Issue 54: Top 10 Ridiculous Moments (of Back To The Sewer)


Who remembers TMNT: Back To The Sewer? The cartoon was released in 2008-2009, the 7th and final season of the 2K3 series that limped to the finish line. At this point the show had lost much of its steam. The previous seasons had the Turtles battle bad guys in the year 2015. The Turtles belong in NYC, not the future. At least the creators ended the series where it belonged - the sewer.



Over the past few weeks, I slowly chipped away at Back To The Sewer. This particular season never appealed to me, but I felt it was an important piece of TMNT history to experience. Each morning, I sipped my coffee and soaked in another episode (you can find the entire series here).



The season is bizarre at best and never comes close to emulating the success of the series' earlier episodes. My usual Top 10: Turtle Tribute articles are lists, counting down to what's best at number 1. But with Back To The Sewer, I'll be switching up the formula - highlighting the TOP 10 RIDICULOUS MOMENTS of the show. It's too weird, too kooky to ignore.

Let's do this.
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10. MUTANT MAKEOVER

The Turtles got a face lift for Back To The Sewer. For the first time in the 2K3 series, the Turtles were given pupils. Until Back To The Sewer, they had pure white eyes burning behind those bandannas. It was a nod to the comic books and kept this cartoon incarnation menacing.



It's surprising how much two little dots can shift the tone so drastically. The pupils bring a cuteness to their character design, like they belong in a Disney cartoon. Instead of fighting the Foot Clan, the Turtles are groomed more for hugs and birthday parties.



I heard this style choice was due to the release of the 2007 TMNT film (around the same time Back To The Sewer was released). The show creators wanted to make the characters look closer to their movie counterparts. Personally, I never put this together and found the re-design unappealing. It seemed like a gimmick to capture a younger audience. This was one of the main reasons I didn't watch the series when it originally aired.
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9. CYBER SPACE

I have a love/hate relationship with the setting of Back To The Sewer. The majority of the show takes place in cyber space. Yes, cyber space. Although they ocassionally appear, the Foot Clan, Utroms & Purple Dragons take a back seat to the hijinks that occur in cyber space. The Turtles are, literally, uploaded into the internet where they encounter most of their battles.



The Love: As absurd as the concept is, it's a throwback to equally absurd 80s movies with similar story lines and tone. I couldn't help but compare Back To The Sewer to films like Weird ScienceTron, and WarGames. Those flicks were fun! This series has occasional moments where it shares that glory.



The Hate: This silly concept paints a picture of its time period when it was released. Social media and web 2.0 were on the cusp of becoming mainstream and the Turtles tapped into that popularity. Going into cyber space is a cheesy, and at times tiring, premise. Less than a decade later and it's already dated. The Turtles throw around buzzwords like, "digital, upload & link" way too much.
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8. SPLINTER & HIS DATA BITS

The central plot of Back To The Sewer involves rescuing Master Splinter. But, this story is unlike any recovery mission you've seen before. The rat leader is zapped within cyber space, causing him to be digitally deconstructed into tiny bits (that look like pixels). The Turtles spend the series collecting Splinter's data bits in hopes to rebuild him.



It's like he's a digital Lego set that takes a dozen episodes to assemble.



Let's be honest. It's an absurd loony mission.
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7. SAFETY FIRST

Was there a safety initiative going on in 2008-2009? Back To The Sewer is a nonstop PSA for protecting yourself. Whenever the Turtles mount a bike, scooter, or skateboard, it's safety first.



The Turtles keep their green heads protected at all times. Helmets accompany the halfshell heroes on many of their Back To The Sewer missions. I know safety is important, but geez, the gear makes these dudes look like dorks.



Why is their safety apparel so uncool? The creators could've at least given the Turtles some gnarly gear. This stuff is right off Wal-Mart store shelves. Major fashion fail.



Safety first, fashion second.
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6. ROBOTIC PAL

As if 4 walking, talking cartoon Turtles in cyber space didn't provide enough laughs, there's a robot in Back To The Sewer for comic relief. Serling, a mechanical butler from the future (yes, that's actually part of the plot), often tends to basic tasks at home in the sewer.



He's a classy hunk of metal. Sophisticated and refined, he often takes sarcastic jabs at the Turtles for their crudeness.



Oh, and did I mention he has a British accent too?
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5. TURTLE POWER PROPOSAL

Am I watching friends Friends or TMNT? In a laughable episode early in the season, Casey Jones shops for an engagement ring with the help of Raphael. His tough guy attributes are no help here. The poor guy is riddled with nervousness and butterflies, searching for the strength to pop the question to April O'Neil.



After several wonky plot twists, a gigantic monster, and a brawl out of a helicopter, April lovingly agrees to marry Casey. It's not your normal romantic comedy, but it's awfully close with this sappy conclusion.

