Thanks to Saban Brands and Nickelodeon, the Power Rangers are able to fight another day. Power Rangers Samurai marks the return of new episodes since the finale of Power Rangers RPM day after Christmas 2009 and the beginning of a new era for the franchise on Nickelodeon.
For me, I can look at this first episode in three ways, as the beginning of a new era in the Power Rangers franchise, as someone who’s already watched Samurai Sentai Shinkenger (the Japanese Sentai season this is adapted from) and as a regular ol’ episode of Power Rangers.
First, as someone who’s watched Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, it was interesting to see an episode translated almost word for word. As Shinkenger was my first Sentai season, I feel like I have even higher expectations for Power Rangers Samurai since I greatly enjoyed the Japanese original.
So as adaptation goes, it was like watching the same episode with lesser American actors and poor dubbing.
Speaking of, how does this episode compare to other Power Rangers episodes? Well, having the show in HD finally is a great thing. Much of the fresh American footage looked great and thankfully, no need to stretch and squish the source footage anymore to fit a 4:3 aspect ratio.
So visually, it looks different and refreshing compared to past seasons and it is good as a way to distinguish itself.
Now, everything else…
This episode, this premiere was supposed to mark the beginning of a new era in the franchise. Back in the hands of Saban, the ones who brought Super Sentai to our shores and gave birth to the Power Rangers phenomenon, and a new home in Nickelodeon which is a much better fit for the franchise now than the recent years on any of Disney’s properties.
But the episode felt like you were being thrown into the middle of something in which you had no idea what was going on.
Especially for those who haven’t watched Shinkenger or have not watched an episode of Power Rangers in years, the episode may have seemed odd and out of place. Indeed, the episode was adapted from Episode 3 of Shinkenger.
No meeting of the Rangers, no assembling of the team, no introduction to the villains or this world that we are expected to enter for 40 episodes.
Either Nickelodeon decided to just air Episode 3 first (and episodes 4, 5, and 6 the next three weeks, which they are) and skip the first two episodes or this really was the first episode of Power Rangers Samurai, no introductions needed. Either way, it is a mind-boggling situation.
Not doing a traditional meet-and-greet premiere is not unprecedented in the franchise. The most recent original season, RPM bypassed the usual introductions by cleverly utilizing flashback episodes for each of the Rangers. But unlike the Samurai premiere, RPM did a fair amount of set-up in the first (and second) episode even if they too jumped right into the middle of the action.
Samurai‘s premiere made me feel like I was missing something, though I felt less confused because of my knowledge of Shinkenger‘s events.
I guess it just didn’t feel like the glorious rebirth that’s been hyped since Saban first announced the reaquisition.
Then there’s the aspects of the show itself. Visually, again, the show looks great. Awesome to have the show finally in HD.
But the acting left much to be desired though the writing didn’t really give them much to do anyway. Sure, it’s the first episode, but it seems Saban might have been overly serious about going back to the “campiness” of Mighty Morphin and the early seasons.
The “jokes,” the puns, and verbal slapstick (trademarks of the early Power Rangers) all felt forced and shoehorned into the show. While it is fun to have Paul Schrier back as Bulk, his scene with what appears to be a character that’s being written as a cross between Skull, RPM’s Ziggy, and all versions of Alpha, felt completely out of place.
The seamless infusion of humor and one-liners vary from season to season, but the mandate from Saban for Samurai appears to be Drop a pun every five seconds whether or not it fits or makes sense.
Then there’s the use of the remixed Mighty Morphin theme song (and an attempt at recreating the MMPR opening title sequence). I completely understand what Saban is trying to do by using nostalgia to draw in viewers who had grown up with the show or to this day still remember “Go go Power Rangers!” But it is 2011, and Power Rangers needs to be taken into the 21st century, not taken back to the early 90s.
There’s a reason families and kids started tuning out year after year and it can’t all be contributed to programming decisions by Fox or Disney. Like I’ve said in several posts about the franchise already, Power Rangers needs to grow up with its audience. Young audiences are becoming increasingly more sophisticated (so much so it’s almost scary) with their television choices.
Having a higher budget, HD version of a mid-90s children’s show might not be enough to sustain the franchise that’s still on weak legs.
And a Sunday at noon timeslot for new episode premieres doesn’t seem to be best spot when it comes to reaching its widest audience possible.
Of course we should remember this is only one of a planned 40 episode run, so there’s 19.5 more hours left to judge.
While it is simply great and awesome and exciting to see the Power Rangers franchise survive and still breathing, let’s hope that Saban, Nickelodeon and the people in front of and behind the camera can realize what it takes to not just keep the show on life support, but get it off of that hospital bed and back into the world of American popular culture.