise. However, like I said before, his voice as Verminious Snaptrap is one of the best comedic/villain voices I have ever heard, and I also hope that he, like Jerry Trainer, gets more voice roles in the future based on his success here.
Fan-favorite Rob Paulson shows up for a single role (much like his turn as the alien known as Mark Chang) as the self-conscious master criminal, Bird Brain; who is always on the hunt for a way to either gain the ability to fly, improve his physical appearance, or to ascend to a better universe where Big Bottomed Boobies exist as the chief species. And yes, Big Bottomed Boobies is a species of bird, so I’m not flagging that as inappropriate. They use the phrase in the show quite a bit.
There’s also the return of Butch Hartman regular, Daran Norris, who not only voices the Chief of T.U.F.F., but also the lovable Chameleon, Francisco, the Meerkat, the Bat, and Kitty’s old partner and James Bond wannabe, Jack Rabbit.
And of course there’s Jeff Glenn Bennett, whom I previously mentioned plays Keswick. But just as with the rest of the cast, he also provides many support voices such as Snaptraps henchmen, Olie and Larry, as well as the voice of President Eagle, General Warthog, the Sharing Moose, and the Bluffalo. He usually pulls out his typical roster of voices that he’s used in previous works, such as his angry southern general voice, which he used in Camp Lazlo as Camp Master Lumpus’ superior officer, Commander Hoohah. And he uses his nasally whiny voice here for Snaptrap’s punching bag, Larry, which he also previously used at a slight variation in Camp Lazlo for the character of Samson the guinea pig. But despite the familiarity in his characters, he always pulls out his best for each and every role, and he seems to try his best to also change each new voice to be different enough from similar voices so that they aren’t exact copies. And that does seem to be the case.
Now at first, some of the things I’ve said about the voice cast may seem unfounded, as the voice actors are admittedly very rough in their roles during the majority of the first season. But give them till the half-way point of season 1, and they really come into their roles. The voices are much more solid, their vocal pitch is more consistent, and their comedic choices with how they use their voices are more varied and interesting: especially as far as Keswick and Snaptrap are concerned.
Even the animation becomes much more lively by the end of season 1, rather than keeping Snaptrap a stiff-backed and far less loosey-goosey villain than he later becomes, and restricting the range of still other, even more manic characters.