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Dec. 22 – Eek! The Cat – It’s a Wonderful Nine Lives

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Original air date December 19, 1992

For the second year in a row we are returning to Eek! The Cat, a Fox Kids property that’s probably not remembered by many. At least I never encounter anybody who has anything to say about Eek! The Cat, be it positive or negative. My lack of foresight means we’re working backwards in relation to last year’s post as this episode comes from season one and it’s the first Christmas special the show made.

If you’re unfamiliar with Eek, he’s basically a good-natured character that is always able to look on the bright side. He always tries to do the right thing and is unfailing in his optimism, and since this show existed during the very cynical 90s, it means misfortune befalls Eek at every turn. This is one of those loud cartoons where characters often scream as a result of intense pain being inflicted upon them. For the sake of voice actor Bill Kopp I hope they were able to re-use his screams as Eek for several episodes rather than force him to repeat them. Eek is otherwise a house cat, and his family largely doesn’t seem to care about him. He has a girlfriend named Annabelle who has a pet shark-dog that hates him, even though he tries to befriend the dog whenever he can. It’s a world where animals are able to communicate with humans when needed, though they still remain subservient to them.

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Eek! The Cat had a solid run of 76 episodes on Fox Kids from 1992-1997

“It’s a Wonderful Nine Lives” sounds like it’s going to be a parody of a rather famous Christmas movie, but I’m happy to report it’s not. Instead it’s a story about Eek coming across a gift intended for an orphan named Joey and his quest to make sure it reaches him for Christmas. Along the way he’ll meet some new faces and also lots, and lots, of misfortune.

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The subject of today’s episode, a little green gift bound for Little Orphan Joey.

The episode opens with a narrator. This show is terrible with its credits, so I don’t know who is voicing this narrator as they just list a principal cast at the end of each show. Needless to say, he introduces the story with a few call backs to other classic Christmas tales. The camera then settles on Eek looking up at the sky from inside his home as he sees Santa come speeding by. He has seven reindeer, including Rudolph, which is a Christmas tragedy. He has to swerve to avoid a 747, and as he does so a present falls from his sleigh to land in Eek’s front lawn.

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Eek has a neurotic appearance, but he’s actually a constant optimist who just happens to get hurt a lot.

So far, the narration and dialogue from Eek is following a rhyming scheme. Note to television producers, if you want to make sure your Christmas special is considered annoying and not re-watchable, have everyone speak in rhyme. Eek retrieves the gift, and seeing it’s bound for an orphan named Joey in Dudd City, he sadly imagines the poor lad waking up on Christmas morning to find Santa passed him over. This breaks Eek’s heart and he vows to make sure this present gets to Joey. He tries to go back inside the house first, but finds the window and door locked. When he tries to climb through an open window, Mom (Elinor Donahue) doesn’t notice him because she’s engrossed in some language learning tape and shuts the window on his fingers. At ground level, children Wendy Elizabeth (Elizabeth Daily) and J.B. (Charlie Adler) can’t pull themselves away from the television to notice Eek’s plight.

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Eek winds up on an out-of-control sleigh to get his journey started.

Eek is forced to set off on his own, and immediately he somehow winds up on a sleigh speeding through the snowy streets. He’s going to collide with skiers and attract the attention of a polar bear and even encounter a penguin on a ski jump. It’s an elongated scene meant to soak up time and allow Eek plenty of opportunities to scream. He loses the present for a bit, but it finds him when his sleigh comes to a stop eventually.

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Poor kitty.

Once that business is done, Eek dawns a festive Christmas outfit that’s very Dickens in its style. He boards a train traveling through, but not in a conventional sense and actually ends up on top of the train. The present gets jostled and comes to rest over a box car that is full of shark-infested waters. Why would a train be carrying such cargo? I don’t know – it’s a cartoon, dummy! Eek is forced to tightrope across the opening and, of course, he falls in, but actually jumps out rather unscathed. He retrieves the gift, only to be clothes-lined by a water tower. He winds up on the roof of a traveling truck and wonders where he is. He needs to find Dudd City, which he promptly smashes into a sign for. Unconscious, he slides off the sign to land in the back of a farmer’s pickup on a soft bed of hay.

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Oslo Piggy, who’s plight is far worse than Joey’s.

Eek wakes up in the same truck in a barn, and he overhears a pig playing a sad song on his harmonica. The pig is named Oslo (I think), and he’s pretty bummed that he’s on the menu for Christmas the next day. Eek decides to help him out by fetching the key to the shackles that bind him, but before they can leave the barn they’re met by the farmer himself (Brad Garret, who sounds like he’s doing a Rodney Dangerfield impression) who is brandishing a double-barreled shotgun. He’s not about to let Eek leave with his pig, but Eek takes notice of the farmers torn shoes and offers to trade his boots for the pig. The farmer tries on Eek’s red boots and finds them to his liking, but rather than let Eek leave with the pig, he decides he’d rather have ham the next day and a cat to make a new hat out of. The duo are forced to flee, and Eek pulls on a rope that opens a compartment in the ceiling for hay to fall from and crush the farmer, a rare act of (justified) violence on the part of our protagonist.

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I’m a bit down on the visuals in this show, but that’s a nice looking scream.

