My Life as a Teenage Robot
My Life as a Teenage Robot, or Teenage Robot (abbreviated as MLAATR), is an American animated superhero science fantasy television series created by Rob Renzetti for Nickelodeon. It was produced by Frederator Studios in association with Nickelodeon Animation Studio. Set in the fictional town of Tremorton, the series follows the adventures of a robot girl named XJ-9, or Jenny, as she prefers to be called, who attempts to juggle her duties of protecting Earth while trying to live a normal human life as a teenager.
Renzetti pitched the series to Frederator Studios' animated shorts showcase Oh Yeah! Cartoons and a pilot titled "My Neighbor is a Teenage Robot", which aired on January 5, 1999. Viewer approval ratings led to the commissioning of a half-hour series, which premiered on August 1, 2003; after airing its first two seasons, the series was cancelled in terms of production because of poor ratings. The completed third season eventually aired on Nickelodeon's spinoff network Nicktoons from October 4, 2008, to May 2, 2009, officially ending the series in terms of airing. The series totaled three seasons, each consisting of 13 episodes.
My Life as a Teenage Robot received mostly positive reviews from critics, being nominated for numerous awards, most prominently one Primetime Emmy Award and eleven Annie Awards.
My Life as a Teenage Robot is set in the fictional town of Tremorton and its themes focus on making lighthearted fun of typical teenage problems and other conventions and drama of the teenage and superhero lives mixed up with a combination of action, adventure, sci-fi fantasy and comedy sequences. The series follows XJ-9 ("Jenny Wakeman", as she prefers to be called; voiced by Janice Kawaye), who is a highly sophisticated state-of-the-art sentient gynoid automaton robot girl created by her mother Dr. Nora Wakeman (voiced by Candi Milo), an elderly robotics scientist, five years prior to the series. Jenny is Earth's protector, armed to the teeth with a wide range of weapons and devices, but all she really wants is to live the life of a normal teenager. She was preceded in development by eight other models; in season one, the episode "Sibling Tsunami" introduced XJs 1–8.
Jenny's friends are her next-door neighbors Brad (voiced by Chad Doreck) and Tuck Carbuckle (voiced by Audrey Wasilewski). Brad is outgoing and adventurous, and is the first actual friend Jenny makes, while Tuck is Brad's rambunctious younger brother who usually tags along on adventures. Another one of her friends is Sheldon Lee (voiced by Quinton Flynn), a somewhat stereotypical nerd who is infatuated with her. Jenny often rejects his romantic advances, but still cares for him as a friend. Fans of the show often speculate on whether Jenny would have ended up with Sheldon or Brad. Renzetti and his team seem to favor Sheldon but refuse to give any definitive answers as to how he would have ended the series if he was given a fourth season.
At high school, Jenny has an ongoing rivalry with the Crust Cousins, Brit (voiced by Moira Quirk) and Tiff (voiced by Cree Summer), the popular girls in school. Dr. Wakeman often tries in vain to control her creation and keep her daughter focused on protecting the planet Earth. Adding to her trouble is that she is constantly being dogged by the all-robotic Cluster Empire, whose queen, Vexus (voiced by Eartha Kitt), wants her to join their world of robots (by force if necessary). Despite it all, Jenny struggles to maintain some semblance of a mostly-human life.
The special of the series, "Escape from Cluster Prime", shows that the alien planet is actually a peaceful paradise for every kind of robot. It's also revealed that Vexus has made Jenny out to be a villain due to her constant refusals to join, blaming her for the missing components that allow robots to transform; Vexus actually has them hidden, to help control the populace.
Why It Rocks
- Unique animation style and background design that blends Art Deco with character designs styled like old Popeye/Betty Boop cartoons.
- Plenty of likable characters like Jenny, Dr. Wakeman, Brad, Tuck, and Sheldon.
- Jenny is very relatable, charming, and adorable.
- Cool and memorable villains like the Cluster and the Space Bikers. Vexus, in particular, is the series' main antagonist and is voice by the late Eartha Kitt, who also voiced Yzma from The Emperor's New Groove.
- Apart from saving the world, Jenny's motives and situations are extremely relatable to teenagers, such as just wanting to hang out with friends rather than the deadly responsibilities she has to overcome that'll distract her from doing that.
- Many funny moments, such as Jenny's temper tantrums and Smytus' "disguise" as an Ukrainian model (a shout out to Ruslana winning the 2004 Eurovision song contest).
- Teaches morals and principals that brought fun and learning together, such as to not let drama overcome your personal life.
- An original, exciting, and inventive plot of a teenage robot girl who has to constantly save the world while also wanting a normal teenage life.
- Adventurous, relatable, and creative episode plots, even if they take it from high school comedy/dramas
- Amazing and entertaining action sequences.
- Very well-done drama and romance that is handled better than most of later Nickelodeon sitcoms.
- Awesome, catchy theme song.
- Good voice acting, especially from Janice Kawaye, Candi Milo, Eartha Kitt, and Steve Blum.
- Sometimes it can get kind of mean spirited, mostly towards Jenny.
- There are some pretty unlikable characters like the Crust Cousins, Brit and Tiff, who bully Jenny at school, though they do undeniably make good antagonists towards her. Plus, both Brit and Tiff have good chemistry and Moira Quirk and Cree Summer are good at making very unpleasant characters.
- Dr. Wakeman's overbearing attitude and Tuck's overly mischievous personality occasionally makes them unlikable as well.
- Sheldon's repetitive crush on Jenny and his penchant of stalking her can also be a bit creepy and annoying.
- Some episodes have debatably weak plots like "The Boy Who Cried Robot", TTSW, "Last Action Zero", "A Pain In My Sidekick", and "Girl of Steal".
- The final episode "Turncoats" was not really a good way to end the show.
- Unfunny toilet humor from time to time, like Dr. Wakeman telling Tuck that she is not wearing pants at the end of the episode "Armagedroid".
- In the episode where Jenny goes back to preschool, she tells Brad she was only born five years ago (from their time) and Brad then begins to list a number of events that all happened at that time. One of these was "Super Bowl 100". Given 2004 was Super Bowl 38, and in the show five years had passed since "Super Bowl 100", this would make the show take place in 2071. Add 62 to 38 to get Super Bowl 100, which makes the year 2066 (2004+62), plus five years since SB 100 makes it 2071.
- Messmer's, the soda fountain that appears in several episodes, is named after Otto Messmer, creator of Felix the Cat. The entrance is shaped like the face of a black cat.
- Rob Renzetti has been known to interact with the fandom to this day, even going as far to allow any sort of fan art, including realistic pin-up and sexy poses, unless it crossed the Rule 34 line.