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New on the Tube: Level Up

Level Up TV showNew on the Tube is a series devoted to reviewing relatively new television shows and determining how they may (or may not) appeal to their intended audiences, where the shows are going, and what can be done to make them better.


By Robert J. Baden, Guest Contributor to Fanboy Comics  


Show Premise: 

Three MMORPG-playing teens unwittingly unleash creatures and items from their game into the real world.  Now, with the help of the game’s designer, the trio must search out “leaked” creatures and send them back to the game world while they balance their personal lives and school.  The show airs on Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern) on Cartoon Network (even though it’s a live-action series).




Previously on Level Up: Covering Episodes #1 – #4 (and the pilot movie)

Three teens that seemingly have nothing in common with one another—and can’t stand to spend time with each other at school—end up freeing the “big bad” of their common MMORPG into the real world.  At first they’re not sure what happens when the entire town blacks out to a surge overload, but then they each observe monsters from the game world trouncing around town.  Eventually, the trio comes to terms with the fact that they have to work together in the real world to keep the villain from conquering the planet.  Like most heroic encounters, they beat the odds at the very end and save the day.

Following their initial victory, the “clan” of friends continues their battle against creatures that happen to break out of the game world every so often.  Most of their encounters are struggles to keep the released creatures from becoming large enough leaks to disturb their daily lives and keeping everyone from finding out about their situation.  Their first encounter revolves around a Barbarian who shows up out of nowhere and tries to assimilate into their daily lives, while the second encounter is about multiple wormholes popping up throughout the town (the result of large worms creating them as they wiggle through the space-time continuum).

During their third encounter, we see a real world representation of one of their in-game avatars and how they can control him using the in-game hot keys.  By far this is the most interesting of “leaks” from the gamer world, for it shows us just how their gamer persona can (or cannot) interact with normal humans; however, at the end of the episode, the avatar is returned to the game and it continues onward to the next encounter concerning intuitive glasses—an interesting concept of a story, but ending up with the same conclusion: the item gets put back, as well as the double-Cyclops that wore them.

Main Characters

Wyatt (Fighter/Computer Geek): Introverted teen that spends the majority of his time on computers and playing the game.  Playing the game allows him to feel important and popular, things that don’t apply to his school or personal lives.  Normally the brains of the group, but suffers from an ego problem.  Weapon of choice is a random-effect gun (for lack of a better term) called Blast-a-Ton.

Lyle (Sorcerer/Popular Kid): Very outgoing and popular teen, also the football team’s quarterback.  Slightly ashamed of his enjoyment of the game and more intelligent than he lets others believe.  Usually the long-distance warrior of the group, but tends to end up in close quarters often.  Weapon of choice is a magic staff called Thunder Pole.

Dante (Knight/Class Clown): Doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him and does what he wants, when he wants, regardless of the consequences.  Has issues with his family and is perpetually on the brink of being sent off to boarding school.  Normally rushes into battle head first without thinking, often leading to getting his rear end kicked.  Weapon of choice is a bat called Skull Crake.

Angie (Overachiever): Outgoing and smart teen who tries to do everything possible in an effort to be more popular, better at schoolwork, and fit in with society around her.  Close friend of Wyatt’s, her house seems to be a secondary location for the trio to gather.  Usually the person who ends up getting caught in the middle of the trio’s game world activities, often at the expense of her own personal time.  Weapon of choice is a snarky attitude and popular influence as the de facto school matriarch.

Mas Ross (Creator): Eccentric and hermit-like creator of the game that spends most of his time trying to find ways to discourage people from spending time with him.  With protest, he allows the trio to use his property as a central staging ground for dealing with leaks from the game world.  Normally doesn’t interact unless he really has to and has an excessive genius complex.  Weapon of choice is a computer (although, Wyatt has better skills than he does).

What Works

The premise of the show really works in its favor, especially if you use the pilot movie as a stand-alone aspect of the series.  Bringing together three teens who have problems with one another, all of whom get along well within the game yet don’t know one another’s real identities, is quite believable.  This happens in the real world—our real world, not the one in the show—and that’s what makes the show appealing: bringing together people that normally have such a problem being in one another’s social circles.

What Doesn’t

One of the major problems that the show has is that it treats its viewers as though we’re not able to see certain set-ups and formulaic scenes occur.  Granted, the show does air on Cartoon Network, but there is a vast difference in the way the characters and plots are done in the series itself and the pilot movie back in November.  The pilot movie had spectacular storytelling abilities and special effects that the series is sorely lacking in.  It’s as though there were two different Level Up worlds that shares a common background, yet nothing else beyond that.

Another problem with the series is that the actor who plays Max is not the same one from the pilot movie.  This happens a lot in shows that are based off of a feature film—like M*A*S*H or 10 Things I Hate About You—but the movie was made specifically for the series.  The actor for the movie (Eric André) did a much better job than his series counterpart (Lonny Ross) does.  The characterization is much the same, but it’s the execution that falls through.

The Future

While I doubt that the producers will bring the movie actor back, they can make the show better if they treat it more like an extension of the movie and not just a spin-off of it.  Realistically, though, I don’t expect the series to get that much of a recurring audience and can see a clear end in the future.  It’s a shame, too, because the show has a great premise and even made me want to watch it after seeing the pilot movie; too bad it couldn’t fulfill the expectations I harbored since.  If it really can survive the future, it will be because it retools itself to be more appealing to its intended viewership, but, how often has that happened in television?




Robert J. Baden, Fanbase Press Contributor



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