Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
I was resistant to getting YouTube Red. I Mean I can watch all the Buzzfeed Mysteries, Colbert monologs and Star Wars fan theories I want for free, why pay for more. Even its highly praised Karate Kid spinoff Kobra Kai, didn’t tempt me. Then they came up with Dallas & Robo, a sci-fi cartoon, about misadventures of a Mars based space trucker and her robotic AI companion, who break all the rules, and take on cannibal space bikers, sort of a Cannon Ball Run or Dukes of Hazard in Space! They had me with two words Kat Dennings.
The show whose season has nine, 23-ish minute episodes, stars Kat Dennings and John Cena, as the titular space truckers. They live on Mars in the 24ths century, where technology looks like outs but has rockets welded on it, or artificial intelgence. As an example of said tech I give you Dallas’ space truck, The Georgia Overdrive, it’s a 16-wheeler with thrusters rather than tires (so you know you can drive it in space). The rigs name is trucker slang for coasting down a hill with a big rig in neutral to override speed regulators.
The show is a comedy and it humor is twofold. One part of it is the blunt in your face, full of vulgarities, we grown to expect from the animated shows of such venues as Adult Swim. The other laughs are a subtle genre wise jokes and shout outs. “That was in Star Trek V, the one they meet our Lord.”, “Go get him C-Creepy-O.” “Come with me if you want to live…I get the best action lines.
I started watching this show because of Kat Dennings, and she doesn’t disappointment. She was the best part of the first two Thor movies, as the hipster intern Darcy Lewis. Not only is she gorgeous, she has this amazing comic timing, and personifies sexy snark, which is one of the driving character of Dallas Moonshiner. In addition, to her hit TV show Two Broke Girls, she has had a string of voice acting gigs including, Robot Chicken, The Simpson, American Dad!, and Big Mouths.
John Cena is most famous as a wrester, but like Hulk Hogan and Dwayne “The Rock.” Johnson, he has recently made it to the silver screen in movies such as The Marine, The Fred Movie, Daddy’s Home and The Blockers. He is also the main voice in the animated movie Ferdinand. I have to admit I am amazed at his voice acting prowess. His diction perfectly catches Robo’s complex psyche.
Like all characters in this show Dallas Moonshiner is not just two dimensional. (Well she is because she is a drawing, but she has this in-depth personality, oh you knew what I meant, right?) She is an ex-stock car driver who was kicked out of the circuit and banished to Mars for cheating. She is vain, cocky, irreverent, and easily bored with a proclivity to give into her demons because she has nothing else to do. Despite being incredibly selfish to the point that she often acts childish, she truly loves her best friend Robo and her extended family, she just doesn’t know how to express it. This internal conflict is caught perfectly with Kat’s voice.
John Cena’s Robo is an AI not a robot, in fact he has a bigoted contempt for his non-thinking mechanical brothers. He desperately wants to elevate computerized devises to the level of artificial intelligence, but this almost always results in heartbreak as the previously content items have to deal with a existential crisis of being, that usually leads to their own destruction. Despite being the heart of a loving if dysfunction extended family, he is in many ways alone in a cold cruel solar system. This loneliness is at least partially filled with his best friend the selfish loud mouth Dallas, whose plan B is almost always “Robo kick butt.” (Plan A is often, “Let that guy in the bar feel me up in the bathroom.” )
Some animated shows have major events that have no repercussion on later episodes. The Simpson revels in this. Everything that happens in Dallas & Robo, has repercussions. Everything is connected and related in this show. From the honeymoon couple stranded in space at the beginning of the series, or the solar storms that are mention in passing on a TV in the back ground, to the extra heat shielding of Ellies truck/ship. This interconnection of characters and events in a show may be considered the minimum in modern animation shows, the way D&R handles it, just shows how good the writing is. This foreshadowing comes off more as fluid interconnection than Chekov’s gun spoilers.
The writing is also spot on when it deals with “Big D” & “Red’s” relationship. This is unique because since one is organic and the other is a robot, there is no sexual tension between the two. (With the exception of a few crude zingers by Dallas designed to make Robo uneasy.) Robo is the Jiminy Cricket of this story but he is not perfect, he had a sense of humor blends well with Miss Moonshiner, and sometimes doesn’t know how to tell the red headed Han Solo she needs to take a breath and step back once a while. The writers can focus on their friendship without this “will they or won’t they” question hanging over their heads.
Dallas for her part is brash impulsive, lecherous greedy and has huge jerk streak. But she truly loves Robo and her extended family. In other hands this could be schizophrenic, but instead due to deft writing it comes across more as a complex and conflicted character, a jerk with a heart of gold who doesn’t always know how to express her true self. Of course, like many a red head in other TV venues she often causes more problems than answers.
This continues to the rest of the cast of regulars who are either blood kin or just like it to Dallas and Robo. Her uncle Danny is a cranky merchant marine veteran of the lunar monkey massacre, owns the space trucking company she works for. Ellie is Danny’s daughter and Dallas’ Cousin, she is a sweet girl who is learning to be a trucker, who despite he loud denials may have a tinsey bit of a gambling problem. Fat Paul an obese trucker who is much more competent than he gives himself credit. The Woodsman, who is Dallas foil and usually the recipient of bad luck, Dallas eventually learns to articulate how much she cares about each of them, and in the finial episode everyone gets an opportunity to shine and be a hero. Still she has a keen tactical mine that allows her to come up with ideas to get herself and her mechanical buddy out of problems she causes. (Sometime that cause more problems but that’s why they have multiple episodes)
I love the show but I am surprised how little advertisement it has received. Youtube Red has a hit with Kobra kai, and one would think that they would want people to know how good a follow up they have. But there is very little out about it. The Wikipedia page is mainly a cast list, IMDB has huge gaps in it, and D &R doesn’t have a TV Tropes page. The official Face Book page only has 174 members (175 since I joined) Maybe they feel people will find it the same way I did, by the suggestions page of my YouTube page.
So, its lack of advertisement qualifies Dallas and Robo for Geek Obscura, but trust me you will like this one, more than the cannibal bikers liked it when the Empire destroyed the hospital ship, in Return of the Jedi, you know that’s the Star Wars movie with the man-eating teddy bears.