By JOHN BILLINGER
Tiger Media Network
Many individuals have that “one show.” You know, the kind that you probably saw once or twice, then it disappeared and you forgot all about it. But then one day, many years later, you remember that show, and you wonder whether or not it was real or if it was some weird fever dream. One such example is “Glenn Martin, DDS.”
I remember when this show aired. It was August 2009, and there were a bunch of commercials on Nickelodeon advertising a brand new show coming to its Nick at Nite block. I primarily remember this programming block as airing older shows such as “Full House,” so imagine my surprise that it was receiving a claymation show in the vein of shows like “Family Guy.” Not only that, but they were going to air it right after “Spongebob Squarepants.” It was unexpected, to say the least.
Now, my older sister was a very big fan of “Family Guy” type adult shows, so when she heard about this, she made it a date to watch the premiere on August 17, 2009. I watched it with her, and I think she must’ve found it to be disappointing, as she never watched it again. As for me, I thought it was ok, but I certainly wasn’t crazy about it. I probably saw it a couple of times afterward (they soon changed the time slot after complaints, and it got renewed for a second season), but I don’t recall seeing it past December 2010. Despite that, it aired its last episode on November 7, 2011.
But enough of my recollection, what is this show?
“Glenn Martin, DDS” is a show created by Eric Fogel (creator of another claymation adult show called “Celebrity Deathmatch”) and Michael Eisner (the former CEO of Disney). Yeah, no joke, that Micahel Eisner. After his very public exit from Disney, he founded a new company called The Tornanto Company, which has produced various content. Another animated show that they created is “Bojack Horseman.” Anyway, the idea for Glenn Martin was inspired by a 1971 movie called “In Search of America” which starred Jeff Bridges, and apparently, the reason that this adult show was pitched to Nick as opposed to any other network was because Eisner believed that Nick at Nite had a good reputation for producing shows. Part of me wonders if the real reason was to make Nick at Nite much more like Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, but I suppose the real answer is lost to time.
What is the show itself like? The official synopsis is “A dentist and father of two decides to take his family across the country after their house burns down. With their old beat-up Winnebago, the Martin family will encounter the best that America has to offer.”
That’s a fine and dandy synopsis, but what about the individual characters? Well, there’s the title character and family patriarch, Glenn (voiced by Kevin Nealon), who’s a dentist and is meant to be a stupid, optimistic, and somewhat oblivious sort. There’s his wife, Jackie (voiced by Katherine O’Hara), who is a tough and somewhat self-centered woman. There are his two children: Conner (voiced by Peter Oldring), who is a stupid 13-year-old going through puberty (so you can imagine the kind of jokes that involve him), and Courtney (voiced by Jackie Clarke), who is an 11-year-old and wants to be the next great business leader. Along with her in business ventures is her assistant Wendy Park (voiced by Judy Greer), a North Korean foreign exchange student with aspirations similar to Courtney’s. Oh, and you can’t forget the Martin family dog Cainine.
With a synopsis like this, does the show work? Well, you’d have to categorize it under two different umbrellas: how the first few episodes originally aired and how the creators intended it to be seen (which is how it later aired and how it can be seen today).
Apparently (and I don’t remember this when I first watched the premiere episode), but the network aired it with a laugh track over everything. Why did they have a laugh track? I’ve heard two different explanations – they were trying to pay homage to earlier animated shows which had a laugh track, such as “The Flintstones,” and the network believed that the show’s humor was too hard to understand, so they added the laugh track to help the audience know what the joke was.
Both of these reasons (if true) are terrible. For the first reason, just because “The Flintstones” did it back in the 1960s, doesn’t mean that this modern show should have one. It had been decades since a laugh had been used in an animated sitcom anyway, so it would just as well put someone off. For the second reason, the humor would be too hard to understand. The show’s humor, as stated earlier, was similar to what one would see in “Family Guy.” Not to mention, having a laugh track kind of kills the humor. I find that with a laugh track, you’re less likely to laugh. A New York Times review from the time even stated that “Glenn Martin, DDS is pretty much laugh–free (though it does have a laugh track).”
After some digging, I managed to find some clips of the laugh track scenes from the original airings.
The track was canned after just a few episodes (which might be why I don’t remember it having a laugh track, plus it’s been 14 years). The show can now be seen the way it was intended, so how is it? Well, it’s both a product of its time and pretty funny at times. The first episode, for example, is the family visiting the Amish. You get all the jokes you’d expect about the Amish, like how they’re living like “Little House on the Prairie,” they don’t have any technology, and their viewpoints are backward. I’m sure you’d probably still get some jokes like this today, but the only difference is a bunch of people on Twitter or X (or whatever it’s called at the moment) would complain about it.
But then you get scenes in that episode that are pretty clever. For example, Jackie has to hang out with the Amish women for a day, and she’s all like, “How can I expect to hang out with a bunch of people who’ve never seen ‘Sex in the City’?” She goes to them, and the Amish women are all sitting around and talking like characters in ‘Sex in the City.’ It’s kind of a clever reversal of expectations, and it’s funny.
There are plenty of other episodes that are also kind of a mix of jokes of the time with some pretty clever scenarios, but does it always work, and is it funny? I suppose it depends on who you are. If you are the kind of person who’s really sensitive, then this isn’t for you. There are plenty of other things in the show that remind you of when it came out for example, there’s an episode that features a caricature of Donald Trump, before he was a divisive politician and back when he was a divisive celebrity. That episode is really something of a time capsule. On the other hand, if you like raunchy and insensitive humor, then you will probably enjoy it. Again, it depends on who you are.
On a positive note to mention, the stop-motion animation is very good. Stop motion, in general, is pretty underused, especially these days, so seeing the art form is always a welcome sight, even if it is from 14 years ago. The voice acting across the board is also good. Nobody gives a bad performance. Overall, this was a well-produced show that could’ve found an audience but was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Literally, whoever thought it was a good idea to air this show right after “Spongebob” probably should’ve been fired. And then to air a laugh track right next to it is just tone-deaf.
Overall, “Glenn Martin, DDS” is an interesting time capsule of a show. Is it for everyone in today’s age? Certainly not, but it is ripe for a cult following. For those interested in seeking it out, it’s relatively easy to find. The first season was officially released on YouTube for free, and the second season has been found occasionally on various streaming sites over the years (most recently on Roku), so if you’re curious, it’s definitely worth a look. See where you land and give it a watch, if you really want to.
John Billinger is currently in the Informatics department at FHSU and is an avid movie buff.