The League of Quality Superhero Animation plugs “Crisis on Two Earths” at Paley Center

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It’s an old story. You’re a superhero minding your own business and then you bump into someone who looks very familiar but, well, something’s just not right. Gee whiz but this person looks a lot like you and is even wearing similar clothes, but then you notice your new acquaintance looks like he or she is made from rocks, uses terrible grammar and does everything the opposite of you. (“Me want to not save world!”) Or the newcomer looks like one of your deadliest enemies, but turns out to be no Bizaaro, but as heroic as you are. What’s a superhero to do?

It’s an old superhero comic story that has yet to find its way into a big-time costumed-hero flicks — but at least it’s finally been used in a solidly entertaining and often slyly funny direct-to-DVD animated production. Rated a mild PG-13 for non-deadly “action violence,” Warner Home Video’s “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” shows us the fall-out of an alternate universe where the equivalents of our most famed superheros are essentially costumed Mafioso, while a bald guy named Luthor and a joker named the Jester vainly fight the power of organized caped crime.

When the alternate Luthor (Chris Noth) manages a reality jump into the original DC Comics Universe, he enlists the aid of  most of the Justice League. And so, Superman (Mark Harmon), Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall), and a less than cooperative Batman (William Baldwin), become involved in a desperate quest to free Good Luthor’s universe from super-powered criminal domination by the vicious Crime Syndicate and it’s Jersey-thug-like leader, Ultraman (Brian Bloom) — and also to stave off the possible destruction of all existence by an off-his-evil meds Dark Knight of the Soul, Owlman (James Woods), and his only slightly more sane GF, Super Woman (Gina Torres).

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The 72 minute direct-to-video feature was premiered at both of the coastal outlets of the Paley Center, and I attended the one located on Earth Prime’s Beverly Hills. Us members of the local geek press were allowed to commune with members of the cast and crew and, in my case, that started with the extremely busy animation casting and voice director, Andrea Romano. The loquacious performer and voice director, whose work includes everything from “Animaniacs” to “Spongebob Squarepants” and “Ben Ten,” is held in as high esteem by super-animation fans as any actor, writer, or director. Her work on DC superhero projects goes back to the early nineties and “Batman: The Animated Series,” which revolutionized superhero cartoons with quality writing from creators like Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, animation, and, thanks to her efforts, acting.

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Greetings to the New Show: “Knight Rider”

Well, I might as well start off this entry with the bit I wrote about the return of “Knight Rider” to series television in my Fall TV Preview:

After the incredibly disappointing TV movie earlier this year, which played like a two-hour-long car commercial with a really bad script, there is absolutely no rational reason for my including this within my top 10, but, dammit, sometimes nostalgia wins out over common sense. It is almost certainly telling that the powers that be couldn’t manage to get us a copy of the first episode prior to a network conference call to promote the series, and I will be the first to bail out if the premiere is as bad as the movie was, but – God help me – I can still remember how much enjoyment I got out of the original series, and I cannot for the life of me shake that off.

Well, NBC finally managed to produce an advance screener of the first episode, and…well, it’s not as bad as the movie, but it’s still a far cry from “great,” that’s for damned sure.

It’s one thing to turn on the television set and turn off your mind, but based on its premiere episode, it looks like “Knight Rider” is shaping up to be about as scientifically plausible as…uh…wow, I’m trying to think of a sufficiently ridiculous example, and I just can’t come up with one that I’m comfortable with. Suffice it to say that your average automotive engineer would probably find this the most hysterical hour of television to emerge in the past few decades.

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