In 1997 the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got a new live-action tv show. It was a complete abomination. I decided to watch and review an episode to see if it really was as bad as everyone says. Spoiler: it’s probably worse. Read on to see the screenshots and read my thoughts on this terrible, terrible piece of fiction.
Every theme week, I review/recap a ridiculous episode of a tv version of whatever we’ve covered, from GI Joe to Transformers. For Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I was temporarily stumped. The original cartoon can be goofy but it knew that it was. I’m sure there’s an especially strange one in there somewhere but 9 seasons is a lot to dig through. The more recent cartoons have been even more favorably received. But then I remembered the live action attempt, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation. Rushed into development, this show took the space vacated by the original cartoon ending. But if you thought the suits were bad in the third TMNT film, once Henson Creature Shop left, well, you haven’t seen this. It’s essentially the stage costumes from their rock concert tour, with weird, dead eyes and mouths that never come close to syncing up to the dialog. And the villain in this episode is even worse. The show is cheap, cheap, cheap. Only 2 of the turtles have any real presence in this episode, and it uses 3 small locations again and again. Let’s do this together.
The episode begins in the turtle’s sewer lair. Donatello is playing with his computer, talking about having fun with chat rooms. The text on his screen is just green code that keeps scrolling but then the screen turns blue and Donatello is instantly hypnotized. At least I think so. The animatronics on his face stop moving and his weird eyeballs get extra creepy. The masks in this tv show do not move much. There’s some lip movement when they talk but it doesn’t match what they say even a little. They try to cut around it I think, but basically they have a voiceover artist say something later and it looks like the turtle actors didn’t even have a script to go on. They just wiggle around a little.
He walks past his fellow turtles, who are all sleeping in a disgusting pile. Donatello drones that his will is someone else’s and sleepwalks away. What a hook! We all know that’s how chat rooms can work, so it was nice of the show to highlight the very real dangers they present. Look at how the turtles nap, though. No rooms of their own? No beds? That’s just depressing. The fact is the set of their lair is very, very small. And it’s covered in garbage. Our heroes live in complete filth!
Smash cut to one of the fastest and least-catchy theme songs I’ve heard in my life. If you want to sit through it, well, you’re crazy but here’s the link.
Then we cut to this crime boss monster, named Silver. He brags to his two henchmen about how he bought a computer and just used a hypnotic email to get Donatello to steal jewelry for him. I thought this guy was an ape that was mutated like the turtles but I looked it up afterwards and he’s apparently supposed to be the last living Yeti. There’s zero reference to who or what he is in this episode, though. The mask for Silver is the worst mask I’ve ever seen. The turtles don’t sync their mouths and voices but at least they move. This guy’s lips wiggle almost imperceptibly and the actor just barrels through his dialog. It’s very distracting because his mouth doesn’t open and close but full dialog keeps pouring out. It’s so, so lazy.
Out of nowhere, Silver says that they need to hypnotize Donatello with a trigger, despite the fact that he’s already successfully been hypnotized into stealing for them. But the criminals arbitrarily decide that the word “banana” will now act as a trigger and after struggling to type it, it flashes on the screen and two bananas also shake around on the screen.
The email program that Silver somehow procured (it’s never explained where he would buy such a thing) instantly hypnotizes Donatello again. How did they target him in the first place? No explanation. This was probably written by 60-year old men who had no idea what these new “internets” did so they made up their own rules for email and chat rooms.
The next day, Donatello wakes up and feels like he’s very tired. Apparently he can’t remember going out and robbing jewelry stores. The turtles all say it’s time to train and begin hopping a little bit (they don’t really do any moves). Raphael pairs off with Donatello and Donatello instantly throws his staff to knock one of Raph’s sais but misses and it bounces around the room. This is the only time we catch a glimpse of Leonardo and new character Venus de Milo aside from them all napping at the beginning. We get a little bit of Michelangelo eating food from time to time, but mostly this episode features only Donatello and Raphael. So that sucks. No one even mentions Splinter even though he’s in the opening credits. I guess he just naps a lot.
Silver is examining his jewels and is really proud of himself. His two goons waste our time saying they’re trying to find the mouse that the computer came with. He yells at them about how it’s not that kind of a mouse. These are the “jokes” the show gives you.
Also, every emotion is exaggerated and whenever anyone moves it’s accompanied by silly sound effects like cymbals clashing or a slide whistle. It’s infuriating. The two goons get TONS of screen time acting dumb, presumably because it’s cheaper and easier than dealing with anyone in a turtle or yeti suit.
At the turtle’s lair, Michelangelo and Raphael are sparring and Raph is wondering why Donatello is so tired lately and where he’s been going at night. Mikey hasn’t noticed. Here they are fighting even though it looks like Mike is just staring at Raph’s junk. Trust me, it’s martial arts. Okay, mostly it’s just Raphael holding Mike’s leg because they do not seem to have a lot of flexibility and there’s very little fighting or athleticism on display with this show.
We get establishing shots of the city from time to time, even though everything takes place in small rooms. Almost every shot of New York features the twin towers which is fair for a 1997 show but sure is depressing now.
