Anthony's Film Review

(TV Series, 1999-2000)

Although a great idea for television, the quality does suffer from a lack of cohesiveness...

Like many people, I love the Dilbert comic strip by Scott Adams. I may not be a devoted Dilbert fan who has viewed every single strip since 1989, but every time I see one, whether online or posted at someone's desk, I always look forward to a good smile. You just have to see a few strips to understand its appeal. The comic is funny by being so true to life. Many people can easily relate to working in an office environment characterized by micromanagement, unrewarded positive performance, and numerous other frustrations.

I remember thinking about how a Dilbert television show should be made. It wasn't a matter of if, but when. I wasn't surprised when, in 1999, the comic strip finally appeared on TV as an animated series that would last 30 episodes over two seasons. In my opinion, the show wasn't always good and naturally got cancelled because of it. Still, it has its moments that I will describe shortly. At least I appreciate the attempt that Scott Adams made to bring his famous comic to another medium.

The main thing I like about the show is the animation. The characters are drawn exactly like they appear in the comic, as if they have leapt out from the frames of the strip. In addition, the voice actors were well cast. Each one provides the right kind of voice for the character portrayed. The most clever thing I noticed is how Dilbert and Dogbert speak. In the comics, they have no mouths. For the TV show, they have no mouths when they don't speak, but animated lips appear once they start talking. I thought it was a neat idea.

With that, let's talk about the characters. The title character of Dilbert (Daniel Stern) is a hapless low-level engineer at Path-E-Tech. He works with equally quirky coworkers, including the lazy Wally (Gordon Hunt), Alice (Kathy Griffin) with the pyramid hairdo, Asok the intern (Tom Kenny), and Loud Howard with the gigantic mouth (Jim Wise). Their manager is the Pointy-Haired Boss (Larry Miller), who is my favorite character of the comic and this TV show because he is the biggest idiot you'll ever see. Other characters include Dilbert's malevolent pet Dogbert (Chris Elliot) who is always concocting schemes for personal gain, Dilbert's mother Dilmom (Jackie Hoffman), the philosophical Garbage Man (Maurice LaMarche), and Catbert (Jason Alexander) who is the evil Director of Human Resources.

As expected, several episodes do what the comic strip does: poke fun at corporate life. The pilot episode involves the first stage of development a new product: coming up with a name before actually decide what it's actually going to be. As you may guess, this is the Pointy-Haired Boss's idea. Several episodes of the first season involve this overarching plot of product development involving something called the Gruntmaster 6000. My favorite episode, however, would have to be the episode in the second season called "The Virtual Employee." This is the one where Dilbert has a bunch of obsolete equipment he cannot get rid of. His solution: stash it into an empty cubicle. But when the Boss notices, Dilbert lies by saying a new employee named Todd has moved into the cubicle. Funny complications set in because everyone believes Todd is actually real.

These episodes are just OK. Sadly, other episodes, particularly those in the second season, really deviate from corporate humor and dive into bizarre premises. For example, there's an episode where Dilbert purchases a computer from Comp-U-Comp but is unable to speak with an human being in customer service. It turns out that the entire company is run by a supercomputer named Comp-U-Comp (Jerry Seinfeld). But perhaps the weirdest one is the two-part episode where Dilbert builds a small rocket to collect specimens of life from other planets, only to have it collect cells from an alien, an organic robot, a cow, and several engineers and crash into Dilbert's body. Believe it or not, Dilbert becomes pregnant with whatever this hybrid being is. The only joke related to work is a scene involving discussion of maternity leave.

In conclusion, I like the animation and cast, but the plots don't feel cohesive enough to hold together. Each episode often feels loose, and the whole show from episode one to episode thirty doesn't seem to have a well-defined path. This brings my overall rating to the negative side. It's not the worst show ever, so it's at the far end of the spectrum, but I can see why network executives decided to cancel the show. In any event, it was a nice try on Scott Adams's part and I'm sure he did the best he could. At least his comic continues to live on and bring a smile to anyone who continues to struggle against a frustrating workplace.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Dilbert, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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