We’re comic dispensers / We crack up all the censors
At these words, Buster Bunny reaches out from a television set in the Tiny Toon Adventures opening theme song and cracks apart a scene of laughing censors. Breaking the veneer of censorship is easy enough in a brash theme song, sure, but not even the progeny of the original Looney Tunes characters could get away with it 100% of the time.
Tiny Toon Adventures was standing on the shoulders of comedic giants when it aired from 1990 – 1995, and managed to gain an audience from amongst Saturday-morning cartoon watchers, but that meant that parents were probably watching, too. And when it came to one episode, in particular, humor just wasn’t enough to justify the subversion of social norms, even if the episode was, ostensibly, a morality tale that needed to show some questionable content in order to teach a lesson. It wasn’t violence that caused a stink, though, or sex. What was the episode that caused controversy and public kickback, then? “One Beer.” Yes, folks: the Devil’s brew itself.
A quick look at Terrible TV Shows reveals a list of reasons why “One Beer,” which was the third mini-story in the episode, “Elephant Issues,” raised a fuss. Amongst the reasons listed: “They sat on a bench at the park to try beer, which isn’t a very good idea because it’s a public and friendly place.”
Needless to say, this very prim “reason” necessitates a closer look at the episode.
Stop being such a square pig, Hamton!
“One Beer,” which is viewable in its entirety on YouTube, starts off with Buster, Plucky Duck, and Hamton J. Pig poking around a fridge looking for a drink. Buster pulls out a beer and plays the role of peer pressurizer to his equally underage friends, and in the first display of super heavy-handed, very self-aware satire, actually says, “In this episode, we’re showing the evils of alcohol” and grows a pair of devil horns.
In the aforementioned park, Buster busts open the booze and uses old-timey vernacular suited to an era of outmoded morality, saying, “Stop being such a square pig, Hamton!” and “What are you, yellow?” The episode transitions to a montage of woozy-music and a rhythmic burp-a-thon before Buster, Plucky, and Hamton wobble their way to Acme Looniversity with 5-o’clock shadows, lethal breath, and wearing hobo clothes. In the end, the trio drive straight off a cliff and crash land on an actual grave before ascending to Heaven with angel’s wings. The camera then switches to the recording studio where the characters “hope the kids got the message” and want to do a fun episode next time.
All in all, “One Beer” comes across as the Tiny Toon writers deliberately snubbing factors that sought to control the production of the show. In the end, the episode was banned and lives on in infamy, as well as the occasional rerun on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Discovery Family.
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