When I first heard that director Spike Lee had sued and temporarily prevented TNN from changing its moniker to Spike TV (a rebranding that signals its new mission to service horndog young men), I became outraged: Why, that lawsuit had resulted in canceling a televised kickoff party at the Playboy Mansion! One of the inalienable rights of basic cable is being able to indulge one’s inner Bill Maher without actually risking exposure to a communicable disease from Hugh Hefner’s grotto.
The lawsuit itself is goofy: Why would the director of ethnically diverse, politically thorny movies think that the former Nashville Network – once home to country videos and ”Dukes of Hazzard” reruns, and currently to wrestling – is trading on his good name? No one is going to confuse ”Do the Right Thing” with TNN’s new batch of animation, including Stripperella (featuring Pamela Anderson as an ecdysiast/superhero).
Regarding the Playboy stuff, I need not have fretted. It turns out that ”Stripperella” offers more titillation than a year’s supply of airbrushed bunnies. The series is credited to 80-year-old Marvel Comics pioneer Stan Lee. Who knew the cocreator of ”The Hulk” and ”Spider-Man” was such a randy old coot, so eager to offend? ”Stripperella” features bared breasts and lines like ”Let’s see some titties!” (Hey, maybe TNN could get revenge on the litigious filmmaker – and trade on Spike and Stan’s common surname – by christening itself Lee TV?) Anyway, TNN sent out the pilot and a later episode, which featured really ooky jokes about a younger stripper whose father brings business clients to the series’ ”gentlemen’s club,” the Tender Loins. (Dad tells daughter to ”strip good” and watches along with the rest of the droolers.) A subplot about an animal rights organization, ”Animals Need Universal Support, or ANUS,” is, given Anderson’s interest in the plight of furry creatures and her ”Baywatch”/Tommy Lee home-movie past, I suppose, right up her alley.
And if you groaned at that pun, the official pilot has a plot about ”exploding breast implants” that turn women into ”literal bombshells.” (”You’ve been booby-trapped!” cries our heroine.) But Anderson acquits herself with more aplomb than seems inhumanly possible – her warm, unironic line readings, combined with the exaggeratedly drawn curves of her real-life exaggeratedly curved body, achieve the desired sexual provocativeness. To put it as bluntly as the show demands, ”Stripperella” is a success as soft-core cartoon porn.