Free from the farmer, Eek and Oslo are walking alone on a long, empty, road. Oslo is thankful for Eek’s help and seems interested in Eek’s mission to make sure this gift gets to Joey. Oslo is concerned though that they won’t be able to find this Joey, but Eek assures him that if they have faith, and wish upon the Christmas star, they’re sure to find their way. Oslo alerts Eek that it isn’t a star he’s wishing upon, but the headlights from a truck! It’s the farmer, and he runs the two off the road. Eek comes to land on a block of ice in a fast-moving river. The present for Joey is floating in the same river, and Oslo jumps in to grab it. Eek winds up on the precipice of a waterfall, basically a repeat of a gag with the sleigh on a cliff from earlier, and Oslo and the gift smack into him knocking them over. Eek is able to grab onto a branch, but Oslo ends up in the water below. Wishing him well and a merry Christmas, Oslo tosses Eek the present as he goes over another waterfall. Eek catches it, but in doing so he releases his hold on the branch and ends up in the water too. He’s still rather upbeat, even though Oslo might be dead, as he gets sucked into a pipe and sent through the stinky sewers to arrive in (presumably) Dudd City.

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Worth pointing out that The Simpsons and Eek did share a network.

Once Eek emerges from the sewers, he encounters a mother dachshund who bares a strong, stylistic, resemblance to Santa’s Little Helper from The Simpsons. She has three puppies and a problem. She was supposed to spend Christmas with her sister but lost the address. Now she and her pups are out in the cold. Eek gives them his top-hat and scarf to sleep in, which is more than adequate. He wishes them well then resumes his search for Joey.

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This is where we say good bye to that jerk-ass farmer.

Now naked, Eek seeks out what everyone in the 90s would seek when lost – a phone booth! And lo and behold, Little Oprhan Joey is listed and Eek is overjoyed to finally have an address. When he turns to leave though he’s met by the farmer, who now without a pig because of Eek decides to take the gift instead. He chases him around, and arms himself with a swordfish (they’re on a dock). Things look bad for Eek, as Santa-hat wearing sharks roam the waters below. As the farmer closes in, he’s felled by some garbage and a banana peel. It’s Oslo! And he’s on a garbage barge eating and enjoying being a filthy pig. The farmer winds up in the water, where the sharks apparently gobble him up.

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Are cartoons still doing the rabies gag in 2018?

With that out of the way, Oslo and Eek bid each other farewell at a bus station. Only Oslo is riding in the back of a garbage truck. While Eek waves goodbye, the present goes missing. A line of people waiting for a bus all have gifts that look identical to Joey’s. Eek starts frantically searching each one which attracts the attention of a guard who kicks him out. He is sent flying into a root beer bar and collides with a woman, leaving root beer foam all over his face. She screams “Rabies!” and within seconds Eek is on the streets and fliers depicting his foam covered face are all over the city and the hunt is on. Eek is forced to take shelter in a dumpster where he sadly hopes for a Christmas miracle that gets that gift to little Joey before falling asleep.

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So that’s Little Joey.

Eek is woken when a garbage truck dumps a bunch of garbage on him (isn’t it supposed to work the other way around?) which just so happens to contain the present for Joey! Eek is delighted to be reunited with the package as he sets out for the Our Lady of Really Really Dumped On Children Orphanage. He gets hit by a few cars along the way, but he finds it. It’s Christmas morning though, so he has to be quick. He finds that inside the children have not awoken to find their gifts yet so he sneaks in. He gets caught in the window, and he’ll get squished by a door too, but he succeeds in placing the gift under the tree. He sees all of the children come running in and out like a tornado. One child is left, who looks just like how Eek imagined Joey earlier. Only, it’s not Joey and he calls for the real Joey to come get his gift. Enter Joey (Cam Clarke), who’s not a little orphan boy at all but a rat. He’s in clothes and stuff, so it’s kind of weird how he fits in socially, but whatever. The present ended up containing his family, so he’s not an orphan at all!

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And that’s what was in the present. They’re certainly a colorful looking bunch.

Eek is happy to have brought Christmas joy to Joey. As he readies to leave he runs into the big man himself – Santa Claus! Santa thanks Eek for delivering that gift for him. Now that Eek’s job is done, he succumbs to the trials of his long, long night and falls asleep in Santa’s arms. He then wakes up back at home, and assumes it was all a dream. He mistakenly moves over to the door to the livingroom and the kids Wendy Elizabeth and J.B. slam the door on him (really Eek, avoid doors) as they attack their tree and leave it barren and beaten. Having retrieved their gifts, they head for the TV while Eek notices a gift underneath the tree addressed to him. It has a letter from Santa affixed to it which thanks him once again for his efforts the prior night. Inside the box is another note which orders him to “open the door.” When he does he’s greeted by all of his friends, including Oslo, who are there to wish him a merry Christmas. Eek got what he wanted for Christmas as well, a Christmas with friends and family – how swell!

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We have to give Santa a little screen time.

So that’s Eek! The Cat’s “It’s a Wonderful Nine Live” Christmas episode. The title is certainly misleading, but I suppose Eek went through most of his nine lives during his harrowing night. The rhyming in the episode is certainly annoying, but at least Eek is so likeable it makes it hard to get mad at him or the show. More annoying is the script’s over-reliance on Eek’s catch phrase “Kumbaya!” which I could do without ever hearing again. In comparison with the other Christmas episode from this series, I feel like this one is a lot uglier. There’s not a lot of detail to the characters and everything looks really cheap. The reveal of Joey I suppose is supposed to be both surprising and funny, but I was mostly indifferent. The voice acting is good though, and the show has a real rock and guitar driven soundtrack which is probably its signature distinction when measured with its peers.

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Eek did a good thing and wound up having a merry Christmas. Mission accomplished?

Is this a good Christmas special? Eh. I suppose if you have fond memories of Eek! The Cat then you’ll probably enjoy revisiting it. I was never a regular viewer of the show, though I must be less cynical with old age as I don’t find the character as annoying as I did when I was younger. The show is not available really anywhere and it absolutely will not be shown on television this holiday season. If you want to give this one a look yourself, it’s easy to find on YouTube and elsewhere since no one seems to care about old Eek the Cat.


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