With The Mighty B, (Saturday, 10:30 a.m.), Nickelodeon has created another cartoon masterpiece on the level of Jimmy Neutron, SpongeBob SquarePants and The Fairly Oddparents. Unlike those, it’s girl-oriented-man, is it ever. Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live is the co-creator and voice of 9-year-old Bessie, a badge-crazy member of the Honeybee scout troupe. Bessie is a ball of tweener energy and desire, with maniacal round eyes, a toothless grin and excitable pigtails. She speaks with a lisp so juicy that you can practically feel the spittle flecking your cheeks. She’s relentless, as is the series itself.

{mosimage}Bessie is bossy and confident, scarcely noticing that she’s an outcast among the more normal girls. When thwarted, however, she melts into a puddle of neediness. Her mercurial nature is mirrored in the animation, which morphs time and space with a Tex Avery-style glee. Bessie’s eyebrows pop off her head; her head rolls off her neck; her whole body shrinks and stretches to match her many moods.

The Mighty B is one of the rare cartoon series that appeals to all ages. Kids will relate to Bessie’s runaway id; adults will appreciate the echoes of Looney Tunes, Ren and Stimpy and The Simpsons, along with Poehler’s deft voice work. She renders Bessie ridiculous while also conveying an affection for the li’l oddball.

If the Honeybees gave a badge for artistic brilliance, Poehler would deserve a dozen of them.


Today

Friday, 8 a.m. (NBC)

We’ve all watched Paula Abdul talk the talk as a judge on American Idol. Now she must walk the walk by singing herself on Today’s concert series.

I predict that her performance will be a little pitchy at first, but yo, check it out, she’ll start to do her thing, and when she goes up into her falsetto it’ll get crazy-exciting, y’all! DA BOMB, baby! Yii-ah!


Duel

Friday, 9 p.m. (ABC)

This game show doesn’t rely on gimmicks-no over-the-top set, obnoxious host or seamy concept. Two players simply square off for $500,000, answering multiple-choice questions and betting with chips. The well-written questions move beyond the usual pop-culture piffle to cover history, geography and science, so that by the end of an episode you’ve actually learned something.

Is Duel (a) a refreshing change of pace or (b) not tawdry enough for the American public? With trembling hand, I’m betting on (a).


Robin Hood

Saturday, 9 p.m. (BBC America)

The American entertainment industry spends billions of dollars to create thrilling popcorn entertainment and usually comes up short. But the BBC’s Robin Hood gets the job done with just a few cloaks, inexpensive castle sets and bow-and-arrow props.

Oh, and brilliant writing and acting-the two things American studios usually forget to add.

The second-season premiere is so exciting that I had to keep repeating “I’m not 11.” Otherwise I was liable to put on a pair of tights myself, jump out the window and join the fight to save England. Robin (Jonas Armstrong) and his band must battle not only the Sheriff of Nottingham, a smiling sadist; and Guy of Gisbourne, an unsmiling sadist; but the sheriff’s deliciously evil sister, who makes Cruella De Ville look like an old softie.

Robin isn’t conventionally handsome, with his scruffy beard and Beatle ‘65 haircut (Beatle 1165, that is). But he’s outrageously sexy when escaping from certain death over a snake pit, or shooting the ax out of an executioner’s hand. He stares down danger with style and wit.

And when he waxes inspirational, Robin can make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. “We are not just outlaws in a forest,” he tells his band in a tense moment. “We are the spirit of England, and that is this country’s only hope!”

I’m not 11... I’m not 11.....

 

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