Dexter's Laboratory (Seasons 3-4)
Dexter's Laboratory is an American animated television series created by Genndy Tartakovsky for Cartoon Network and the first of the Cartoon Cartoons. It aired from 1996 to 2003, spanning 78 episodes across four seasons.
Though it originally concluded with a television movie, Dexter's Laboratory: Ego Trip, in 1999, it was revived for two more seasons in late 2001. As Tartakovsky left the series two years prior to make Samurai Jack, as well as many of the other original staff members also moving onto other projects or to make their own works, Chris Savino was put in charge of the last two seasons of this show.
The first two seasons were well received for their creative stories, good humor, and colorfully detailed animation. However, during the last two seasons, various changes were made to the show and this is where things unfortunately started to go wrong.
- These seasons were completely unnecessary. The television special, “Ego Trip”, had a decent ending and was meant to be the show’s finale. At the end of the special, Mandark is defeated and Dexter becomes the most brilliant scientist in the world. However, Cartoon Network insisted that the show was going to be continued no matter what.
- The animation is a considerable downgrade from the first two seasons.
- The colorfully-detailed background color palette from the first two seasons has been replaced with a plain, simplistic, washed-out and unappealing background color palette. The fourth season did improve in terms of background color palette, but even that’s not enough.
- The characters are sometimes given facial expressions that are too ugly and off-model and feel like they don't suit the characters' normal faces. A good example includes Dee Dee's outbursts in "Folly Calls".
- Likewise, the character designs have also taken a step-down:
- Dexter and Mandark's respective bodies look more rigid and geometric like a square or rectangle.
- Dee Dee looks virtually off-modeled.
- Dexter's mom has a larger head and hip.
- Dexter's dad has a larger head and his bottom-half looks unfinished.
- Some of the characters have gotten flanderized.
- Dexter has gone from a naïve, yet intelligent boy genius who made creative scientific inventions to an obnoxious and egoistic jerk who likes to treat everyone (even his own creations programmed with human-like emotions such as Computer and his many robots) poorly for no discernible reason and makes inventions that are barely even creative, but instead easily backfires heavily on him based on his own fault. Contrast to the first two seasons, where his inventions were creative and did what they were suppose to do until Dee Dee tampered with them, as mentioned in the show's ending theme song.
- Dee Dee has gone from a hyperactive, yet goodhearted girl to a downright troublesome brat who is even more annoying to Dexter than in the first two seasons. In addition, she became a lot dumber than what she was in the first two seasons.
- Dexter's dad has gone from a bumbling, yet loving father to a Butt-Monkey-type character.
- Both of Dexter's parents are also much more clueless and dumber than they previously were.
- Mandark has gone from Dexter's antagonistic science rival to a full-blown evil genius bent on destroying Dexter and ruling the world. Yes, he did turn evil in “Ego Trip”, but these seasons take place before the aforementioned original planned finale. In addition, he is also a filler or comic relief character who grew up in a family of hippies and, like Dexter, barely even made any creative inventions, yet easily were predicted to backfire heavily on him based on his own fault.
- Almost every supporting character from the first two seasons don't return, notably the Justice Friends (even though they appear in "Dexter's Wacky Races"), Mee Mee and Lee Lee (Dee Dee's best friends), Action Hank, and Commander.
- The only positive thing for this specific flaw is that they didn't screw up any of these characters, because that would've worsened these seasons.
- The writing has gotten severely downgraded from being creative to indolent, resulting in many bad episodes, especially all of the three-minute long segments in the third season.
- Slow pacing as the jokes drag on longer than a cutaway gag in Family Guy. An infamous example is in the episode "A Third Dad Cartoon", where it is nothing but Dexter's dad preparing a golf game for the whole episode.
- Christine Cavanaugh, Dexter's original voice actress, retired from voice acting after the first few episodes of the third season and was replaced by Candi Milo for the remainder of the series' run. Candi Milo does a poor job voicing Dexter in the third season, as she makes Dexter's Russian accent sound rather forced and cheesy. However, she did improve marginally in the fourth season.
- Overuse of toilet and gross-out humor, which were not too common in the first two seasons. The worst offenders are "Jeepers, Creepers, Where Is Peepers?" and "Sore Eyes".
- The title cards in the third season are generic and repetitive, as all of them just show the same title card with a completely white background that involves a small oil painting bubble of Dexter or a completely black background with just the titles of the episodes.
- The episode "The Lab of Tomorrow" is a rip-off of "Krusty Krab Training Video", an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants.
- The episode "Tee Party" has a very uncomfortable start:
- Dexter's dad is even dumber than he already was (as mentioned earlier).
- The golf attendant's design is ugly and his voice (provided by Tom Kenny) is like nails on a chalkboard.
- The infamous moment where the golf tendent takes a really long deep breathe.
- Said golf attendant refuses to give Dexter's dad a golf cart for unexplained reasons and when he gets in trouble, he blames Dexter's dad for almost getting him fired when clearly it was his own fault.
- They tend to contradict previous well-established episodes. For example, in "A Boy Named Sue", Mandark said that it was his first time meeting Dexter. However, in "Dexter's Rival", he and Dexter meet for the first time in school where he is shown to be already more intelligent than Dexter.
- Not helping matters is that apparently Mandark's real name is Susan, according to these seasons, even though it was already established that his real name was Ivan Astronomanov.
- Not only that, in the first two seasons Mandark's only known family member is his younger sister Lalavava (real name: Olga Astronomonov), who appears in only the season 2 episode "Dee Dee's Rival". But in these seasons Lalavava is completely written out of existence and is replaced by his hippie parents Oceanbird and Windbear.
- Many of the endings are rushed or confusing, especially the one for "Dexter's Little Dilemma" and "Sore Eyes".
- The animation is still fairly good and smooth.
- But, the animation in "Chicken Scratch" is wonderfully smooth, thanks to Genndy Tartakovsky who directed it.
- There are still some good and/or decent episodes like "Lab On The Run", "Would You Like That In The Can?", "Comic Relief", "Go, Dexter Family! Go!", "Head Band", and "Dexter's Whacky Races".
- Season 4 is a slight improvement.
- The backgrounds do look better than in the third season, with much more detail, but still fell flat compared to the first two seasons, mainly due to the washed-out colors.
- The episode title cards are original and creative unlike in the third season, and are surprisingly the best aspect about this otherwise lackluster revival.
- Decent voice acting from the cast, though Candi Milo was not all that great voicing Dexter, especially in Season 3.
- Some funny jokes here and there that are still worth a chuckle.
- Genndy Tartakovsky was still involved, albeit only as the show's executive producer, which is not much, but still some involvement.