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Originally a segment on Nickelodeon's Animated Anthology Ka Blam!!, Action League NOW centered on the crudely stop-motion-animated adventures of four superhero toys, who were forever going off on missions that were either ill-defined or just plain weird, and nearly always involved trying to stop the corrupt "The Mayor" in some zany scheme of his. What made it distinct was that the toys were all shown in their "natural state" of being 6 inches tall in a human world, seldom even moving on their own (unless being thrown or the like, which is why the show was sometimes described as being filmed in "Chuck-imation").
Our heroes were The Flesh (a Conan the Adventurer doll modified to replace his hips/loincloth with a ken type bulge who was described as "super-strong and super-naked"), Thunder Girl (a superheroine with a Sindy doll head who just flew around and complained about how stupid her teammates were, even though she could be just as clueless as the others), Stinky Diver (a loose cannon with a thick British accent and perpetual body odor, and is made from a G.I. Joe Shipwreck action figure) and Melt-Man (a not-too-bright melted G.I. Joe-like figurine "with the power to... melt!"). They tended to suffer horrible injuries.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: This exchange in "Voice of Treason" as a garage door is about to crush the League.
Announcer: With a door closing on any hope, the league has one last card to play...
Thunder Girl: No please!
Stinky: Don't hurt us!
Meltman: We'll be your best friend!
Announcer: ..The wuss card.
- And Call Him George
- Anti-Villain: Hodge Podge. Can't blame a guy for wanting to destroy the League (especially Bill the Lab Guy) when they basically ruined his life.
- Attack of the 50 Foot Whatever: Spotzilla, Mega Meltman, Big Baby, others
- Badass Normal: For a guy who's the leader of a League of Superheroes despite having no form of superpowers, the Chief has to count.
- Balloon Belly: The Chief after being cursed to have a huge appetite by a fortune teller. Eventually, he looks like a bowling ball with a head and limbs. Remember, he's a plastic toy when this happens.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: The Flesh, being an action figure, doesn't have genitalia.
- Big Bad: The Mayor, Hodge Podge
- Biological Mashup: just take a guess at which of the two Big Bads it is.
- Blessed with Suck
- Bloodless Carnage: With so much instances of people being run over by cars, decapitated by fans, crushed by various objects and all other sorts of violence which would never be allowed on Nickelodeon if it was a hand-drawn cartoon, it's pretty much clear that this show's use of this trope is justified.
- Brainless Beauty: The Flesh.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall:
Announcer: Will his dishonor get away with his fine china chikanary?
The Mayor: I'd tell you, but they won't show me the script!
- Butt Monkey (Meltman)
- Considering the type of humor in the series, pretty much every member of the main cast probably counts as a Butt Monkey. Meltman just happens to take the brunt of the punishment.
- Catch Phrase:
- Bill the Lab Guy's "There is nothing I can do." The Chief lampshaded it once.
The Chief: Let me guess; There's nothing you can do!
Bill the Lab Guy: Correct.
- He also had "Oh no! I was afraid of this!"
- Which was also lampshaded by the Chief, in regard to the entire Action League accidentally being cloned.
- The Chief had "Blast it!" and "YOU MORONS!", the latter used whenever the League screwed up.
- The Flesh had "Ouchies!"
- The Mayor had "I hate Mondays" almost every time he was crushed and "Uh oh, here's trouble..." whenever something bad would happen to him
- Characterization Marches On: The League started out as pretty effective heroes, but have become more inept each episode.
- The League also started out as being highly respected by the townspeople. Cue "Stink or Swim", where a person is actually unhappy that the League has come to save him from being flushed down the toilet.
- Comically Missing the Point: In one episode, Stinky Diver was feeling down. He told the League how his mother betrayed him some years ago, resulting him getting his signature odor.
Meltman: So that's why he stinks. (the League look at him) What?
- Cousin Oliver: Quarky, Bill the Lab Guy's daughter.
- Da Chief (The Chief, obviously)
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Smarty Pants, who was probably the greatest threat the League ever faced off against because he's this trope.
- The Mayor had his moments.
- The very few episodes Hodge Podge was in, he displayed this with his tactics on how to crush the League. It makes sense, since he used to work for them, but then again, you don't really need much sense to beat the league.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Stinky Diver had two events that haunted him.
- The Ditz: The Flesh is by far the least intelligent character on the show, often being this.
