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Western Animation / The Problem Solverz

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The Problem Solverz is an Animated Show that aired from April 4, 2011 to March 30, 2013 on Cartoon Network. Created by artist Ben Jones, it was originally pitched to [adult swim] as Neon Knome, but it was rejected and instead refitted for a younger audience.

The series follows the incredibly surreal adventures of three friends whose job it is to solve problems: Horace, an Every Man with a bad buzz cut; Roba, a nerd who dresses as a robot; and Alfe, an infantile part-dog, part-anteater, part-human who really likes pizza. Along the way, they are aided by Tux Dog, a wealthy canine who advises them on cases.

The show is noted for its incredibly bright, flashy animation style and very crude, poorly drawn character designs, giving it the look of an '80s video game in the vein of Code Monkeys, while also bearing similarities tonally to [adult swim] shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

The show has been the subject of mass criticism... Flame War-level criticism. Its arrival to Cartoon Network unfortunately coincided with the cancellation of Sym-Bionic Titan, and the series was seen as a vastly inferior replacement, turning it into The Scapegoat. It didn't help that many people accused the show of getting Sym-Bionic Titan canceled. However, the show has a collective fanbase despite the rough patches.

The show went on hiatus after its first season, and eventually suffered a quiet cancelation on March 30, 2013. However, though CN has only aired its first season on the network, the second season became exclusive to Netflix in early 2013 (before the whole show was taken off of Netflix in 2015).

This show provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: Parodied at the end of "Videogamez":
    Horace: Well, I learned a very valuable lesson today about the danger of video games. They're awesome, but if you play them too much—
    Roba: Sorry, Horace, he's right.
    • Parodied again in "Breakfast Warz".
  • Air-Vent Passageway: The gang uses this to reach Bad Cat's lair on the top floor of his casino.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Some of the background characters have rather vibrant skin colors. The town's several mayors have had yellow and red skin.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Bad Cat has some rainbow stripes, and his henchmen are blue.
    • Professor Sugar Fish was rainbow all over.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: The characters are all mirror-flipped when they turn around. This is especially noticeable in one scene of "Badcat", when the question mark on Horace's shirt is backwards.
  • Animal Jingoism: Tux Dog and Bad Cat are enemies.
  • Aren't You Forgetting Someone?: In "Zoo Cops", after Dork Face is caught the first time, Agent Lidget gives a speech in front of the town:
    Lidget: I just wanna say, there's three people I need to thank. Because without them, I never would have solved this problem.
    Alfe: Hey guys, we're about to be famous...
    Lidget: They are the mayor and his two deputy mayors!
    Alfe: What the—
    Roba: Hold on!
    Lidget: And I should also mention... the Problem Solverz. Hahahahaha! You guys are pathetic! From now on, stay out of zoo police business!
  • Art Evolution: The series had a slight overhaul in the season 2, toning down the more migraine-inducing aspects of the first season with a subtler and more shaded color palette, as well as the humor being more in line with the Neon Knome pilot.
  • Art Shift: In "Videogamez", after the trio is sucked into Tomb of Nefertiti, the art style becomes very blocky and pixellated.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Alfe is very easily distracted on missions. For instance, in "Awesome Banditz", he's more interested in looking cool to the elevator bandits instead of collecting evidence against them, and in "Hide and Seek Ninjaz", he's too captivated by the ninjas to beat them in hide-and-seek. Despite this, Alfe's impetuous nature often works out for the Problem Solverz.
  • Battle Cry: "ALFEEEEEE!"
    • This is lampshaded in "Fauxboro":
      Alfe: Look, I got a theory, well, it's more of a single word yelled loudly. It's pretty cool, I think you should hear it.
      Roba: Is it "Alfeeeee"?
      Alfe: No—wait, that might work! ALFEEEEEE!
    • Also, "MOMMY!"
    • "Hooooorrraaccee..."
  • Bears Are Bad News: In "Hamburger Cavez" when Alfe gets beat up by one in the woods.
  • Berserk Button: Alfe in the ninja episode.
  • "Be Quiet!" Nudge: Horace has to do this to Roba a few times in "Badcat" because he keeps blurting out how he feels so loved and accepted because he's allowed in the club, but it's only because they're in disguise.
  • Big Budget Beef-Up: The show's rare second season does this a bit. For example, Alfe's fur is visible.
  • Big Eater: Alfe.
  • Big "NO!": Katrina gets one at the end of "Magic Clock".
    • Dorkface screams one while being transported back to 3-D Earth from Flatland.
