Gravity Falls is the best new animated show of the year. It’s possible that you could take animated out of that sentence and it would still be true. It may be aimed at the 12 and under crowd, but Gravity Falls has something for everyone: it’s smart, funny and sometimes even scary (possessed Mabel anyone?), but the most astounding thing about the series is that it just keeps getting better. It’s so good that I no longer feel weird about being 26 and in love with a show on the Disney Channel. If you haven’t caught the series yet, then allow me to offer you five reasons why you’re missing out on something special.
Dipper and Mabel are the mystery-solving twins at the center of Gravity Falls. Upon arriving in town to stay with their money obsessed Grunkle Stan for the summer, the twins discover that in addition to its general quirkiness, Gravity Falls also has more than its fair share of conspiracies and monsters. Together they investigate the weirdness.
Dipper is a bit of a Mulder-type. He delights in his monster-hunting duties and demonstrates shades of an obsessive nature that would surely make his FBI predecessor proud. He’s also a normal kid though, one who loves his sister, crushes on a cool, older girl and battles with the typical feelings of adolescent inadequacy. As voiced by Jason Ritter, Dipper comes off as a sweet, determined and wryly funny kid, who happens to occasionally battle sentient wax figures and gnomes who want to make his sister their queen.
If Dipper is the Mulder, logic would dictate Mabel should be the Scully, but logic has no place in Gravity Falls. Mabel is in no way a skeptic or a grounding force for Dipper. She’s an eccentric to her core, favoring wacky sweaters and nacho earrings. Rather than relegate her to the background, the show allows her individuality and silliness to be an asset. She’s been my favorite character ever since Grunkle Stan allowed the twins to pick any item they wanted from his gift shop and she went with the grappling hook. Mabel’s quirkiness is an asset not only to Dipper, but to the show as a whole–I’d expect nothing less from a character voiced by the incomparable Kristen Schaal though.
In the grand tradition of oddball small towns on television, Gravity Falls is a character unto itself. It provides the kids with a never ending supply of interesting nooks and crannies to explore from Stan’s Mystery Shack to the woods teaming with creatures waiting to be discovered to a haunted convenience store. As if its increasingly strange locales weren’t enough, there’s also the ever growing number of reoccurring townspeople to keep us all entertained. From the bumbling and deeply committed (to each other) local cops right down to the charismatic, fake psychic evangelist ‘Lil Gideon, the people of Gravity Falls have proven to be a diverse and delightful group.
The show has also shown a commitment to creating a fully fleshed out world for its characters to play in that is unusual for an animated series. Not only do the characters recur, nothing is ever forgotten. Every story has consequences that can pay off later, and every character feels important because they truly are part of the world of Gravity Falls, rather than simple one-off plot devices to be used and then discarded.
For those of you who have been jonesing for a conspiracy to unravel, it’s time to start watching the Disney Channel. Gravity Falls has already woven an impressive mythology into the story in just a scant nine episodes. It began in the first episode when Dipper found a book full of secrets about Gravity Falls. That book turned out to be one of at least three. In addition to the books, there’s also the matter of Grunkle Stan’s secret room to contend with…but those are just part of the overarching mystery.
The series also indulges in smaller bits of mythology, like Mabel and Dipper’s quest to discover the identity of the true founder of the town, and encourages viewers to look for Easter eggs, like the mysterious guy who kept popping up in the background of random scenes (a gag that paid off brilliantly in “The Time Traveler’s Pig”). Watching the series is becoming an immersive experience akin to watching Lost or The X-Files, albeit on a slightly smaller scale.
Gnomes that puke rainbows, ghostly convenience store owners, a photocopier that creates clones–those are just a few of the monsters of the week (MOTW) that have shown up so far. It’s easy to fall back on old standbys when doing a show of this sort, but Gravity Falls has shown a commitment to creating unusual antagonists and paranormal problems for the twins to deal with. The writers have also done a wonderful job grounding the MOTW with the normal growing pains that Mabel and Dipper face. The show never feels preachy, but it still manages to use the supernatural elements to impart relevant advice to the younger members of the audience.
Finally, the very best reason to watch: Gravity Falls is funny. I don’t care how old you are, when Dipper makes a clone of himself using the photocopier and it gets stuck, producing a babbling mess known as Paper Jam Dipper, you’re going to laugh. The writing on this show is smart. Sometimes the jokes are highbrow, sometimes low, sometime they’re sight gags, but the the important thing is they always hit their mark. During the sitcom drought this summer, Gravity Falls was like a refreshingly quirky drink of cool water.
In case I’ve swayed you and you can’t wait to watch Gravity Falls for yourself, the series airs Fridays at 9:30 p.m. ET on the Disney Channel. Are you planning to watch? Or are you already a fan? Let me know in the comments.
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