It becomes clearer every Emmy season how little people care about the Outstanding TV Movie race. The last three years, it simply provided a way for Black Mirror to win something. Most of the contenders are at best forgettable or at worst just plain awful. But for me, one thing that would make the category not only more interesting but also provide a rooting factor is if Netflix and Nickelodeon pushed Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie.
First, a little background. I did not watch Invader Zim when it originally aired beyond seeing a clip or two and thinking it was not a show for me. So, when I watched Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, I went in knowing just general information. Zim is an invader sent to Earth by his people looking to get rid of him, and some kid named Dib tries to stop him. Dib’s sister Gaz knows Zim is an alien, but knows he is incompetent so doesn’t care. (All of this information is also told to us in the movie in a way that feels natural.) Going into the movie, I was surprised not only how quickly I was able to figure out the plot and characters but even picked up on the details of the supporting cast without a lot of context. So it was able to stand on its own even without seeing two seasons of the original show.
The other point that stood out was that the humor reminded me very much of “newer” cartoons like Big Mouth, Bojack Horseman, and especially Rick and Morty. (Justin Roiland, who voices the characters Morty and Rick, even does a voice in this movie.) The dialogue for Invader Zim was fast-paced with jokes flying. It also featured incredibly random lines and visuals that made you want to rewind so you didn’t miss anything. The film also threw in some social commentary that made a point while being funny too and included some really dark humor that even now seems shocking. After watching the movie, I went back and watched the full two seasons and saw that this kind of humor was what Invader Zim was all about. To use the clichéd line, it was ahead of its time. But that also makes it right up the alley of what viewers and Emmy voters are talking about right now in animation, including more of the contenders in the Animated Program Emmy category.
As for the movie itself, it does a great job of taking what works about the show and adds more intensity to what is going on, both in the plot and in the characters. There is a sense that the Earth may actually be in danger. While there are jokes flying around, there is also tension that things could turn out badly, even when the logical part of you knows that will never happen. There are even more emotional moments that I won’t spoil here that are satisfying both for long-time fans and first time viewers involving Dib and his issues with no one believing what he says about Zim. One thing that also fits with the current trend of TV is that Zim is the ultimate anti-hero. His goals towards Earth are to either enslave or kill us all. This never changes in the show or in the movie, but we still somehow sympathize with his failures and also his determination, even when he is obviously delusional. If this movie did pull off the nomination it wouldn’t be in a vacuum. The original show already has an Emmy for Outstanding Individual in Animation.
While I know the chances are slim to none that Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus could actually make it in, it feels good to say it should. I cannot remember the last time I cared for or even watched a TV movie. Here is a TV movie that took the best of what TV animation currently offers in terms of darker introspective humor about the world and still made an epic story with literally laugh-out-loud moments. It is more than just a long-ago cult TV show getting a slightly better send off. It is clever, well-written and deserving of praise in its own right.