Originally a segment on Nickelodeon's live-action TV series All That and then on its Animated AnthologyKaBlam!, 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 GI Joe-like figurine "with the power to... melt!"). They tended to suffer horrible injuries. They were accompanied by The Chief, who would often shout "BLAST IT!" and berate the team for their screw-ups; Justice the Dog, and Bill the Lab Guy, a lab guy who spoke in monotone, and often made strange inventions and devices to help the League, though these would often be stolen or otherwise used to harm the League.As an anthology segment, the series lasted from 1996 to 2000. Their spin-off show consisted of combinations of their old shorts into longer episodes.
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.
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?
Narrator: "Warning! The following very special Action League Now special contains scenes of Action Mayhem (AMH), Action Love (ALV), and Action Action (AA). It may be too intense for older viewers. Oh, and did we mention, somebody's naked (NKD) for the whole show?"
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.
Faceless Masses: In the KISS episode, various toys were used to fill the crowd.
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.
For the Evulz: Lightning Lady is revealed to be the Mayor. Reason? Because he's evil.
"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? HodgePodge.
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 Opennote where a swimmer gets eaten by a trophy bass and the only remains found of him was his hand of "Incident at Chlorine Lake":
Narrator: We find our heroes in a somber mood, pondering a terrible tragedy.
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.
Hostile Show Takeover: One episode of KaBlam!, "Tastes Like Paper", had The Mayor taking over as director of research, as to torment Henry & June. And he did it because he wanted to turn the page. When Henry & June bust in on him, he comments: "You were expecting, maybe, Warren Littlefield?" At the end of the episode, H&J get revenge by trampling him with a marching band he hired (which had trampled Henry & June earlier).
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 Jerk Ass to the team.
Lemony Narrator: Big time. Each episode he just says "THE END", in a deep voice. Other than that, while he doesn't interact with the characters, he makes fun of them and uses Added Alliterative Appeal quite often.
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.
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.
Missing Episode: "Caged Thunder" was banned after 9/11 due to The Mayor being portrayed as a terrorist. Not only was the KaBlam! episode with it banned in the US, but the short itself was notably one of the only ones not shown on its' own in-between commercial breaks on Nicktoons. The episode continues to air outside the US.
"Where Pigeons Dare" and "Sinkhole of Doom" were also skipped by Nicktoons. This may have been done due to Early-Installment Weirdness, as those two shorts were created very early in the run (and there's speculation that they were originally intended to be for All That before KaBlam! went into production). Another reason could be that the two KaBlam! episodes that included these shorts also included Angela Anaconda cartoons, and KaBlam! lost the rights to air those episodes when Angela Anaconda got her own show on the Fox Family Channel.
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.
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.
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?
Pittsburgh: The voices were all provided by Pittsburgh based Disc Jockeys. The male characters were voiced by Jim Krenn and Scott Paulsen, who co-hosted the WDVE Morning Show for many years together. Cris Winter, the other main cast member, also worked for WDVE. Bill Cowher and Kordell Stewart also appeared.
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.
Shoo Out the New Guy: Bill the Lab Guy's teenage daughter, Quarky. Introduced in KaBlam!!'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.
Something We Forgot: Happens in the episode, "Stink or Swim", when the league tries to rescue a pair of drowning victims.
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.