August 20th, 1999

Rex the Runt

by Ben Maycock • in Television

rex the runtA little while ago, I was lucky enough to follow my instincts and tune in to YTV for a show called Rex the Runt. What I found was crude, quirky and very, very funny.

Rex the Runt is an animated series (yes, another) that follows the adventures of four canine housemates. Combining claymation and live action shots, the animators manage to place surreal characters and events into accessible settings. The look of Rex should be familiar to North American audiences. It was developed by Aaardman Animation, the same minds that brought us Wallace and Gromit, and the characters and backgrounds have the same whimsical feel: a little more polished than Mr. Bill, but not as busy as Eddie Murphy’s The PJs. Co-produced by the BBC and Egmont Imagination, the series has a distinctly British sensibility.

The series features the superb acting talents of four dog-shaped blobs named Rex, Bad Bob, Wendy and Vince. Rex, questionably the leader of the pack, tries to steer the group towards the easy life. Though he is the most goal-oriented, Rex’s method and intellect are suspect.

Bad Bob, the brawniest of the group, sports a sexy eyepatch and spends much of his time tinkering in the shed. Happiest in the company of a can of Chuffy dog food, Bob’s easy-going nature and relatively worldly knowledge help to quell the inevitable panic that is part of the dogs’ daily lives.

The curvaceous Wendy seems the most fed-up of the crew. It is not inconceivable for her to find solace in drink and the haunting strains of her banjo.

And then there is Vince. He is the strong, silent one, choosing his words very carefully when called upon. Such bon-mots as ‘Tuesday’, ‘hoover’, and ’spaghetti’ rank among his favourites. Vince’s talents would lend themselves nicely to any Merchant-Ivory production.

The show follows Rex and cohorts as they strive for that we all do: money and food. On a directive from The Bloke That Runs Telly, the foursome must seek out adventure in order to meet these needs. Their travels take them to such exotic locales as Easter Island, outer space, and Blackpool. In the episode entitled Stinky’s Search for a Star, the dogs enter a talent concert and their band, Rexy Music, makes it to the finals. In another episode Wendy is arrested for shooting Vince, and is sent before the courts. When the judge finds her not guilty on the basis that Vince is no worse for wear, Wendy becomes an instant darling of the media. There are no boundaries as to where the plot may lead. Each show zigs, then zags, covering a lot of territory in very little time.

Each episode runs for a duration of ten minutes. Whether this brevity purposely addresses the world’s collective attention deficit disorder is not known; however, there is so much packed into this ten minutes that the viewer is left satisfied. This is not to say that the show would not work in a half hour format. There is more than enough story and character to carry Rex for that extra time. In fact, one story, Adventures on Telly, is effectively told in three ten minute parts.

Rex should appeal to children and adults alike. It is silly and colourful enough to keep the young ones enthralled, while an older audience will be kept interested by the British humour and risqué innuendo. The characters thick English accents may take some getting used to, but it will be well worth the investment.

At present there are thirteen episodes of Rex playing in the U.K. Apart from the one broadcast on YTV, I have not seen any other evidence of Rex this side of the Atlantic. I hope this will soon be rectified. There will be further installments of the program out in the U.K. shortly and it would be a shame if North America is denied what Aardman likes to call ‘The Joy of Rex’.


jordan said:

rex the runt is actually on australian abc2 on saturdays at 7:20pm, ive been hooked on it for a while now :]
nice review

September 12th, 2009 at 5:56 pm

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