Salute Your Shorts - Donkeylips and Sponge Weigh In
I've decided to try something a little different this time around. With the other shows that I've reviewed up to this point, I've started with the first episode. This time around, fuck that. There were only 26 episodes of Salute Your Shorts and Nickelodeon ran it pretty consistently for about 6 years. So either you remember the radio contest, the time that Michael and Budnick faked being sick, Zeke the plumber, capture the flag, and when Ronnie Pinskey replaced Michael Stein, or you don't. Then there's "Donkeylips and Sponge Weigh In", the show's 8th episode. As the title clearly suggests, this is the episode where Budnick and Dina fall in love. Wait, no. This is the episode where Sponge and Donkeylips want to compete in the camp wrestling competition but Sponge is five pounds too light for the flyweight class and Donkeylips is five pounds over the cruiserweight limit. How will they ever resolve this? If you don't know, you're not going to find out until I finish a brief rundown of the show's characters. I should warn you, however, that you are about to experience some of the worst early 90s fashion this side of Encino Man. And we're off...
Bobby Budnick was Camp Anawanna's resident bully and drug dealer. OK, he wasn't dealing drugs. But he *did* have just about every other camp contraband available for sale. He also had a fantastic quasi-mullet. Budnick would often intimidate other kids into doing what he wanted by ending his sentences with "or we'll pound you". It's unclear who this "we" was, since he used this line on virtually every other camper including Donkeylips, his occasional lackey. I suppose that implication is that Budnick was a master of manipulation who could polarize campers with his deft oratory skills. You know, like cable news. Daniel Cooksey has become a reasonably successful voice actor in recent years, but back in 1991 he was pretty much typecast as an asshole. In addition to playing Budnick, he was John Connor's punkass friend in Terminator 2 as well as the voice of Montana Max on Tiny Toon Adventures.
Dina Alexander was the stereotypical spoiled rich girl and she brought some much needed bitchiness to the cast. At least, she would have if the show's producers had any idea what they were doing. There should have been cat fights and bed-hopping every week like on Melrose Place. They could have brought in Heather Locklear as the camp's evil new CEO who was secretly testing cosmetic supplies on the campers. I apologize for that last sentence, that was mind-numbingly idiotic. Dina wasn't really a bitch, but she was lazy and whiny like most other rich children. In this case, I guess I don't blame her. After all, her parents sent her to a normal summer camp but as everyone knows there are special summer camps for rich kids where the cabins are gold-plated and washed-up celebrities are the counselors. But Dina wasn't all bad... Sure, she tried to bribe her way into becoming Bunk Chief and yeah, when she won the lead in the camp's production of Cinderella she just sat around all day sunbathing instead of learning her lines, but she *did* go to the big camp dance with Donkeylips when he had a crush on her. She also made Budnick dress like a preppy jackass when they were dating, and that was fucking hilarious. Mullets and ascots don't mix, and neither one has any reason to exist.
You can't have a successful youth-oriented television show without a fat kid. Well I suppose you can, but you'd have to use other stereotypes instead, like an excitable Hispanic boy. Of the two, I think the fat kid is less offensive. Donkeylips was a weird character. In some episodes, he was little more than Budnick's toady but in others he was a much more sympathetic character, like the episode that I'll be talking about today. Actor Michael Bower hasn't done much acting since playing Donkeylips, but he was involved in a controversial gay rights case Bowers v. Hardwick (1986). Am I lying? You'll have to look it up yourself.
Michael Stein was the new kid at camp. He gave the others a reason to explain various camp rituals and activities, so that the viewers would know what the fuck was going on. Without Michael, we may never have learned what an Awful Waffle was. I suppose we never really *did* learn exactly what it was, other than it was bad and it involved maple syrup. Other having a slight resemblance to Alex "Bill S. Preston" Winter, Michael didn't do much for the show other than add another body. The girls all fawned over him when he first showed up at camp, so I guess he was supposed to be cute. Whatever.
This little guy is called Sponge because he's a living, breathing tampon. Actually, it's because he's smart and he has absorbed a phenomenal amount of information over the course of his life. Get it? Fucking clever, eh? You can tell Sponge is smart because he wears glasses and smart people always wear glasses on TV. We, the viewing audience, need to be patronized in every possible way to help us understand those sharply written Nickelodeon shows. Actually, it's probably because that if Nickelodeon were to challenge you to think, you might forget to buy their merchandise. Remember, your goddam life won't be complete until you have a Roundhouse poster.