  • Big Red Button: The magic clock has a red button on it that can rip a hole in the space-time continuum if it is pressed. All the more reason for Katrina to steal it and use it as a threat to marry Roba.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Mr. Creame's ice cream factory had a butt.
    Horace: Why would an ice cream factory have a butt?
    Roba: More things are getting butts. Butts are becoming mainstream. I'm thinkin' about growin' mine bigger and decorating it with stickers!
    Alfe: Hey, Roba, we should put a butt on our house, that way we won't wake up the landlord when we come home late.
  • Boot Camp Episode: In "Problem Solverz Academy", Tux Dog sends the Problem Solverz back to training school after they let another bad guy get away. They then have to put up with Sergeant DOG, who gives high school-like social rankings to each of them, with Roba being the cool kid, Alfe being army obsessed, and Horace being the dork.
  • Brick Joke: Alfe's fight with a bear in "Hamburger Cavez".
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": Ralphe has an R on his chest.
  • Busman's Holiday: When the crew goes on a vacation in "Tux Dog's Island", Horace gets restless without any problems to solve, and goes searching for any new problems he can find. of course, he finds one in the form of a giant monster. Roba and Alfe are not happy.
  • Butt-Monkey: Roba is often treated as one due to his awkward, nerdy demeanor. Alfe frequently teases him, Tux Dog antagonizes him, and he generally endures the most abuse in each episode.
    • Horace becomes this in "Problem Solverz Academy" when Sergeant DOG labels him a dork, puts him through more rigorous training, and makes him wear huge eyeglasses.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: This happens in "Glam-Vampire Hunterz" when the Problem Solverz enter the Glam-Vampires' trailer.
  • Call-Back: The defeated Eternitron from "Time Twister" can be seen in the background of the clock museum in "Magic Clock".
    • Fauxboro is seen in "Magic Clock" as the place for the fake wedding.
  • Cartoon Creature: Alfe, who looks nothing like what he's supposed to be.
  • Cats Are Mean: Bad Cat, who steals all the salsa and captures Tux Dog in one episode.
  • Chair Reveal: Bad Cat gets one in "Puffy Puppiez".
  • Character Catchphrase: Alfe likes yelling his own name a lot, usually when doing something stupid or attacking.
    • "Problem...Solved!"
  • Chekhov's Gun: Alfe's "squirrel cheeks" in "The Mayan Ice Cream Caper".
    • Alfe's boredom in "Videogamez".
    • Alfe's fur balls in "Badcat".
    • Roba's vitamin slime and dirt vacuum in "Hamburger Cavez".
    • Alfe's rap beats in "Glam-Vampire Hunterz".
  • Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs: Professor Sugarfish's Pyscho Puffs of Madness.
  • Continuity Cameo: The dog from the Problem Solvers YouTube shorts makes background appearances about Once per Episode.
    • In the beginning of "K-999 and Da Little Explorerz", Dewey can be seen riding his bike.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Alfe acts Too Dumb to Live most of the time, but at an episode's climax, he'll somehow save the day in a Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Cloud Cuckooland: The show's entire setting.
  • Cute Is Evil: The third episode features girl scouts who are actually aliens seeking world domination. They're cute as far as this art style goes.
  • Cyborg: Roba seems to be one, claiming to be "robot on his mother's side."
  • Dada Ad: The commercial for Professor Sugar Fish's Psycho Puffs of Madness cereal in "Breakfast Warz". It features a kid and a giant rainbow fish laughing in Morse code while their house burns down and neon colors flash everywhere. After watching it, Horace responds with "Okay, that was crazy..."
  • Dance Party Ending: "Puffy Puppiez".
  • Dating Catwoman: Subverted in "The Mayan Ice Cream Caper". Horace and the daughter of the mad ice cream maker hit it off in the beginning of the episode, but it turns out that Horace only liked Sweetee because he was under the influence of her mind control ice cream, and she was just using him to become an evil ruler. At the end of the episode, he doesn't like her anymore.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: In "Hide and Seek Ninjaz", Roba is reluctant to solve the case because while playing hide and seek as a child, no one found him for days, and he went crazy as a result.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "Occult magic uses weird symbols that look weird."
    • From "Fauxboro", Horace: It's like the town itself has become one huge problem town. Made of problems!"
  • Deranged Animation: Oh, you have no idea. For example, The Mysterious Mr. Enter noted when he covered the first episode that he had to watch it in one-minute segments because it was physically hurting him to watch it. Yes, this is a common reaction.
  • Description Cut: In "Zoo Cops", Horace states that the plan to catch Dork Face involves the stealthiest member of the group. The camera then cuts to Alfe, who has been loudly breaking items in the occult store.
