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TV Review: 'Gary Larson's Tales From The Far Side'

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Most cartoon adaptations of comic strips fail to capture the atmosphere of the original: I don’t care how many Peanuts specials there have been, not one of them gets the spirit of Charles M. Schulz’s strip right. But gary larson’s Tales From The Far Side (CBS, Oct. 26, 8:30-9 p.m.) has atmosphere to burn, capturing the eerie, vaguely malevolent tone of Gary Larson’s single-panel cartoon. What the television version of The Far Side doesn’t elicit, however, is laughs. Producer-director Marv Newland chose to do without dialogue, and therefore sacrificed the brilliantly precise, deadpan language that Larson uses to phrase his punchlines. At its best, Tales From the Far Side offers longer versions of Larson’s surreal one-glance comic. I marveled, for example, at a horror tale in which two eggs, necking in a car at midnight, are attacked by a mad housewife with an egg beater. (Congratulations to Newland and Larson for getting away with cartoon violence equal to The Simpsons‘ ”Itchy & Scratchy” vignettes.) But it is the look of this production, including the dreamy urgency in the way it moves from one comic vignette to another, that is perfect. Larson recently announced that he will retire from cartooning at the end of the year — a rare example of a great pop-culture creator quitting before his inspiration has been exhausted. Enjoy Tales From the Far Side, therefore, as an artful homage to Larson rather than as a literal-minded rendering. B+