Telly Radford was the camp jock, but more importantly, she was played by an actress named Venus DeMilo. I shit you not. In some movies and other shows, she's credited as Venus DeMilo Thomas. So either she got married or DeMilo is her middle name. Since some of these credits are from 1993, I'm willing to bet it's her middle name. Who the fuck does that? Who names their fucking daughter Venus DeMilo? If you do that, you're practically fucking begging her to go into the porn industry. Unfortunately for Ms. Thomas's parents, she stuck with legitimate acting. Nice try, assholes. If someone you know is thinking of giving their child a ridiculous first and/or middle name, SMACK THEM UPSIDE THE FUCKING HEAD!
This is Z.Z. Ziff, the camp's obligatory weird girl. You can tell because her name has three fucking Zs in it, and Z is a very unusual letter. She spent her days singing "Cumbaya", writing paeans to various camp locations, and talking to inanimate objects (such as a piggy bank that can almost be seen above). She was also into the environment, which is really lame. I don't understand why the fuck we even need an environment; we should all live in shopping malls like in Logan's Run. Still, she was kind of charming in a way, possibly because blondes really do have more fun. That, or it was because she wasn't bitchy like Dina or butch like Telly. Either way.
Kevin "Ug" Lee was the camp counselor who was apparently directly responsible for the four boys and three girls that the show focused on. No matter how hard Ug tried, the kids usually managed to outsmart him. Actually, it was probably about a 50/50 ratio. Ug would bust the kids on small things like trying to use the payphone to order food or having contraband, but when the campers snuck out to the movies one night, they got away with it. Ug wasn't stupid, but he was fairly clumsy and goofy, and he was terrible with the ladies. As a result, the campers didn't show him much respect.
Finally, there's Ronnie Pinskey who doesn't appear in this episode. Pinskey was the Season 2 replacement for Michael, who apparently left the show. Pinskey sucked. All of the other kids at camp, even Budnick, were people that you could root for depending on the circumstances. Pinskey was an obnoxious rich kid who was good at everything. Imagine an actor with all the smugness of Jerry O'Connell, but who sorely lacks the vague semblance of acting ability that O'Connell has. I suppose that Blake Soper, the actor who played Pinskey, should thank his lucky stars that he was such a terrible actor. Otherwise he might have ended up in crapfests like Kangaroo Jack and Mission to Mars. Instead, Blake's lasting steady acting job was playing Joey the Rat on Boy Meets World in the mid 90s. He's currently the guitarist in an indie pop band called Rilo Kiley with actress/singer Jenny Lewis, better known as Fred Savage's love interest from The Wizard. I'm not particularly into the indie scene, but they're good at what they do.
So the premise of the episode is this: Sponge and Donkeylips decide to enter the camp's wrestling competition because the winners get an all-you-can-eat seafood dinner at a real restaurant. This is a big fucking deal because camp food generally sucks and Camp Anawanna's food sucked particularly bad. As you can see, every single entree on the menu ends in the word "surprise", which is always very reassuring. Sponge and Donkeylips are both locks to win their weight classes; Sponge is quick and smart while Donkeylips is a fucking maelstrom of destruction. Of course, things are never that fucking simple on TV. There has to be a conflict, and there is: neither of them actually meet the requirements for their weight classes. Sponge is too small for the lightest class and Donkeylips is too big for heaviest class. With Telly's help, the two begin training with the hopes of meeting the weight requirements before the tournament begins. Donkeylips exercises while Sponge pigs out. Things are looking up again, but then a new conflict arises. The other campers are also sick of the disgusting camp food, so Budnick orchestrates a plan to bring in burgers from a local food stand. After his attempt to call the order in is thwarted by Ug, Budnick decides that someone has to order the burgers in person and bring them back to camp. Budnick elects Sponge and Donkeylips to pick up the food. Ug has been letting Sponge and Donkeylips train unsupervised, so they have a good chance to pick up the food undetected. If they get caught smuggling outside food into camp, however, they definitely won't be allowed in the tournament. But if they don't do it, the other campers will beat the shit out of them. Like most kids on family-oriented programming, the threat of physical violence from their peers is enough to scare to Donkeylips and Sponge into accepting the mission. If those two fucking wusses are afraid of getting beat up by Michael, mullet boy, and a couple of girls, I can't even begin to understand how they could possibly be good wrestlers. Ug, responsible counselor that he is, is taking an afternoon nap which creates a perfect window of opportunity for a food run. The campers give Sponge and Donkeylips their money, threaten them some more, and send them off to get the burgers.
