McGee and Me: Back to the Drawing Board

In Which Nick and Todd Compete in an Art Contest

(And Wikipedia spoils the outcome. Thanks Wikipedia!)

Our Scripture reading for today is James 3:13-18

13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

 

There is a cartoon of McGee cleaning up a cow(I think) for a livestock competition. The guy standing next to him is fat, hairy, and only has 3 fingers. His cow is dirty and misshapen. McGee’s cow, of course, is perfect.  3 Fingers switches their animals when McGee isn’t looking, but loses anyway. He throws a toddler like tantrum.

The whole thing is painful to watch. Even as a child I hated cartoons like this one, where the bad guy is dirty, fat*, and ugly. Even as a small one I knew that ugly comes in pretty packages. This is also biblical: does not Satan Himself appear as an angel of light?

In any case, we open on Nick telling us all that the weather is cold, there’s lots of snow, and schools are closed. Except for his school, of course. Nick is showing is friends a drawing, and they’re all jabbering about how awesome it is.

Seeing as how Nicholas’ drawings have a history of coming to life, I’d be more worried than awe inspired. But probably none of them know about McGee.

I’ll let actual art critics judge the quality of this picture. For someone Nick’s age, it probably is pretty well done.

Derek comes along asks Nick if he’s playing with crayons again.

“Why,” asks Renee, “Are you missing yours?”

Now my comeback here would be, “Yeah, yeah I am. Maybe Nick stole them.”

But of course perfect comebacks never occur to us on the spot, so Derek just goes, “yeah, well, takes one to know one.”

Everybody lets out a loud, “huh?”

I actually think this isn’t terrible. If you can’t come up with a witty comeback, at least confuse the shit out of people.

Just then the teacher walks in the room to introduce a new student, Todd.

Nick sees that Todd has a sketchbook, and scary violin music plays. Like, ok, why would the very presence of a sketchbook scare Nick? Lots of people like to draw, and it doesn’t mean they’re very good at it. Even if Todd is good at drawing (spoiler alert: he is very good at drawing) why is that a threat to you? Are you afraid your audience of ooers and ahhers will no longer fanboy/girl over your drawings? Perhaps they don’t even draw the same type of stuff. Nick is  into cartoons, perhaps Todd is more into realistic drawings of cats?

In any case, I find my eyes rolling at how over the top it all is. Especially when nick says that up till now, this has been a “one sketchpad school.”

Seriously? I grew up in the 1990s. Sketchpads were popular. I have a very hard time believing no one else has one and that no one else is as good as Nick. Nick’s school may be small, but it’s big enough for each grade to have their own classroom, so there must be a fair amount of students.

Mcgee goes to spy on Todd’s drawing. The camera moves up and down making boing! boing! noises, which are probably supposed to indicate that we’re in McGee’s headspace now.

McGee says Todd’s drawing is, “An interesting statement perhaps, but a little too post neo-modern for my taste.”

Nick and I ask, at the same time, out loud, “what the fuck does that mean?” Except Nick doesn’t say “fuck.”

McGee doesn’t know what that means any more than Nick and I do (I bet whoever wrote this episode grabbed a bunch of random art jargon and smashed it all together.)

The bell rings and kids pour out of classrooms. My cat looks confused. that bell is loud.

Nick, Phillip, and nameless extras 2 and 3 ask to see what Todd was drawing. Todd smirks a little before showing them all a drawing of a cartoon robot.

Louis thinks the drawing is cool, and says Nick can draw too, and Nick shows Todd a picture of McGee. Louis even says, “That’s McGee,” So, I guess the kids all know about him? Do they know he comes to life? Has it been established whether or not they can see him?

In any case, Nick shows Todd this:

And I can’t think why. Nick does actually have talent, but this doesn’t show it.

“Cute,” says Todd dismissively, which is probably what I’d say because this, while still probably better than I could do, is truly terrible.

Todd and Nick exchange their drawings.

The scene changes to a shot of the Martin’s house, with snow in front of it. Nick decides to show how easy it is to draw this robot. Spoiler alert, it isn’t.

We cut to a scene where Nick’s mom asks his father to clear off the table.His father insists that he’ll be done with the really complicated puzzle in a minute.

“so, we’re in one of our Cosby moods, are we?” Says Nick’s mom.

Which, with what we now know about Cosby, comes across as way creepier than the writers ever intended.

Sarah walks in and says it’s officially a blizzard since her dad’s got a jigsaw puzzle. He says that everyone who helps gets to sleep inside tonight.

Mom asks Sarah to help out with dinner. Sarah asks Nick to help, and he snaps at her that’s busy and can’t everyone just leave him alone?!