We finally see what Donatello does at night. Apprently he puts a second mask over his purple mask and giggles while tiptoeing in a jewelry store (the third and final location for the episode). How does this work? He wanders off like a hypnotized zombie but when does his personality shift to a cackling cat burglar?
Here’s the most expressive one of the turtles got in this episode. Don sees lasers across the floor and thinks about it. That means his jaw drops open like he’s about to swallow someone.
He backflips through the lasers in what is the most dynamic scene in the whole episode. It only takes a second or two but it’s easily the most martial arts we’ve seen yet or will see. They build a little tension that he might trip the alarms but he doesn’t at all.
Donatello pulls out a glass cutting kit. Why’s he have one? Guess it’s a ninja thing? He cuts a hole that there’s no way his hand could fit through. We cut to a shot where he’s just pulling necklaces up and giggling.
Back at Silver’s room (it’s not big enough to be a headquarters), his men are dancing because they’re so happy about the plan working. You know, like gangsters do. Silver yells at them that they’ll be out of a job soon now that he has Donatello. They don’t get jealous and sabotage things. Don’t worry, that would have conflict and dramatic stakes. Instead they whine that Silver doesn’t pay them at all. He says it’s a good thing, too, or he’d get rid of them so they better make themselves useful. So… how do they eat?
Donatello stops by and at some point one of the gangsters uses the word banana and Donnie is temporarily back to normal but Silver shouts banana and Don is once again hypnotized. So apparently just hearing the word banana turns him on and off. Of course, this is not how hypnotism works at all, but we have to accept that or there’s literally no episode at all.
Here’s a nice, scary shot of Donatello hypnotized. For some reason this is his mindless state. Look at those terrible teeth. Clean them, buddy.
Silver yells at his men for nearly messing up. Then he sends Donatello home. Why does he keep sending him home? He could just keep his hypnotized ninja around at all times. Instead he allows him to keep going home where his hypnotism plan could be discovered.
And wouldn’t you know it? Mikey walks by eating a banana and Donatello starts to vaguely remember stealing jewels but he shakes it off. However, Raph sees him acting weird and follows him.
Donatello hops in their car (apparently they keep a car) and Raph wonders why there’s a surfboard in back so he jumps in back (and apparently isn’t seen by Donatello). Donatello drives to a jewelry shop and parks right in front. Since this is Manhattan, no one is walking on the streets to see the giant mutant turtle thief or his Hummer.
Donatello lowers himself into the store and hooks up some sort of clamp to a security box. It’s inexplicably attached to a stretchy cord he keeps on his waist. After disarming the alarm, he swings over to get a jewelry banana thing. It’s gaudy as hell. His cord stretches right to the limit.
Then Raphael just walks right up to it without setting off any kind of alarm. Who knows why Donatello is still on his surfboard. Raph asks why Don is stealing but Donatello is in his cat burglar persona and ignores him for the most part.
Then Silver and his gangsters also just walk in and take the banana. I think Donatello went to too much trouble because apparently weirdos can just walk right into this place. At some point someone says banana and Don goes back to himself but also the cord finally pulls the clamp loose and the alarm goes off. Everyone runs away.
Back at the lair, Raph demands to know why Donatello would betray them all and work for Silver. Don claims he would never do that, seemingly with no memory of what he’s done. Even though he just came from a jewelry store with Raph.
Mikey walks by with ANOTHER banana treat and again Donatello seems to remember some of what happened. So he seems to have broken his programming thanks to Mike’s new habit of eating bananas.
Raph confronts Donatello AGAIN and this time says he’ll tell the rest of the team but Donatello begs for his help and explains that he has a plan to beat Silver. Raph decides this is a good idea and why bother telling anyone else what they’re doing anyway?
Don shows him a piece of junk that he claims is a spy camera and they’ll plant it at Silver’s place and that will somehow beat him. I don’t understand how.
When they get there, Silver and his goons instantly step out of the shadows, ready for the turtles. Don reveals that he’s actually still working for Silver and this was a trap. So Raphael does a really weak kick and Donatello takes a small fall. It’s a very unimpressive stunt.
Suddenly Silver has about 5 more gangsters and they all swarm Raphael. Ready for a big fight scene? Don’t get your hopes up. Mostly Raphael just sort of pushes them or they tumble over him or miss punching him and hit each other. There’s no kicks or exciting blocks or flips or jumps or anything. I was tremendously disappointed.
To make matters worse, they speed up the film, add silly sound effects and the fight is almost immediately over.
Then Raphael and Silver both begin shouting “banana” at Donatello who gets confused because he just sort of has his jaw drop and wiggles his head a little. Everyone wonders whose side he’s ultimately on.
He’s a good guy. He kicks Silver and then Don and Raph decide to run away before he can shout banana again. That’s literally what they say. They do not resolve the banana hypnotism issue and they do not arrest Silver. They just run away. It’s more of the episode ending than a clear resolution occurring.
Silver grumbles and freeze frame to the producers. Apparently this show was made by the same production house that makes Power Rangers and they even had a crossover episode. I’m glad I didn’t see that.
During the credits we see that the turtles are apparently also in a band. That I would like to see.
But not that much.