‘Teenage Robot’ bolts to Nick’s spinoff club

Times Staff Writer

Nickelodeon’s quirky anthology of animated shorts, the “Oh Yeah! Cartoons” show (now in reruns), is proving to be a fruitful resource for series material. Two such spinoff shows, “Chalk Zone” and “The Fairly Oddparents,” have become star offerings at the cable network for kids.

“My Life as a Teenage Robot” is the latest “Oh Yeah!” short to receive the expanded series treatment (it was “My Neighbor Is a Teenage Robot” in its original incarnation). It premieres at 8:30 tonight.

Rob Renzetti, who created the show and writes it with Mike Bell and Zeke K, previously helped develop another offbeat, adult- and kid-friendly Nick success, “Dexter’s Laboratory,” and there’s a “Dexter-ish” flavor to the goofy plots and weird-science aspect here.

“My Life as a Teenage Robot” revolves around Jenny, a 6 1/2- foot-tall “Global Robotic Response Unit #XJ-9.” She has metallic pigtails, hip-hugging skirt, “belly bolt” and a body that morphs into an arsenal of mega-weapons, handy tools and gravity-defying vehicles. Her ongoing mission, guided by “Mom,” a British-accented, mad scientist and strict disciplinarian named Mrs. Wakeman, is to save the Earth from any and all alien invasions, meteors and assorted super-villains.

What Jenny really wants is to be a normal teenager and hang with her new human pals who live next door -- Brad and his kid brother, Tuck.


Jenny to Mom: “You never let me do anything but save the Earth.”

Mom to Jenny: “Don’t you raise your lasers at me, young lady.”

Overseen by art and animation director Alex Kirwan, the wacky anime style is reminiscent of “The Powerpuff Girls,” while behind the action, the finely rendered background art is designed with a muted, ever-changing color palette, fine line illustration and the look of early 1960s commercial art.

Messages for a ‘tween audience about fitting in and friendship and the like are at the core of the outlandish episodes, but a lavish lacing of past and present pop-culture references are clearly there for adult amusement.

For instance, Mom’s black-and-white lab rats have the look of 1930s cartoon characters, with mutated hands that resemble white gloves; the episode’s visual capper -- a familiar pair of red shorts with two big buttons -- is a wickedly comic reference to a certain globally recognizable mouse.

With its stylish design and frequent sly humor, this latest “Oh Yeah!” graduate looks like another winner, with even more cross-generation appeal than its two predecessors.