The eighth and ninth episodes of VeggieTales in the House, now available on Netflix! In “Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot!” Petunia disobeys Pa Grape while working in the store, and in “Laura at Bat,” Laura struggles with playing baseball.
“Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot!”
Random fact: The title is apparently a reference to the 1982 Arrow song, “Hot Hot Hot,” heard in many films and television shows. Who knew?
This episode focuses on Petunia, a relatively new character to the Veggie clan. In the later videos (post-Jonah), she became the female counterpart to Larry, joining him on his adventures and/or acting as his love interest in certain stories. I haven’t seen much of her myself, but besides the redesign, House Petunia is far softer and sweeter, right down to the breathy voice and somewhat ditzy demeanor – which is a little confusing, to be honest, because in the other episodes, she’s usually the voice of reason. Here, she fails to follow her own advice (provided by the personified “Good” aspect of her conscience) to keep her promise to Pa.
Petunia is suffering from the chilly weather, having apparently forgotten her sweater at home. Junior passes by and seeing her distress, offers her a pair of gloves (Petunia: “For what?” | Junior: “Good point.”) and his rabbit fur earmuffs. Grateful for the generous gift, it’s a belated few seconds before Petunia remembers she is violently allergic to rabbit fur, shown in a flashback featuring a Rob Paulsen-voiced doctor and an eye chart that foreshadows a new character:
Petunia rips the muffs off and begins scratching her head on anything she can find, particularly by face-planting into a wall. Despite the dire warnings from the doctor, this whole allergy itching peters out after awhile, merely used as the main reason why Petunia hallucinates her consciences talking to her. In any case, after showing her around and giving her instructions for how to fill in for him while he’s gone for the day, Pa warns her to not touch the thermostat. Of course, immediately after he leaves, Petunia is tempted to turn up the heat, egged on her “Bad” conscience, who sings a salsa-esque song encouraging her to cheat “just a little bit.”
The theme of this episode is about keeping promises – and being truthful about your mistakes. Petunia’s Good conscience reminds her of Proverbs 28:13:
“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper.”
As might be expected, Petunia ignores her conscience and keeps turning up the heat until the food rots, the ice melts, and the customers are miserable. First of all, the girl needs to invest in a time share somewhere in the tropics if she can’t handle basic air-conditioning. Secondly, the other Veggies seemingly have nothing better to do than hang around Pa’s store at random times of the day. Larry in particular spends the entire episode banging around in a shopping cart, despite Petunia’s best attempts to rein him in (Petunia: Didn’t you learn from what happened last time? | Larry: I learned NOTHING!!). All other interactions with the various characters are rather pointless gags.
Pa returns just in time as usual to straighten everything out and to remind Petunia of her promise. She technically lies at first, but it’s more played off as not wanting to admit she disobeyed him. She of course does confess that she did wrong and sets off to clean up the mess. The episode ends abruptly soon after this, with her Good conscience smugly casting away the Bad one straight into the camera. Like a couple of the other episodes, there’s no real resolution. Just an apology, a slapstick joke, and then iris out. I’m not saying each episode needs to have a neat and tidy conclusion, but it definitely needs some sort of closure – this isn’t Monty Python, after all!
“Laura at Bat”
This episode is an excellent example of standard edutainment working well with the new VeggieTales in the House format. It has the simple premise of a character having a problem, discovering the best way to solve it after some trial and error, and learning a lesson along the way. It’s formulaic, to be sure, but in an eleven-minute cartoon that’s obstinately for little kids, it’s a formula that works, much like Phineas and Ferb. Each episode of that show is almost exactly the same, but surrounding the basic plotline, the writers can have fun with gags and jokes and tweak expectations. I don’t expect House be like Phineas and Ferb or even the old Veggie videos, but it needs to find consistency, something reliable that still allows them to play around, and “Laura at Bat” has just that.
Larry (somehow) is the coach of a Little League-esque baseball team with Laura and Junior and a few other unnamed Veggie kids. His role seems to be more on the motivational side of coaching, but it apparently does the trick, as the kids happily practice baseball together in preparation for their first game. (The baseball diamond, by the way, is adorably placed on the corner of a green rug.)
Laura desperately wants to be able to hit a home run, even though she’s not very good at batting (and is also apparently left-handed). Junior, in contrast, is excellent, but Coach Larry fortunately doesn’t single him out as being superior; he gleefully enforces the idea that everybody’s contributions are valid and support the team. Laura is still a little sad about it, and Bob invites the two to join him and Larry at their house to watch a movie: Air Corgi, the Dog Pilot, starring Tom Celeriac, who continues to be a hilariously terrible role model for the Veggies. He informs the ambitious corgi that “if you dream really hard, whatever you want will definitely happen and your life will be great forever.” Laura takes this message to heart, believing that if she wishes hard enough to hit a home run, then she will.
The theme for this episode thus revolves around following your dreams – and how it requires more than just wishing. Any fan of The Princess and the Frog will be familiar with this message, and it really is a great one. Children are often encouraged to follow their dreams, whether it’s to be a firefighter, a doctor, an actor, a chartered accountant, or a singer, but little information is given on how much effort those dreams involve. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with having a goal in life, but this episode and similar media serve as reminders that commitment must go hand-in-hand with passion.
Laura learns this the hard way when she daydreams during their entire baseball practice and thus fails miserably at their first game. Junior offers to help her out, and Laura accepts, conceding that maybe practicing will give her dream a push. Alongside all of this, Jerry has also been struggling with his dream to be the announcer at the baseball games. Jimmy usually does it, and when he allowed Jerry to try it out, the poor yellow squash was unable to say anything more than his characteristic one-word sentences. But when Jerry sees Laura and Junior practicing, he decides to keep trying – helped by some surprising advice given by Ichabeezer. By the end of their song-montage training (with Junior giving tips like, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly”), Laura has gotten much better and feels more confident in herself.
At their second game, both Laura and Jerry have their dreams come true. Jimmy gets knocked out by a stray flyball, and Jerry takes over the announcing in an absolutely hilarious transition from his squeaky, timid voice to a booming announcer voice, wonderfully delivered by Nawrocki (probably the closest we ever hear of his natural voice!). When Laura gets up to bat, she misses at first but then hits the ball far enough for her to make it all the way around the bases, effectively getting her home run and winning the game. I like that it’s very clear that Laura only hit the ball because of all her hard work. Yeah, she wished it would happen and it did, but only because she put in the effort. And it wasn’t a spectacular, world-record-breaking grand slam, but just a plain good hit. She reflects on this after the game, noting how good it felt to work hard at something and get better at it.
“Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot!” is more of the uncertain style that VeggieTales in the House is struggling with as they decide on whether they want to focus more on moral lessons or slapstick fun. It has a cohesiveness that prevents it from being in the truly weird category of “Bob and the Awesome Frosting Mustache,” though. “Laura at Bat,” again, was a good episode because it had a proper structure that still allowed for silly jokes. Having the small B-story with Jerry also helped keep everything focused, which is why the whole thing works so well.
What about you? How do you help your kids learn about keeping promises and using hard work to follow their dreams? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Images: VeggieTales in the House from Big Idea Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation Television, and Bardel Entertainment