Capitol Critters is an animated television series created by Nat Mauldin, Steven Bochco, & Michael Wagner and produced by Hanna-Barbera. It chronicles the lives of mice, rats and roaches who reside in the basement and walls of the White House in Washington, D.C.. The series was produced by Steven Bochco Productions and Hanna-Barbera Productions, in association with 20th Century Fox Television for ABC, which aired seven out of the show's 13 episodes from January 31 to March 14, 1992. Cartoon Network began airing all 13 episodes in 1995.
The series' first episode began on a Nebraska farm, which was also home to a family of mice, including a young mouse named Max. While the mice were on a trip outside to gather some corn, exterminators arrived to eliminate the mice. Once Max noticed the exterminators from a distance, he quickly returned to the basement. There, he witnessed the death of his entire family. Before Max's mother was killed after a failed rescue attempt, she told him to leave for Washington, where his cousin Berkeley could be found. Upon his arrival in the nation's capital, Max encountered a rat named Jammett, who resided along with Berkeley in the White House basement. After meeting Berkeley, Max met a former lab rat named Muggle and Jammett's mother, Trixie, who allowed Max to share her son's room.
A new set of cats (presidential and vice presidential) were just beginning to be a nuisance for the mice before Max's arrival. Also, the familiar sight of rat poison was a part of Max's life in his new home. When death appeared to be his fate, a cockroach named Moze came to his aid and brought him outside the White House basement. When Max returned to the basement, the sight of Muggle unconscious brought back terrible memories that caused him to run outside toward a presidential helicopter preparing to take off. Jammett managed to join Max on the helicopter before returning to the White House, giving the two plenty of time to know each other better.
This show was one of a trio (joining Family Dog and Fish Police) of animated shows from the Big Three networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) trying to cash in on the early 1990s success of FOX's The Simpsons by making a primetime animated show that looked like Saturday morning fare, but had social satire and adult themes.
- Alter Kocker: An elderly roach couple with Yiddish accents move in next to the rats in "An Embarrasment of Roaches". The husband roach even has the same accent and voice actor as Grandpa Boris on Rugrats.
- An Aesop
- Bittersweet Ending: "If Lovin' You is Wrong, I Don't Wanna Be Rat": Violet chooses to stay with her owner, leaving Jammet heartbroken. But at least Max got himself a hamster girlfriend.
- Cats Are Mean: The cats represent then-President George H. W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle. The big cat was mean, brutal, savage and murdered mice, while the smaller cat was thin, calm, polite and even was willing to lend a hand to Max's colony (as long they kept it as a secret).
- Courtroom Episode: Max and Jammett once were defendants in a courtroom of cockroaches. Jammett complained about being treated like a human being.
- Disappeared Dad: Trixie has no idea who Jammet's father is.
- Downer Beginning: The first episode starts with the death of Max's entire family.
- Eek, a Mouse!!: Subverted once: a group of policemen and a murderous criminal start freaking out at the sight of Max, and it's a woman who picks him up and throws him out.
- Everyone Has Standards: In "The Kilowatts Riots", Max has to go retrieve a key from P. Cat's litterbox. Even Moze, a cockroach, is disgusted by this.
- Explosive Breeder: A cockroach husband and wife come for a short time to tour the capitol, and she leaves millions of eggs everywhere.
- The Faceless: All human characters are only seen from the shoulders down.
- Fantastic Racism: The rats aren't too fond of the cockroaches. When Max first arrives, the rats strictly avoid any contact with the roach world, but through his efforts, tensions between the species lessen to the point where Moze can enter the rats' realm without much issue.
- Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Most of the characters, regardless of gender. A few (like Trixie) are fully dressed, and characters kept as pets (like the two cats and the hamster in the final episode) tend to be accessory wearing cartoon animals instead.
- Humans Are Bastards: What little we see of humans involves them treating the main cast... well, like unwanted vermin.
- Jerkass: Jammett, although he does have a few Pet the Dog moments every now and then.
- Logo Joke: The Steven Bochco Productions Vanity Plate, which usually features Bochco's father playing the violin, has an animated mouse take his place for this series.
- Made of Explodium: Since his metabolism was completely screwed up after living as a lab rat, Muggle tended to combust or explode at random.
- Mood Whiplash: Part of the series' problem is that whenever it tries telling a moving story, it keeps getting undercut with standard cartoon slapstick hijinks and cat and mouse cliches.
- Mouse World: The mice and rats have built their own society in the White House basement using mostly human castoffs. The roaches take it even further and have created their own urban city dwelling, complete with skyscrapers, roads and restaurants.
- Negative Continuity: Suprisingly averted, as events of episodes carry over to future episodes. For instance, P. Cat is put in a body cast after being injured by Max, and spends the next couple of episodes in that condition.
- New-Age Retro Hippie: Berkeley.
- No Body Left Behind: Felix, who was eaten by P. Cat. All Max and Jammet have to bury is his hat.
- No Swastikas: Averted with Kid Vicious, the leader of an (apparent) Neo-Nazi cockroach biker gang.
- Rescue Romance: Max and Miko, after Max saves her from being eaten by a cat (although it's mostly on Max's part).
- Precision F-Strike: Mild example, but Jammett will let loose with an empathic "hell" whenver he's angry. This is a show that otherwise completely lacks profanity.
- Tonight, Someone Dies: "The Rat To Bear Arms" gives Felix a quick introduction for the sole purpose of killing him off.
- Woodland Creatures: "Into the Woods" has Max and Jammet lost in the woods. There they meet these cute forest animals that look and act like they come from a Disney film.
- World of Snark: Muggle is the ONLY character who isn't a Deadpan Snarker. Even sweet little Max is one, mainly due to being the Only Sane Man. Jammet and Trixie are the most notorious, though.
- Vice President Who?: In the first episode the mice and rats who live in the White House are surprised when two cats are brought in to try to catch them. (They're surprised because "they got dogs, they can't get cats, cats and dogs hate each other.") The one with the collar tag "P" is heroically built (for a non-anthropomorphic cat) and aggressive; the one with the collar tag "VP" is a pathetic loser who couldn't catch a cold and within seconds of his first appearance trips on his own tie.
- Women Are Wiser: Berkley and Trixie are usually more level-headed than Max, Muggle and Jammett, but make their fair share of mistakes.