  • Disguised in Drag: In "K-999 and Da Little Explorerz", Alfe dresses as a girl scout and changes his name to Alfena all so he can give Nina her missing semaphore badge. His disguise manages to fool everyone.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The Roba rap in "Magic Clock" is by far the most surreal departure the show has taken. The colors!
  • Ditzy Genius: Roba. He's the smartest member of the team and has built a sophisticated radar scanner, but is very socially inept and childish.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sergeant DOG in "Problem Solverz Academy". He gives social ranks to each of the Problem Solverz and turns Horace into a Butt-Monkey dork.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: Tux Dog.
  • Edible Ammunition: In "Magic Clock", a crazed cupcake maker flings cupcakes at the gang, and Alfe defends everyone by catching them in his mouth.
  • The '80s: The headache-inducing neon colors, the Atari-esque video games (with graphics ripped from Super Mario Bros. 3), and urban synth music all suggest that this show is either set in or an homage to the 1980s.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: The climax of "Awesome Banditz".
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights
  • Everyone Knows Morse: In "Breakfast Warz", Professor Sugar Fish laughs in Morse code in his commercial, and Roba understands it as a message to follow the maze on the back of his cereal box.
  • Expressive Mask: Roba has a helmet covering half of his face, but is able to show a wide range of expression.
  • The Face of the Sun: Seen in the beginning of "Videogamez" and "Fauxboro".
  • Face Palm: In "Problem Solverz Academy", Horace does this when Alfe incorrectly guesses where Tux Dog plans to take the trio for training.
  • Fartillery: In "Awesome Banditz", Alfe forces Roba to do this in order to give the racing elevator a speed boost.
  • Feud Episode: In "Breakfast Warz", Roba and Alfe fight over who gets the new science officer position in the group, causing Horace to mediate between them.
    Horace: Fighting is never the answer!
  • Fish People: Sugarfish's cereal workers.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Many characters from previous and future episodes appear in the audience at the funny face show in "Funny Facez". Have a look.
    • Likewise, in "Badcat" several of the same characters can be found in the casino.
  • Freudian Trio: Alfe is the Id, Roba is the Superego, and Horace is the Ego.
  • Frozen Face: Buddy Huxton in "Funny Facez" is afflicted with this. Apparently, when someone is startled while making a funny face, their face will permanently freeze that way.
  • G-Rated Drug: In "Videogamez" Roba mentions he has several addictions, such as "Water and social interactions."
    • In "Breakfast Wars", the Sugarfish Cereal.
  • Gag Series
  • Gatling Good: Alfe and Roba make a Gatling root beer gun in "Fauxboro".
  • Giant Novelty Check: Parodied, as the Problem Solverz receive giant checks worth small amounts of money.
  • Girl Scouts Are Evil: The plot of "K-999 and Da Little Explorerz".
  • Guttural Growler: Alfe speaks in a gruff voice that belies his childish personality.
  • Heart Symbol: Horace and Sweetee Creame get hearts on their eyes and cheeks respectively after first meeting.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: In "Hamburger Cavez", the solverz go on a camping trip, but Alfe annoys Horace and Roba with his sudden hamburger obsession, and later becomes possessed by an evil spirit that eats humans.
  • Hypno Fool: In "Breakfast Warz", all three solverz become crazy inside of Professor Sugar Fish's lair, but Horace gets it the worst, thinking he's a dog.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes
  • I'm Your Biggest Fan: Roba says something along this line to master funny face artist Tony Marv in "Funny Facez".
    • Then there's Katrina, who runs a blog on the Problem Solverz and follows them around in one episode. She says joining the solverz is her fantasy.
  • Insane Troll Logic: In "Hamburger Cavez", Alfe thinks that an owl in the forest has a stash of hamburgers because an owl is a bird, and a duck is a bird, so owls and ducks are the same, and one time he fed a duck a hamburger bun, so that means owls like hamburgers. While Alfe is concluding this, text on the screen says, "Warning: Alfe Logic".
  • Intellectual Animal: Tux Dog certainly counts.
  • Interspecies Romance: Danny's mom and Professor Sugar Fish get married at the end of "Breakfast Warz".
  • Jerkass: K-999, a "helpful" robotic dog Tux Dog leaves the Problem Solverz when he's gone. K-999's programmed to assist the Problem Solverz, but also tears into them with insults and pranks.
    • Also, Lidget in "Zoo Cops". Like K-999, he follows the Problem Solverz on their case, but constantly berates them and questions their ability to do the job.
