Apr 30, 2015

[TV] Gravity Falls: Season 1

The internet on its own is an organic recommendation engine for things that you might like. Just join any forum or social media community centered around a fandom and eventually you'll notice crossover conversations about related media that they enjoyed that they feel is similar to the core fandom you've come together to talk about.

This brings us to Gravity Falls, a Disney series that often gets cited when one talks about shows like Adventure Time. Both shows have more than their fair share of mysteries and this Disney take on a mystery series of sorts is pretty fun in its own right.

I wouldn't necessarily say it's a perfect comparison - tonally the shows are extremely different and the characters may be a little quirky, but they're not totally crazy as a lot of the Adventure Time characters seem to be. But that's neither here nor there - they don't need to be precisely similar experiences to both be good. Each has its own niche in the scale of geekery.

Synopsis: Gravity Falls is an animated TV series created by Alex Hirsch and airs on the Disney Channel, but more recently on Disney XD. The first season ran for a total of 20 episodes with the second season already in-progress as of the time of this post.

The show begins with fraternal twins Dipper (Jason Ritter) and Mabel (Kristen Schaal) Pines going to the small town of Gravity Falls to spend the summer with their grand uncle Stan (Alex Hirsch). "Grunkle" Stan runs a shop of curiosities known as the Mystery Shack that is your classic tourist trap filled with fake exhibits and overpriced souvenirs. But soon the pair discover that there appears to be a lot more going on at Gravity Falls that is first apparent. And things get particularly interesting once Dipper discovers a secret journal that seems to document all the strange goings-on at Gravity Falls.

Thus we have events like Mabel getting a new boyfriend who may possibly be a zombie and Dipper determined to prove this to be true. Or there's news of a sea monster lurking nearby with the kids going on an adventure to prove its existence. Or there's Grunkle Stan's creepy wax figure collection that had been hidden away in some secret room. There's a lot of classic mystery story tropes abound at Gravity Falls, but the truth may be even stranger.

I appreciate the overall tone of the show that reminds me of really old shows like Eerie Indiana or even the tales from Are You Afraid of the Dark? It's your classic case of kids investigating mysterious events that are probably too dangerous for them, but of course they do it anyway. And given it's an animated series, they sky's the limit with what can happen in each crazy episode. The show has no qualms about dabbling in both science fiction and fantasy concepts for a good story and the results are pretty interesting.

One of the best elements in the show for me is Waddles the pig. Mid way through the season Mabel adopts him as a pet and he's pretty darned adorable. Sure, he doesn't get any speaking lines (more or less), but Mabel's proclivity for dressing him up in various costumes and his almost human behavior during key moments makes for great comedy. And this show is great with its sight gags.

But going back to the original comparison between Adventure Time and this show, the only real thing that they have in common is a compelling meta-plot beyond the episodes. The big difference though is that Gravity Falls is all about the mysteries while Adventure Time keeps that mostly on the back burner. The mysteries are important to both shows, are played out in different ways. This difference does not make one show better than the other - it just makes them different.

Gravity Falls is decent fun and Waddles may be cute enough to keep me involved in the show a bit longer. Sure there's also the bigger mystery behind things, but the pig plays a bigger role. Thus the first season gets 3.5 adorable outfits for Waddles out of a possible 5.


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