- Earthshattering Kaboom: The ending of "Science Fiction Parody".
- "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Happens in almost every episode.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Justice, in "Hey! Who Stole My Face!" Not very suprising, really, given it was just The Mayor with The Chief's face...
- Evil Knockoff: Robo-Flesh
- Explosive Breeder: The chicks that The Mayor illegally imports.
- Failed a Spot Check: Meltman in "Melty's Girl", when he's sent to scout out the villain's lair for booby traps. Made more humorous when the League just follows along with it anyways.
"Hmm, a large, heavy dangerous object, rigged to fall on anyone standing on that bullseye...At least there's no booby traps! All clear!"
- Faux Affably Evil: The Mayor. Half of the humor from him is because of him being this.
- Flowers for Algernon Syndrome: The Flesh, in one episode. His hyperintelligence gets removed by a blow to the head from one of Smarty Pants's chess pieces The Flesh wins the chess game anyway. Subverted in that the rest of the league is thankful to have the old Flesh back... and promptly reconsider that when he drops a pile of books on them again.
- Fourth Wall Mail Slot: The "Ask The League" segments. As said by the Lemony Narrator:
"And now it's time for Ask The League, where real children ask real questions to fake superheroes."
- Freaky Friday Flip: Kinda. The Chief and The Mayor end up switching faces thanks to a botched operation by Bill. Of course, everyone simply assumes Chief-With-Mayor's-Face is The Mayor and vice versa, so it works in the same way. Hilarious when you remember that The Chief is black and The Mayor is white, yet they still can't figure it out.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: The Action League accountant, due to The Flesh's idiocy, ended up being wrecked in a blender and subsequently "operated" on by Bill. The result? Hodge Podge.
- Gallows Humor: Obviously done by the Mayor, but the League can be just as bad with it, as seen in the scene after the Cold Open of "Incident at Chlorine Lake":
Narrator: We find our heroes in a somber mood, pondering a terrible tragedy.
Meltman: Hey Bill! Don't bother reading his lifeline!
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: "You should see me naked! I'm GLORIOUS!!!"
- The sheer violence of the show, but it's okay because they're just action figures!
- An example in "When Pigeons Dare":
Stinky: I don't know Thundergirl, what's the difference between Meltman and a sack of manure?
Thunder Girl: The sack!
- Green-Eyed Monster: Thunder Girl becomes this for most of "Thunder and Lightning" because of the rest of the League ignoring her in favor of Lightning Lady. Her petty behavior is only made more hilarious when she admits it to Thunder Dad.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: The voices were provided by the members of Pittsburgh's WDVE Morning Show, leading to this trope for those in western Pennsylvania.
- Of particular note: The Mayor has the same exact voice as WDVE's satirical portrayal of then-mayor Tom Murphy. So you can choose to believe that the resident Card-Carrying Villain is the mayor of Pittsburgh.
- Hypocritical Humor: As noted above, Thundergirl had her fair share of Too Dumb to Live moments even though she always chastised her teammates for being idiots.
- The Mayor counts too. He's always quick to call the League idiots, despite half his EvilPlans being ones that are clearly not well thought out.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Stinky Diver's mother betrayed him all those years ago for the money, of course!
- Idiot Heroes: Just about the entire cast.
- Incoming Ham: The Mayor, almost always.
- I Thought It Meant: The "NOW" in the title does not, in fact, refer to the National Organization of Women.
- Leitmotif: "Thunder Girl! Flying like thunder! How other people must wonder, what it's like to be me!"
- The Mayor has a cool-sounding theme whenever he appears.
- Jerkass: All of the main characters, really. The Mayor is the biggest example, but there's a very good reason the Action League is bad at being superheroes - they're not only incredibly incompetent, they're lazy and much more willing to slack off and/or watch someone get hurt right in front of them than risk their necks. At least The Chief is only a Jerkass to the team.
- Kids Are Cruel: In "Testimony of Terror", the League is tasked with protecting a young witness from The Mayor, who intends to off him. The kid does everything horrible you could possibly imagine to his bodyguards, and by the end the League is rooting for The Mayor to kill him. Of course, The Mayor ends up becoming just another victim.
- Lemony Narrator
- Literally Shattered Lives: A rare example of it not being a case of being frozen or turned into stone, the characters would quite often be reduced to little plastic pieces after being run over by a car or falling into a blender.
