I could probably intro this list with a bunch of references from the show, essentially inside jokes that only dedicated viewers would get, but that would be cray cray.
The whole point of this is to get people who aren’t watching Disney’s Gravity Falls to tune in. If I could fashion a time machine out of some sort of mundane household tool, like say, a tape measure; I’d send all of you back to last June when Gravity Falls debuted so you could see it from the beginning.
Created by Alex Hirsch (also responsible for Fish Hooks and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack), Gravity Falls is TV’s best new animated show. Highlighted by many great moments, this series has been strong since the start. The main characters are Dipper & Mabel Pines, 12 year old twins who are visiting their great-uncle (or Grunkle) Stan for the summer. Stan owns a “South of the Border” type novelty shop called The Mystery Shack in the mysterious pacific northwest tourist town of Gravity Falls.
Each episode highlights a different town oddity, but the underlying slow burn is satisfyingly unprecedented in what is packaged as a kids’ show. Picture X-Files meets The Simpsons, if Bart & Lisa were nicer to each other.
Dipper and Mabel are voiced by Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal, with creator Alex Hirsch lending voice talents to Grunkle Stan & Soos, the harmless Mystery Shack handyman & town ne’er-do-well. Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks, ER, Velma from the live action Scooby Doo films) voices Wendy, the coolest 15 year old in Gravity Falls and the target of Dipper’s immense and adorable crush.
So why should you be watching? Besides the hauntingly catchy theme song, here are five reasons:
1. Gnomes that barf rainbows
This show has layers. In the pilot episode, it appears evident that Mabel’s new boyfriend is actually a zombie. Viewers expecting this to be the big reveal and conflict resolution are treated to an extra delicious twist when the boyfriend zombie turns out to be a bunch of lawn gnomes in disguise, pulling off their own version of the Muppet Man. The gnomes would like Mabel to be their queen, naturally, and this was their plan of seduction. Oh, and they barf rainbows.
2. The writing is brilliant
Many times when people rave about a show’s writing, I think “uh-oh- this is gonna be a show I’m gonna have to pay close attention to, or else I’m gonna miss something and not get the show, and feel dumb, and my friends are gonna stop liking me.” Not the case here.
The episodes are fast paced and clever, but it’s not LOST. There are callbacks and mysterious references, but nothing that will alienate a casual viewer. Children will be entertained by Mabel’s whimsy, while adults will pick up on nostalgic and pop culture influenced elements AND be entertained by a whole other level of Mabel’s whimsy.
3. The Lamby Dance
This thing will go through your head for days, and you’ll never be annoyed with it. When you can put it in the context of the show, it’s such a great resolution to that episode’s “creep of the week” and it progresses the underlying “Dipper’s crush on Wendy” storyline. One of the best moments of season one so far:
4. Pop Culture Influence
Episode 1o, titled “Fight Fighters” is based on a Street Fighter-type arcade game character called Rumble McSkirmish coming to life. The most delightful aspect (among many) is that he remains in his pixelated form after emerging from the game into the real world. If there’s one thing most of today’s parents love, it’s pixelated video game characters. Mabel’s vast sweater rotation (specifically the cat sweater) is also a nod to the meme savvy parent.
5. It’s funny
It used to be a big deal when a current show made references to obscure or forgotten pop cutlure and nostalgia. When Family Guy hit the scene with its cutaways featuring things like G1 Transformers and the Kool-Aid Man, they were cutting edge. Creators now grasp the fact that the target demographic (that coveted 18-35 year old with disposable income) is a child of the 80s or 90s, and harbors a deep nostalgic love for the things he or she grew up on.
Shows like Phineas and Ferb, Yo Gabba Gabba, and even Spongebob Squarepants to a degree capitalize on that. But it’s one thing to insert clever nostalgic winks and nods- it’s another to be a hilarious, well-written show at the same time. Gravity Falls hits on all cylinders.