Oh no, yet another plot twist! The stupid bastards gave Donkeylips about $32 in coins and it ripped a hole in his pocket. So not only are Sponge and Donkeylips leaving a trail of coins behind them, they're also going to be short once they get there. When Ug wakes up from his nap, he notices a not-so-shiny penny on the ground. Apparently he's really desperate for money, because he picks it up. Then he notices another coin. Then another. Although he doesn't realize it, Ug is hot on the trail of Fatty and Brainy. Meanwhile, the hapless would-be wrestlers are nervously waiting for their number to be called at the burger stand. When it finally is, they try to pay and immediately realize that Donkeylips has been bleeding money the whole time. Then they see Ug coming down the trail and decide to run for cover before he sees them and busts them. It looks like our boys are fucked.
Or not. Ug hits on the chick at the burger stand and she pretends to like him in order to get him to pay for the burgers. Ug is a total tool, so it works. He also decides to get himself an ice cream cone, which he subsequently drops. When he bends down to clean off his shoe, the burger chick closes up shop and Sponge and Donkeylips snag the burgers with the help of a large stick. With the food finally in their possession, the boys haul ass back to Camp Anawanna where their friends are totally psyched to have "real" food. Of course, their friends are still total dicks. As a reward for delivering the food, the campers nominate Sponge and Donkeylips to get rid of the trash as well. While they're carrying the trash bags, Donkeylips accidentally tears his one open on a random tree branch and shit goes everywhere. Since leaving burger wrappers strewn everywhere would give away their illicit activities, the duo frantically scrambles to pick them up. As they work to cover their asses, Sponge asks Donkeylips why he cares so much about the wrestling tournament. Donkeylips then delivers a heartfelt speech about how his parents only notice him when he brings home trophies and he wants to impress them; he doesn't care about the free seafood after all. That's a great lesson: negligent parents are worth impressing. Wait... NO IT'S NOT. But I digress. As luck would have it, they suddenly realize that it's time for their second weigh-in. Donkeylips is forced to stuff trash into his pockets as he and Sponge rush off to the Anawanna Lodge.
The moment of truth. Predictably, Sponge gained enough to compete in the flyweight division. It's children's programming, you fucking knew it was coming. Besides, it's not like it's fucking hard to gain weight. Unfortunately, with all the trash stuffed in his pockets, Donkeylips is one pound over the cruiserweight limit. He hands Sponge his claw cracker and walks out dejected. Sponge's first instinct is to console him, but as he's about to leave Telly tries to hand him a five pound weight to help build muscle. Sponge leaves it on the scale and starts to walk away. Ug arbitrarily decides to weigh the weight and notices the scale says it's seven pounds... OH MY GOD! THE SCALE IS OFF BY TWO POUNDS! HE MADE IT! DONKEYLIPS FUCKING MADE IT!!! Insincere emoting aside, it was a pretty cool moment. Sponge finds DL and lets him know the good news. Meanwhile, we all learned valuable lessons about teamwork, exercise, and camp food.
So if you ever wondered what a typical episode of Salute Your Shorts was like, now you know. Goofy as hell? Perhaps. But it was unique and it had its moments. Nickelodeon would have sucked pretty hard if they had just offered up lameass Saved By The Bell clones instead of bizarre shows like Hey Dude and Clarissa Explains It All. Unfortunately, Saved By The Bell is on DVD and none of Nick's classic shows are. Well, unless you count Ren & Stimpy. But given the way that Nickelodeon treated Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, I'm pretty sure it doesn't count.
The Salute Your Shorts Intro
Posted by: Syd Lexia
ROASTED, TOASTED, AND BURNT TO A CRISP.