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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Most played-out pop-culture entities of all time?

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Teenage-Mutant-Turtles_l[1] Nickelodeon bought the rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this week, announcing their plans to produce a CG-animated TV series launching in 2012, the same year as Paramount Pictures (owned by the same parent company, Viacom) will release yet another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles feature film.

If you’re keeping track, this will be the third animated TV series (we shan’t count the Saban-produced live-action show), the fifth feature film, and, eventually, the kajillionth excuse to stuff our country’s already-overflowing landfills with another exciting round of plastic TMNT tie-in toys and fast-food trinkets. Based on this extraordinary output under the banner of what was a pretty plot-weak idea to begin with, one’s gotta ask: Are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the most played-out pop culture entities of all time?

Mind you, this is coming from a girl who once owned and proudly wore both a pair of Raphael sneaker snappers and a Raphael pop-up digital wristwatch, and who would legitimately hustle home from junior high to catch episodes of that first animated TMNT series in those dark, pre-DVR days. I am fully aware that without too much TMNT, the world would not now know the comic genius of appending “Secret of the Ooze” to every second numerical sequel’s title. But seeing as how I neither know nor care where we are in the mythology of this franchise right now (is Vanilla Ice still alive?), I find it hard to believe there’s much of any place left to go. I guess they could bring Shredder back. But, you know, why?

What do you think, PopWatchers? Is the glorious absurdity of giant mutant post-adolescent turtles with mad ninja skills and totally awesome S0Cal attitudes just too appealing to retire? Are there stories left for our heroes in a halfshell to tell? Or do you think TMNT should just back it down and cede superiority to the current generation’s new breed of inherently ridiculous crime-fighting animals that appeal to kids for no discernible reason: guinea pigs?

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