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Review: 'Breadwinners' gets its genial ducks in a row on Nickelodeon

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And the cartoons keep coming.

"Breadwinners," which premieres Monday night on Nickelodeon before settling in to its regular time slot on Saturday morning, is a second step from that network (after "Sanjay and Craig"), toward, or perhaps back toward, a more raucous, handmade, "creator-driven" brand of animation. (Computer animation and DreamWorks film spinoffs like "Penguins of Madagascar" and "Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness" have lately defined the brand, but Nick is also the network of "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "The Fairly OddParents.") Created by writer Steve Borst ("Teen Titans Go!") and animator Gary “Doodles” Di Raffaele ("Metalocalypse"), it's the first product of a new network development program reminiscent of its old farm-team series "Oh Yeah! Cartoons" and "Random! Cartoons."

SwaySway (tall and thin, voiced by Robbie Daymond) and Buhdeuce (short and round, voiced by Eric Bauza) are ducks -- acid-green ducks I would more readily identify as fish, but ducks -- whose job and passion it is to deliver bread to the creatures of their world. Mostly to ducks. Other ducks have a painterly look, or are represented photographically, and do not speak but only quack. The bread they deliver is not baked but rather mined -- or rather, it is baked, by a Santa-cum-Chippendale's buff supernatural character called the Breadmaker, and then mined. It comes in flavors like huckleberry spaghetti, bubblegum rye and clammy brioche.

BEST TV OF 2013 Lloyd | McNamara

The show, which runs on speed and bad puns, butt jokes, snatches of old-school hip-hop and house and arcade-game conventions, is loud and often gross, but basically genial. It should not drive your children into a life of crime. Apart from those moments when two characters, alarmed or aroused, scream the same words in unison, which hurts daddy's head and has become altogether too much of A Thing, I am inclined to bestow upon it my official critical blessing.

Its aggressive and sometimes disquieting-in-a-good-way mix of visual styles -- though the references may not be intended, I sense notes of Basil Woon, Garbage Pail Kids (Art Spiegelman) and Total Television (animators of "Tennessee Tuxedo" and Cocoa Puffs commercials) and the aesthetic grab-bag that comes from a childhood spent in front of "Sesame Street." (It is, in this way, in the same ballpark as Cartoon Network's "Uncle Grandpa.") Eight-bit video is also an influence, in look -- there is a clever use of pixelation -- and motion. (A gang of biker ducks moves with the quarter-note determination of Super Mario figures.) The main characters have a simpler, rougher look than what surrounds them, as if they were based on a (talented) child's re-rendering of some grownup's original design.

They have a pet frog. There are monsters.

robert.lloyd@latimes.com
Twitter: @LATimesTVLloyd

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