Why Your Children's Television Program Sucks: Max & Ruby

A look at the awful children's programming you're forced to endure before you can finally kick the kids out of the TV room to watch sports for eight hours. Illustration by Jim Cooke.

The Show

Max & Ruby

The Theme Song

Max and Ruby! Ruby and Max!
Max and Ruby! (horn fill) Ruby and Max!
Max and Ruby!
Ruby and her little brother Max!
Max and Ruby!
(giggling)

The Mythology

Max and Ruby are both child bunnies living in a house together. Ruby is the big sister. Max is the little brother. It appears that they live alone and that their parents are dead, presumably run over by a Chevy Silverado, or perhaps sold for meat by this woman:

As a result of their parents' mysterious absence (creator Rosemary Wells says that the parents are alive but never seen, which strikes me a flimsy attempt of a coverup. ROSEMARY WELLS IS HIDING SOMETHING FROM US), Ruby is forced to take on more maternal responsibilities than a bunny of her age would normally have to shoulder. She must feed Max. She must clothe Max. She must constantly pick up after Max because Max leaves his goddamn toys all over the place.

Drew Magary writes for Deadspin and Gawker. He's also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter @drewmagary and email him at drew@deadspin.com.

As a result of this added burden, Ruby is a coarsened young woman. Her frustration with Max's bullshit manifests itself in EXTREME BITCHINESS. She micromanages poor Max nearly to death. Max is never allowed to do anything on his own. And his passion for toys and candy is frowned upon by this ... this withered soul of a sister bunny. As a result of her constant haranguing, poor Max can speak in only Tourette's-like, single-word bursts. "LOBSTER!" "SUPERBUNNY!" "FUCKROLL!" Stuff like that.

Also, Ruby has a distinct lisp. If you're forced to watch Max & Ruby enough, the lisp becomes a nail slowly getting driven into your head. Why is she lisping? Does actress Samantha Morton, the voice of Ruby, have a similar lisp? What would happen if Ruby and Mike Mayock announced an NFL game together?

Episode Format

Every episode of Max & Ruby contains three stories, all of which follow the same distinct pattern. Ruby is always designing some special card for a fucking historical society or something, because apparently Ruby is a 68-year-old woman living in Greenwich. Meanwhile, Max does something to fuck up her best-laid plans ("Max, you spilled your gooshy gooshy gum globbers on my card!"). But in the end, it turns out that all of Max's dumbshittery has served to IMPROVE whatever stupid thing Ruby was doing. Usually, it's Max and Ruby's grandmother who has to come along to point out Max's inadvertent triumph. "Oh ho ho! Why, this is the most original historical society invitation I've ever seen!" Then Max smiles and we circle wipe to black.

Secondary Characters

Grandma: Again, it's Grandma who usually shows up at the end of every episode to point out to Ruby that Max's spontaneity helped save the day, which no doubt causes Ruby to further resent her brother's youthfulness and her inability to exert complete control over the world at large. When Ruby is pushing Max around and demanding he not eat her lipstick, she's really projecting her anger at Grandma onto him. Why don't you live with the kids, Grandma? How can you pop in and out at your convenience? Can't you see that Max is marginally retarded and in desperate need of structure? Why have you left this all on Ruby's shoulders? And you have the NERVE to walk through that door chuckling like nothing's the matter? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, WOMAN?!

Louise: Ruby's best friend. Gets bossed around by Ruby almost as much as poor Max does. Louise is something of an underdeveloped character here. I want to know MORE. Where did she come from? Are her parents dead too? Will she grow up to be that bunny friend who sleeps with one guy too many, causing Ruby to both chastise her sexual freedom and envy it in equal measure? I feel like the writers will leave her arc unresolved.

Mrs. Huffington: Some old lady in the hood that Max and Ruby are always doing shit for. Apparently has no issue taking advantage of cheap child-bunny labor. Forces Max and Ruby to look after Baby Huffington even though THEY ARE LATCHKEY CHILD BUNNIES. Serves as a proxy for Grandma when Grandma is out bowling or doing whatever the fuck it is that Grandma enjoys so much that she can't assume full custody of her grandkids.

Bunny Scout Leader: Lapine Girl Scout troop despot whom Ruby is always desperate to impress.

Setting

Max and Ruby live in an undefined past in which no one has televisions and everyone listens to those big olde-timey radios that kids huddled around back when we fought World Wars and shit. I think the lack of modern diversions is what exacerbates Max's crippling ADHD. If he had a DS to distract him, he probably wouldn't lead all those ants out to Ruby's garden club picnic.

Best Episode

"Max Gets Wet." Max plays with a hose and gets all muddy. It has its charms.

Worst Episodes

"Max's Halloween." This is the one where Max wants to dress as a vampire, but Ruby demands he dress up like a prince because ... well, because I don't know why. I think Ruby, despite loathing Max for weighing down her life, secretly fears his ever becoming independent and leaving her. If Max were to finally grow a brain and become a functional adult bunny, he'd throw off the yoke of Ruby's dictatorship and get the fuck out of there. And then what would Ruby be left with? NOTHING. That's why she throws a shitfit when the poor kid wants to wear a goddamn vampire cape.

"Ruby's Bird Bath." Ruby keeps bitching at Max to stop putting toys in her bird bath because it has to be "environmentally correct." She says this over and over again. I have no fucking idea what this means. It's a bird bath. There's nothing environmentally correct about it. You don't stumble into a meadow and chance upon a perfect concrete cistern with a statue of a little boy pissing into it.

Pros

Max & Ruby is a quiet show, which is a big deal to parents like me. I don't want some show that has shitloads of loud kiddie music and rampaging, seizure-inducing, anime-style jump cuts every tenth of a second. It's an easy show to ignore if you're in the room while it's on. It's not anywhere near as overly stimulating as a show like Wow Wow Wubbzy, which is fucking awful and which I will detail later in this series. Trust me, once your kid hits tweendom and starts watching deathless corporate muleshit like Shake It Up, you start to miss Max & Ruby. And you hate yourself for missing it.

If you have multiple children, they usually all like this show, for reasons that remain a complete mystery to me. A lot of parents hate Max & Ruby, likely because they've been exposed to it more than a lot of other kiddie programs. But honestly, if I can get these little fuckers to actually come to an agreement about watching "Max's Froggy Friend," then I'm grateful.

Also, the preshow supers tell me that Max & Ruby encourages your child to share and care by promoting social and ecological development. Or something. That's all complete bullshit.

Cons

The format becomes predictable and stale after two viewings. Ruby NEVER stops being a bitch. And no one will talk about Max's obvious developmental problems. It's a turgid slog of a show, so old-fashioned and boring that you feel like someone is holding you hostage at his great aunt's house.

And I still wanna know about those parents. I bet they were murdered. Rosemary Wells knows but she ain't tellin'.