Um, if you wanted to be left alone, why are you in the living room? You have a bedroom with a desk for god’s sake, why aren’t you using it?

Nick storms off, probably to go make use of said bedroom, while Sarah sits with her parents around the kitchen table.

McGee is in their room, practicing the violin. Nick is irritated with this, and McGee tells Nick he’s just jealous because all he can play is the radio.

Playing the radio is my specialty, ok? Unlike Nick, I get to actually listen to real music.

Nick and McGee get into a fight about whether or not Nick is jealous of Todd’s drawing. Nick says he’s never drawn anything like that with “all those angles and stuff. If by “stuff” he means the coloring, I could see it. That shading does look like it would be kind of hard to do. Not sure how angles would play into it?

McGee plays a sad song on the world’s smallest violin while Nick whines angrily for a few minutes about how he doesn’t care about Todd. The boy doth protest too much,methinks.

Even Nick is tired of McGee’s violin music, saying it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to trade him in for a robot. I fully support this decision, but don’t trust the writers not to make a robot just as obnoxious and irrelevant as McGee.

Notice that McGee only seems to exist for Nicholas to talk to. I’d consider McGee a personification of Nick’s subconscious, but then, why can the dog see him?

The next day, Nick is at school and it is still snowing.  Nick’s voice over tells us he may have overreacted a little bit to having another cartoonist around, and that maybe it’ll be a lot of laughs. We cut to a scene where everyone is sitting around Todd, laughing. Todd is saying he’s just goofing off, that this kind of drawing is easy. We get a glimpse of this:

Hang on, Todd’s only seen one McGee picture, and he was shirtless. How does he know what McGee looks like without the boxing gloves? I like this drawing because I hate McGee. However, in the context of the story, this is unnecessarily insulting. Todd has never seen McGee come to life, so he doesn’t know how obnoxious he is. He’s therefore not drawing this picture for the same reasons I would be.

Derek comes up and asks who wants to loan him 50 cents. He compliments Todd on his drawing. He then asks why Nick can’t draw like that, and then leaves, without his 50 cents. I’m not supposed to wonder what he needs 50 cents:eacher tells everyone it’s time to go back to class. She asks if everyone has picked a book for their report. Derek steals a book from Renee’s hands, and goes, “I sure have.”

Renee doesn’t try and stop him from taking it, which should have been his first clue. Mrs. H picks up the book and reads the title.

“‘Pretty and Popular, the modern girl’s guide to good looks.’ Well. I certainly am interested in reading your report on that.”

I’m laughing out loud, because that is actually pretty funny.

I’m going to insert a side note in here about how maybe this is why Derek is so mean all the time. Maybe he has a secret interest in nail polish and dresses that he will never be allowed to express. Back in the 90s when this show was made, being gay was not acceptable, nevermind being transgender.

As Derek randomly stole the book from Renee, we know that this is not the case. But it would be an interesting side story. Such a side story probably wouldn’t have been done in the 1990s even by non homophobic christian media, so I’ll let that pass. For now.

Derek glares at Renee, who grins at him mischievously. Sorry Derek, but you kinda put your foot into that one. Next time, just randomly grab a book off the shelf. You still might have the same results, but at least you won’t look like a dick.

So, credit where credit was due; that was actually funny.

Nick’s teacher comes up to Nick, and tells him there’s some kind of art contest she thinks he might be interested in. The winner gets their drawing printed in the paper.

She also gives a flyer to Todd. Nick decides this is his chance to “put that puffed up Picasso in his place.”

We’re next shown the students in class as the teacher drones on about the artists of the Renaissance period, Nick begins to daydream.

I can tell it’s going to be terrible. It’s basically a medieval competition between Nick and Todd. It’s just as cringeworthy as it sounds, and if I describe it too much I will end up writing pages and pages about how inaccurate it is so we’ll move on. Except to note that Todd displays The Mona Lisa but calls it “The Moaning Lisa,” and I am laughing really really hard because I am 12.

So moving on.

Nick wakes up from his fantasy shouting “I can do better!” And the entire class laughs. Which seems like a non realistic response. I’d personally go for, “staring at him like he’s crazy.”

Back at Nick’s house, it’s still snowing. Nick’s mom, dad, grandma, Sister, and other sister Jamie are sitting around the table working on the puzzle.

Grandma and Jamie are back in this episode. I have no idea why they were absent for 2 whole episodes out of 6.

Nick comes in and says there’s nothing to eat. He sarcastically tells his mother that he could always eat the baking soda. His mom says to go ahead. We’re probably supposed to see her as neglectful in this scene, but Nick is 12. That’s old enough to figure out how to make spaghetti. They’re out of peanut butter, so he can’t make himself a PB&J, but don’t tell me 12 isn’t old enough to figure out how to cook something besides baking soda. No one’s paying attention, so Nick threatens to eat dog food.