  • Job Title
  • Just Ignore It: A video game boss terrorizes the real world in episode two, so the solverz enter the game to defeat it. He's powerful, but destroyed when they deprive him of the attention he gets from being a menace.
  • Lazy Artist: Done on purpose.
  • Lighter and Softer: The series toned down some of the more surreal elements of the [adult swim] pilot episode, and the storylines are more coherent.
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: None of the characters find it unusual to encounter a man-dog-anteater, a half-robot boy, a big wealthy dog, or supervillain cat.
  • Loony Fan: Katrina Rad in "Magic Clock". She follows the solverz around so she can write a blog entry about them, but she's really crazy about Roba.
  • Make My Monster Grow: Professor Sugar Fish uses the power of his cereal to become huge before the fight with Danny's mom. Because sugar makes you grow big. Crazy big.
  • Mega Neko: Bad Cat is so big, he moves around in a mechanized chair.
  • Merit Badges for Everything: Alfe is able to earn every Little Explorer badge, including one for flag communication.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Alfe's cousin Ralphe in "Glam-Vampire Hunterz". He brags about being a cool vampire hunter, but when he encounters one, he gets scared and hides.
  • Mind-Control Device: The Mayan ice cream.
  • Mind-Control Eyes: After entering Professor Sugar Fish's hideout, the trio becomes crazy and gets swirling spiral eyes.
  • Mind Screw: The whole series, but a special mention goes to Professor Sugar Fish's cereal commercial, which even the characters found crazy.
  • Mini-Mecha: In "Breakfast Warz", Danny's mom uses one to fight Professor Sugar Fish.
  • Mix-and-Match Critter: Alfe, but you wouldn't know what he's supposed to be unless we told you.
  • Mythology Gag: Kevin the magic cup from Neon Knome appears in Horace's room in "Time Twister".
    • Roba's "one-of-a-kind narrator doll" in "Puffy Puppiez" is a reference to the narrator at the end of Neon Knome.
  • Never Say "Die": Completely averted, particularly in "Videogamez":
    Horace: Oh, and remember, you have three lives. If you lose them all, then you lose a life in real life. Which means you gain a death. A real death. You die.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In "The Mayan Ice Cream Caper", the trio stops Mr. Creame from destroying his ice cream factory, believing that he's an insane villain. Turns out he was trying to get rid of the mind-control ice cream and his daughter was the evil one.
    • In "Breakfast Warz", the Problem Solverz get more of Professor Sugar Fish's cereal for Danny, until Danny's mom shows up and tells them she banned the cereal because it made kids disobey authority figures. This is then parodied in a second case identification card:
    Case # 740-B: The case of the kid who wanted more cereal then we gave it to him and he ran away and now the Mom is mad at us.
  • Nightmare Face: This is invoked throughout "Funny Facez", but the characters find the faces hilarious. At the end of the episode, Alfe makes the "funniest" one.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: According to the official site, Alfe is half man, half dog, and half anteater.
    • Bombs made of robots, made of dinosaurs.
  • Non-Nude Bathing: Horace wears a wetsuit in the shower.
  • Noodle Incident: In "Zoo Cops", it's said that Alfe used to live in the zoo, but the reasons behind it are unexplained.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Katrina can't keep her hands off of Roba, and even tries sniffing him at one point.
  • Number of the Beast: "Case # 666: Invasion of the Glam-Vampires".
  • Ocular Gushers: The little girl from "Hide and Seek Ninjaz" shows this a lot.
  • Only Sane Man: Horace.
    • Played with on "Breakfast Warz", as being the most sane seems to cause the craziness to affect him the most.
  • Opening Narration: "Ever since the late Stone Age, there have been unique individuals who solve problems..."
  • Our Vampires Are Different: In "Glam-Vampire Hunterz", the town is invaded by a group of glam metal vampires.
  • Pac Man Fever: Tomb of Nefertiti has 2D pixel graphics.
  • Pants-Free: The veterinarian in "Fauxboro". Roba is not pleased.
    Roba: I find the sight of underwear very rude!
  • Paper People: The Flatland dimension in "Zoo Cops" turns everyone into these.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Alfe and Roba go undercover and wear jean shorts and jackets in "Awesome Banditz". It doesn't take long for the elevator bandits to realize they're Problem Solverz.
  • Precious Puppies: Tux Puppy, who randomly appears at the end of "Fauxboro" to reward the solverz after their successful training. Roba is particularly excited about looking after the little guy.
