What Could Have Been – Constant Payne
A friend of mine turned me on to a youtube video that showcases a pilot episode of a series pitched to Nickelodeon in 2001 called Constant Payne. The show was written and created by Micah Wright and is an anime inspired steam-punk adventure series staring a young girl Amanda Payne daughter of a famous scientist/crime fighter Dr. Payne.
Honestly this pilot is better than about 80% of what’s on the air today. The animation by Madhouse is superb. I know it’s probably not fair to compare a fully mass produced cartoon to a one shot pilot but Madhouse’s reputation merits that the rest of the show would be just as good if not close to this quality. The designs of the characters and world are eye-catching for something that would air on Nickelodeon. It also sets an aeronautic dominated atmosphere as the standard way of life for the people in the city.
In other aspects the characters actually feel alive with even the limited presentation given. The dialog is really organic and establishes character in a short amount of time. The way Amanda talks over her father and vice-versa feels very genuine as a conversation. The voice acting is good too and pulls off the dramatic points equally as well as the humorous delivery.
There’s not a whole lot here when it comes to plot, it’s a standard action hero vs. evil brother story but the tiny injections here and there set up a real lore about the people we’re seeing. The passed away mother, the fame of Doc Payne, and the (non-overbearing) exposition on his absent mindedness and life style interfering with Amanda’s normal day.
This show really could have gone somewhere and according to it’s creator the test audiences loved it, both boys and girls alike (something hard to pull off in the eyes of TV execs) but the show was ultimately shelved after the dramatic events of 9/11. Nick no longer had an interest in running a high impact action show, especially one where the main character’s mother was killed by terrorists.
The creator and Nickelodeon have sense moved on so its a sad truth that we likely will never see this show come to fruition even with Nicktoons Network’s existence. It’s a shame too because the quality is on a higher par than most shows that get picked up on a regular basis, especially on Nick.