“Ok,” [Nick’s mom says.] “And could you please get your junk off the counter?”

Nick throws away his sketch pad and stomps off. Grandma notices, the rest of the family doesn’t.

I’m torn between “it’s nice to see Nick not being a goody two shoes” and “Nick’s being a little shit.” Surely there’s a middle ground between “too good to be realistically human” and “I kind of want to punch this kid?”

Grandma follows Nick with a bowl of kibble, “just the way you like it,” she says. Did she just take that from Whatever? That poor dog! He’s probably following behind her, whining.

Nick tells Grandma what’s wrong. Grandma tells him he’s jealous, and asks if he really thought he was the best artist in the world. I’m with her up until she starts going on about:

Nick, God gave you the ability to draw to honor Him. Not to honor you.

Jee, God’s a dick.

In any case, grandma argues that Nick is only hurting himself by giving up drawing because of Todd, and I wish I’d had someone who cared enough about me to tell me this when I was his age.

Grandma starts talking about a time when she was jealous. It’s a story that doesn’t make much sense to me and I don’t really care. Something about being jealous of missionaries.

She gives him back his sketchbook. So Nick gets right to work –wearing a hole in the living room rug. Pacing back and forth while music plays.

And that is a metric FUCKTON of snow falling outside his window. Is this supposed to be a 4 day blizzard in which they are constantly getting dumped on? If it is, the fact that school is still open is the most realistic part to me. Some schools will remain open in the worst conditions ever.

Finally, Nick starts actually drawing. McGee does some stuff that’s supposed to be funny…. I don’t care.

Finally the musical montage is over and I turn the volume back on.

Nick and Todd turn in their posters. Derek comes up and calls Nick’s poster, “McGeek,” and I find myself liking Derek more and more this episode.

Oh god, more of this godawful music. I wonder if someone actually composed these songs for this show, or if Focus on the Family just picked out the world’s worst contemporary Christian songs every on purpose. And  drew them out for a full 2 minutes longer than necessary! I keep turning on the sound hoping it’s over. It is not over. Except for like, a 30 second interlude where Derek talks, this has been going on for over 2 straight minutes. Gag me.

We then get an incredibly pointless scene of the teacher pinning Nick’s poster up on the wall with the others, grabbing her coat, leaving the room. Then, after staring at the empty room for a few seconds, the light clicks off. We are in darkness for a while, then the light clicks on. Because the musical montage wasn’t pointless enough, I guess we needed more pointless shots to make the episode last a full half hour.

Ok, I’m back. My master came up to me with her toy mouse and told me to throw it for her. She’s so cute.

In any case, sorry about the blurriness, this was the best picture of the posters I could get.

 

We then get a scene where McGee and the Robot come to life and fight each other. In case anyone was wondering, I’m rooting for the robot. Unfortunately, McGee wins.

Back at the ranch Nick’s house, Nick’s family is still trying to put together that puzzle. They’re one piece short, because Whatever decided to use it as a chew toy. Nick and Sarah chase him, and I hope the poor dog doesn’t swallow that puzzle piece. We never get to find out if he’s rescued, because the scene shifts to Nick at school.

The teacher announces the winner and it’s… Derek. Well, I have to admit, I didn’t see that one coming. Wiki spoiled the fact that neither Todd nor Nick win, but Derek? Really? Derek draws?

Also, um, is Derek trolling, or does nobody in this classroom know what this sounds like?

 

All joking aside, I like this. This gives our Standard Bully(tm) some character development, and possibly growth. Derek has hobbies outside of stealing money from Phillip and books from Renee.

McGee comes along, whining about the contest being rigged. I roll my eyes so hard I get a headache. Why is McGee even in this show at all? I get that he’s a title character but he isn’t plot relevant at all, and there’s no reason you couldn’t take any one of Nick’s conversations with McGee and replace McGee with… well, anyone. They could show Nick developing relationships with actual people instead of his imaginary friend. It would be an opportunity to develop some of the other kids’ characters as well. How does Louis react to Nick’s jealousy? Renee? Sarah? Jamie?

Do people actually think McGee is funny? I’m asking honestly here. I don’t actually remember much of McGee as a character when I watched this show. I remember Nick, I remember Sarah, Jamie, and grandma, but I don’t remember McGee.

I’m not sure whether or not that says something about me, or the show. Perhaps a little of both.

 

 

*I do not mean, here, to intend that being fat is ugly or a character flaw. I’m including it here because it is, whether it should be or not, on the list of “stereotypical description of ugly villains.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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