    • This is the main point of "Puffy Puppiez", in which the Problem Solverz take in a bunch of puppies when Bad Cat usurps their shelter. Roba adores the puppies so much that he is reluctant to give them up despite his allergies, and he even gets a little song about them.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: In "Puffy Puppiez", when Roba is left to care for the puppies after the house has been torn apart, one of the puppies looks at him longingly, and Roba realizes that the puppies need a better place to live.
  • Quarter Hour Short
  • Reality Warper: Dork Face, whose occult stamp stickers can open a portal to another dimension.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: In "Zoo Cops", The Problem Solverz must deal with being disliked by community despite all of their hard work. Word of God says this episode was made after the writers discovered the show's massive Hatedom in Real Life.
  • Real Men Hate Affection: "Remember when Roba took care of you when you were little?" "Yeah... I guess he was good at taking care of me..."
  • Record Needle Scratch
  • Robot Dog: K-999.
  • Running Gag: There being a new mayor and the Problem Solvers getting rewarded with Fifteen dollar checks.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: Alfe tends to do this.
  • Scare Chord: Played for Laughs in "Time Twister" whenever the purple schoolteacher appeared.
  • Scout-Out: The Little Explorers.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: In "Hamburger Cavez", Alfe unleashes a human-eating evil spirit from an ancient statue and gets possessed by it.
  • Security Cling: In "Time Twister", Horace jumps into Alfe's arms the second time the above mentioned teacher appears.
  • Send in the Clones: Used by Alfe in the "Time Twister" episode when the trio are fighting the Eternitron. More specifically, he uses the Time Twister to recruit past versions of himself to gang up and defeat the Eternitron.
  • Sensory Abuse: Much of the show's criticism comes from its bright color scheme and crude character designs.
  • Self-Deprecation: "Aw man! Another negative post about us on the Internet!"
  • Shout-Out: One of the Elevator Banditz members has a mask, in design of Andross.
    • There's a ceiling cat reference at the end of "Badcat", when Bad Cat blasts a hole in the ceiling, goes through it, and looks back down through the hole.
    • Part of Tomb of Nefertiti looks remarkably similar to BIT.TRIP RUNNER.
    • "Hamburger Cavez" references Regular Show when a blue jay and raccoon are shown eating Alfe's food.
    • The video game Art Shift during the BMX race in "Puffy Puppiez" is a reference to Excite Bike.
  • Single Tear: Roba sheds one after his idol, Tony Marv, calls him ugly.
  • So Once Again, the Day Is Saved: "Another exciting case solved by... The Problem Solverz!"
  • Spit Take: Alfe's specialty.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Katrina Rad, and how. She's obsessed with Roba and almost marries him against his will in "Magic Clock".
  • Standing Between the Enemies: The Problem Solverz do this in "Breakfast Warz", when Danny's mom and Professor Sugar Fish begin fighting. Horace then gives a speech about compromise, with "Pomp and Circumstance" playing in the background.
  • Stylistic Suck: The show looks like it was drawn by a four year old. Anything else like this come to mind?
  • Surreal Humor: To the freaking max.
  • Time Travelling Rollercoaster Of Youth
  • The Teaser: Some episodes have this.
  • The Face of the Sun: Indeed, the moon and the sun both have faces.
  • Time Stands Still: For Katrina and Roba in "Magic Clock". She wants to be with him for eternity.
  • Trapped in TV Land: In one episode, the gang is sucked into a highly addicting video game and must defeat the final boss in order to save the real world.
  • Uncanny Valley Makeup: Present on all female characters, even little girls.
  • Unnamed Parent: Danny's mom.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Roba says "oh my dog" and "for dog's sakes" in one episode, and in another episode, one character says, "What the funny face?"
  • The Vamp: Sweetee Creame.
  • Vacation Episode: "Tux Dog's Island."
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: Done wonderfully at the end of "Breakfast Warz".
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: "Breakfast Warz" has this, leading to no doubt the most bizarre thing in the series ever.
  • Weird Moon: The moon has a very unsettling face.
  • Weird Sun: Same as Weird Moon.
  • We Need a Distraction: In "Magic Clock", the plan to distract Katrina and destroy the clock is to have Roba kiss her. When he finds himself unable to go through with it, Roba instead performs a trippy rap song.
  • Why Won't You Die?: Horace says this exact line to the final boss in Tomb of Nefertiti in "Videogamez".
  • World of Ham
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The title itself, and some other episode titles.
  • Yandere: Katrina Rad, full stop. She steals a time-freezing clock so she and Roba can be together forever.

Another life ruined by - THE PROBLEM TROPERS!