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TGIF-for Prime Time Cartoon Lovers
The Best Tapes-for Toddlers and 'Tweens

By Donald Liebenson

There's good news for grown-up viewers who mourn the onset of summer reruns. Make that great news. The Cartoon Network has launched its second annual "Cartoon Summer," featuring new episodes of "Johnny Bravo," "Ed, Edd n Eddy," the phenomenally-popular "The Powerpuff Girls," "Dexter's Laboratory," "Courage the Cowardly Dog" and "I Am Weasel."

Where are the cartoon stars of tomorrow coming from? Between June 9 and Aug. 27, Cartoon Network will premiere each Friday night at 9 (ET) a new cartoon vying for a shot on the network's fall 2001 schedule. Viewers can vote for their favorites during "Voice Your Choice Weekend," a 52-hour marathon that runs from Aug. 25-27.

I caught three of the 11 pilot episodes available for preview and cast my vote for Maxwell Atoms's "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy," which premiered June 9, but will be repeated in August. The set-up recalls "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey," as the Grim Reaper arrives at the home of clueless Billy ("Are you Santa?") to take his decrepit hamster, Mr. Snuggles. But he is foiled by the unflappable Mandy, who challenges the skeletal Reaper to a contest. "If you win," agrees the Reaper, "I'll be your best friend forever."

Less likely to succeed is Chris Savino's "Foe Paws," debuting July 7. The odd coupling of a good-hearted dog and a snide, supercilious cat is not new. What's new is putting them in the home of an over-bearing Italian woman who dubs them Rollo and Vivian, dresses them accordingly and makes them "act human." It gets some cheap laughs out of the woman's outrage that her new "children" are "naked," but like films based on "Saturday Night Live" sketches, some things are best left at seven minutes.

More ready for prime time is "Uncle Gus: For the Love of Monkeys," which premieres July 14. Stuart Pankin (who voiced Earl Sinclair in the late, lamented "Dinosaurs!") is the voice of the hapless, unemployed Uncle Gus, who shares a trailer with a horse named Flapjack (voiced by "SCTV's" Dave Thomas) and his rotund, freckle-faced nephew Beeyolus, who is given to breaking out in song (there's a pitch meeting I would have loved to attend).

They find themselves in "a vexing predicament" when Gus's attempts to reunite with his lost love, a "monkey scientist," find him pitted against Dwayne the gorilla to determine who will be dominant male and "king of the monkeys."

Other promising debuts: "Trevor!" about an imaginative boy whose notebook doodles come to life (June 23); the self-explanatory "Lucky Lydia" (July 21); "Longhair and Doubledome" about two intellectual, but inept cavemen (July 28) and "Sheep in the Big City," which is said to be "heavily narrated in the style of 'Rocky and Bullwinkle,' and is already scheduled to premiere as a half-hour series in November.

Donald Liebenson lives with his family in Highland Park, Illinois, and writes about entertainment for national magazines.

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