- In one instance, The Chief was power-sanded down to just a fine powder.
- Made of Plasticine: Everyone.
- Man Child: The Flesh.
- Missed Him by That Much: After arresting two criminals pretending to be The Flesh's parents, he wonders if he'll ever meet his real parent. Then, his real (naked) parents drive by wondering the same thing, and crushed the Action Mobile.
- Most Common Superpower: Hilariously, Thunder Girl.
- Mr. Exposition: Bill, the Lab Guy.
- My Greatest Failure: Years ago, Stinky Diver's brother fell into a flushing toilet. He was about to jump but was afraid his wallet would get wet. He was too late to save him. That event has haunted him since. He told the League about this after he failed to save someone from a flushing tiolet.
- Naked People Are Funny (The Flesh)
- Nice Job Breaking It Heroes: The League mess up almost every assignment.
- No Budget: Subverted. The series is done entirely with plastic dolls, toys, and other things you'd normally find in a suburban household with child. However, the crew seems to have an infinite supply of identical plastic dolls. and, at one point, actually trashed a car.
- No Indoor Voice: Da Chief.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: The action figures used in the show are heavily modified from real ones.
- Only Sane Man: The Chief.
- Opening Monologue: "Action League Now! Starring The Flesh: he's super-strong and super-naked! Thunder Girl: she flies like thunder! Stinky Diver: a former Navy Commando with an attitude as bad as his odor! And Meltman: with the power to...melt!"
- Paper-Thin Disguise: The Mayor uses one in "A Star is Torn". Surprisingly, only Meltman saw through the disguise.
- Everyone gets completely fooled by Robo-Flesh, who is simply just Flesh with a robot voice and bolts sticking out everywhere. The narrator even hangs a lampshade on it.
- Parental Bonus: Remember that time when the Action League was saved by the dulcet tones of Lou Rawls?
- President Evil: The Mayor might count.
- Punch Clock Villain: The mayor isn't always evil; in one episode, he opens up a legitimate poolside resort (the League even shows up to enjoy it) and sells hot dogs. Granted, they're fifty dollars each, but he's just trying to make money.
- Running Gag:
- If anyone ever goes out onto the street, expect them to get run over by a car. This has even resolved the plot a few times.
- Thunder Girl constantly forgets that she does not have super strength.
- Sea Monster: The giant trophy bass, as a parody of Jaws.
- Shoo Out the New Guy: Bill the Lab Guy's teenage daughter, Quarky. Introduced in Ka Blam!!'s second season premier (if we're going by production order), and was in a bunch of episodes from that season. Fans found her rather annoying, and after "The Quarky Syndrome", she never appeared again.
- Spin-Off: Of Ka Blam!!, which itself is a spinoff of All That.
- Super Zeroes
- Talking to Himself: Jim Krenn, who played The Flesh, Stinky Diver, the Mayor, Bill the Lab Guy, and Hodge Podge. Also, Scott Paulsen plays Meltman and the narrator. In short, half the cast is two people.
- Team Pet: Justice, the Chief's dog.
- Too Dumb to Live: Every character on the show (save for special guests and a one-off villain whose whole schtick was being smart and Genre Savvy.). Yes, even Bill the Lab Guy.
- Trickster Mentor: Stinky's mentor Master Pu, who borders on being just sadistic. His "training" doesn't even help Stinky, and instead leaves him injured. He gets his comeuppance in the end, however.
- Unsettling Gender Reveal: At the end of "Thunder and Lightning, Lightning was unmasked to be The Mayor.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: The Flesh. Also, Walking Pantsless Scene.
- We Can Rule Together: The Mayor asks Thunder Girl to join him in ruling the world "as King and Queen". Thunder Girl declines...but not for any heroic reason.
Thunder Girl: It's taco night!
The Mayor: You pretty little fool! They'll only give you gas!
- With Catlike Tread: What kicks off the conflict in "Caged Thunder". Thunder Girl is sent to spy on a secret missile site owned by the Mayor, and does so by taking pictures and singing her song while doing so. You can guess what the Mayor decided to use as target practice.
- With Friends Like These...: Part of the reason why the League is so inept is that the fact that they're such Jerkasses to each other. Whenever one member gets captured, the rest of them will find any excuse to use to not rescue them.
- What Kind Of Lame Power Is Melting Anyway?
- ↑ where a swimmer gets eaten by a trophy bass and the only remains found of him was his hand