Were kids rooting for this romantic moment? Ninja action, mutated turtles, and...a proposal?
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4. THE THEME SONG

Most young adults remember their first time voting in a presidential election. It's a big deal. But, me? I fondly remember casting my vote for the Back To The Sewer theme song. Before the series aired, the show creators allowed fans to cast their vote online. There were numerous tracks to chose from, but the one I selected ended up winning the popular vote.

Although I never watched the series when it aired, I knew the theme song well because I voted for it (and even downloaded the mp3!). I always loved the catchiness, and ridiculousness of it, and still do. Give it a listen.
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3. NINJA FASHIONISTAS

Turtle Power has hit the runway. The Turtles toy with their wardrobe a lot in Back To The Sewer. It seems like every episode has our heroes donning a new outfit. Pretty impressive for a cartoon. Just look at these mutated motifs.



Awesome attire.



Cowabunga couture.



Rogue vogue.



And goofy garments.

Whether it was a ploy to sell a lot of action figures or just an attempt to try something new, I'm impressed. Pumping new styles into the series is visually refreshing, and chic!
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2. CYBER SHREDDER

The Turtles' arch nemesis has gone digital! Cyber Shredder wreaks havoc within, you guessed it, cyber space. He's the Super Shredder of the internet!



Despite his rage and gusto, Cyber Shredder isn't much of a threat. At the start of the season, he's trapped within cyber space, limiting his reach of chaos. The only time the Turtles encounter him is within this isolated world - making him a weak threat.



Silly story lines aside, Cyber Shredder's design is awesome. Sleek, menacing, and intimating - not bad for a computer program. He would've made one heck of an action figure.



After a few nutty plot twists, Cyber Shredder materializes in the real world (cue the panic). The diabolical digital villain claims he will finally defeat the Turtles & Splinter. He gathers the Foot Clan for one final onslaught, a grand battle to stomp them out for good. And this leads us to the #1 spot on this list...
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1. WEDDING BELLS

Wedding specials are common place on television. Audiences love seeing their favorite characters tie the knot while overcoming the odds on their big day. The story lines are pretty formulaic. Usually the hijinks hits, it's a wild ride, and eventually the chaos neatly settles down and the lovers say, "I do." Characters from past episodes poke in for an appearance, giving excitement to fans.



The final episode of Back To The Sewer is no different. It's everything I hoped for - a complete and utter ridiculous wedding special. The whimsical story packs in a tender ceremony, formal fashion, big brawls, and dozens of cartoon cameos. Its pacing plays out eerily similar to a live-action TV comedy wedding special. It's so bad that it's so good.



April's farmhouse acts as the setting of this dreamy episode. The initial "threats" are the ones you've come to expect out of a wedding special, the in-laws! But, even those crazy family members look like good guys when the ultimate unwanted guest crashes the ceremony, Cyber Shredder (with a Foot Clan army at his side). And these guys aren't looking for cake.



The decisive battle begins. The farmhouse setting transforms into a tuxedo-infused melee. Pandemonium covers every inch of the TV screen. It's surprisingly captivating and entertaining.



Here comes the bride...



At times, the giant brawl trickles into genuinely threatening - pushing towards a legitimate conclusion.



Many characters from the 2K3 series return for one final hurrah. A plucky guest list of inter-dimensional creatures, robotic chums, and oddball humans join the festivities (and combat). They're all in formal-ware too!



Skipping to the conclusion, SPOILER ALERT, April and Casey get married in front of a cheering group of their outlandish guests. Get out your tissues because it's beautiful, it's bodacious, it's super cheesy.

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Back To The Sewer is a fun ride. It's nothing groundbreaking or unique, but it's entertaining. Give it a watch and keep an eye out for my TOP 10 RIDICULOUS MOMENTS. They'll keep you on your toes, and keep you laughing! 



TOP 10 RECAP:
10. MUTANT MAKEOVER
9. CYBER SPACE
8. SPLINTER & HIS DATA BITS
7. SAFETY FIRST
6. ROBOTIC PAL
5. TURTLE POWER PROPOSAL
4. THE THEME SONG
3. NINJA FASHIONISTAS
2. CYBER SHREDDER
1. WEDDING BELLS

2 comments:

  1. I remember catching episodes of this series here and there. It was an odd show, but then again, I'd expect no less from a TMNT cartoon.

    Was this the same series that had a crossover with all the other versions of the TMNT, from the comics to the cartoons? For some reason, I loved that episode.

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  2. Yeah this was a pretty crazy season, and a let down to me after the previous ones, even the Flash Forward was more enjoyable I thought, but totally agree with your list.

    And Chris, this was the same, it was done as a made for TV movie after the series ended.

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