Who doesn’t love puppets? Sad, depressing people, that’s who.
Unless it stars a Muppet there aren’t a whole lot of puppet shows on TV right now outside of characters in preschool shows. The Barbarian And The Troll is not for preschoolers. The show opens with a serpent getting pulled in half like one of those party snappers. Created by Mike Mitchell and Drew Massey, the show focuses on a barbarian on a quest for her brother and a troll on a quest to live life so he can be a better musician. Formerly titled Brendar The Barbarian (and EVERY site I looked this show up on had to mention that), I’m guessing they decided both characters have a strong enough character arc to share the title. Frankly I like it. It sounds a bit more epic and we’ve had so many sword and sorcery hero stories that are their name and title it’s at least a little different.
I also really like the logo, but I’m mentioning that for a decent intro to this article on the home page. The show also kind of reminded me of a web series Karl “Uncle Yo” Custer made called Dungeon Crawlers but only in that it’s a puppet show in a sword-and-sorcery world. How does this show stack up?
Brendar is on a quest to find her brother and the demon who kidnapped him while bumping off the rest of her family in a complicated and mysterious backstory. This doesn’t sit well with the Royal Order Of Warrior Princesses, who are less warrior and more princess. And not the modern kind. They strip her of her rank and princessness, demoting her to barbarian…which may actually suit her just fine. Meanwhile, there’s Evan (performed by co-creator Massey), a troll who doesn’t want to run a troll bridge (yes, that old pun again) and wants to be a singer. So he sets out to join Brendar on her quest to gain some life experience…unless some of those threats that are running around the kingdom of Gothmoria ends it first. Their lives, not…never mind.
Being a puppet show they rely a lot on dialog for the humor, but visual gags are also used…like the serpent being filled with confetti and those practical joke snakes, or Evan being launched into the air by a goat. I wouldn’t call the joke fall down hilarious but they do amuse and make work better for the kids, though I can also see their parents and older siblings at least enjoying the humor if not laughing along. Or maybe it’s just my weird approach to comedy. Brendar and Evan are decent characters, portrayed well by Massey, Spencer Grammer (who voices Brendar), and their puppeteers. I also really like the set design. It doesn’t look like something out of The Muppet Show or even Sesame Street, where you can tell even the titular street is a set. (At least for Kermit’s crew they’re supposed to be sets.) There’s a lot of effort put into the sets and I like that.
Sadly I couldn’t find any video of Evan’s singing. While the words are intentionally dull as part of his quest and character arc the music and singing themselves are quite good. I wonder if Brendar will get to sing before the series is over? Does Grammer have a decent singing voice?
Overall the first episode of The Barbarian And The Troll did wow me, but it’s more about my personal taste than anything else. The show is well done and it’s only the first episode. I am curious to see more of it and would recommend people check it out. The show airs on Nickelodeon on Friday nights.