• Editorial: What is Dave Polsky's Writing Style?

    It all makes sense now.

    He’s been with us since Season 1, and yet many would still consider him to be the weak link. Dave Polsky’s work has been controversial to say the least, since his episodes either alternated in quality, or were good but polarizing (Daring Don’t). However, Polsky has been writing for a while now, with his credits reaching as far back as 1995. As I mentioned in my editorial from a month ago, a few of the show writers at EQLA believed that it was impossible to gauge what each writer’s episode style was. Without further ado, let’s dig into Polsky’s past work, both pony and otherwise to see how he writes. We’ll start with his most recent Sonic Boom work after the break.

    Show: Sonic Boom
    Episodes: Unlucky Knuckles and Translate This
    Unlucky Knuckles Premise: After losing a golf game due to an unlucky event, Knuckles aims to get rid of all his bad luck at once by resetting the "luck balance of the universe".
    Translate This Premise: Tails builds a robot that inadvertently explains what everyone thinks behind what they are saying. This leads to disagreements among the gang.

    Unlucky Knuckles is Feeling Pinkie Keen, but spun a different way. Both episodes have to deal with a force that simply cannot be explained, but with Unlucky Knuckles, there's no debate over the luck balance of the universe. This fact is confusing especially since Pinkie's Sense is understandable in a world where both Pinkie and magic are hard to explain. However with Unlucky Knuckles, the cartoon expects us to accept the luck balance and move on, since that's not what the story is about.

    Translate This is a much better episode, both structurally and due to its story. There's surprisingly more funny and believable character interaction with this premise, since the Sonic Boom characters are stereotypes at their very core. The comedy isn't reliant on what the joke entails, but the delivery since we all know that Amy is a girl, Knuckles is an idiot, and Sticks is insane. On a side note, Polsky writes Sticks and Pinkie in exactly the same way.

    Verdict: What I can gather from Polsky's Sonic Boom episodes are a few points that might seem elevated or redundant when I go over his pony episodes. To be succinct, Polsky writes these episodes as if the characters are solely for the purpose of telling his story. Both episodes go on, and end in ways that seem unnatural, as if the "puppet master" had gotten bored with the story and wanted to end it quickly.

    Characters lampshade reasons why their episodes don't end sooner, as well as turn the spotlight towards classic cartoon tropes and using that as their joke. These episodes seem to be "slice of life", but I can't imagine either of these scenarios being part of the Sonic Team's life if Polsky didn't write them. The luck balance of the universe is never brought up again (within the 10 episodes I watched), and neither is the robot in Translate This.

    This is also a symptom of pony, but Polsky tends to add lore into his shows that seem to only make sense when it comes from him. While the Sonic Team has numerous powers and they live on a mystical island, a karmic luck of the universe seems extraordinarily out of place. Translate This seems to dodge this problem, but the overall idea behind Polsky's episodes being "what would happen if this thing happened just this once" seems to be the case, and I'm not a fan of that.

    It seems insubstantial to both the Sonic lore and characters for irrevocable lore additions to be the "problem of the day". Granted, Sonic Boom doesn't really have a structure of its own, since there's an episode where Eggman crashes on Sonic's couch. While I wouldn't call these type of episodes bad, I would say that they are definitely odd. The episodes are memorable in their rarity, but there is an argument to be made for the idea that since Sonic Boom doesn't have much of a structure, Polsky is a perfect fit for insubstantial episodes such as the two he has already written. I wouldn't disagree with that either.

    Show: The Buzz on Maggie
    Episode: Germy
    Germy Premise: Maggie sneaks a germ into her room as a pet and struggles to train it. Can she train her new pet before her parents find out?

    Verdict: There's not much to write home about this cartoon. Germy was the only episode written by Polsky in the first season, but he did create the rest of the episodes, so I'll only focus on this one. The biggest thing I noticed with this show is that it's structured a little better than Sonic Boom. But as a result, the cartoon is completely forgettable. There are a few laughable puns, but apart from that, the show hugs its "G" rating very closely. Whereas MLP and Sonic Boom both try to hint at possibly more mature jokes (if the higher ups allow it).

    Despite The Buzz on Maggie feeling like a completely forgettable cartoon, I feel like Polsky works well with shows like these. When there's an infinite status quo, Polsky can bring in a new story without having it feel out of place. There also is something to be said for the fact that since he is the creator of this show, it feels like Maggie has a more ironclad structure as a result. The only problem is whether or not the episodes are worth remembering.

    Make it go away... please...

    Show: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
    Episodes: Feeling Pinkie Keen, Over a Barrel, Too Many Pinkie Pies, Spike At Your Service (story), Keep Calm and Flutter On (teleplay), Games Ponies Play, Daring Don't, Rarity Takes Manehattan, Twilight Time, For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils, Equestria Games, Appleloosa's Most Wanted

    Verdict: As I said before, there's a lot of criticism directed at Polsky's episodes. There are a myriad of reasons that the fandom claims, but I think that most of them funnel into what I brought up with Sonic Boom: the characters are written as if they are only there to tell Polsky's story. With Feeling Pinkie Keen, Too Many Pinkie Pies, Spike at Your Service, Keep Calm and Flutter On, Games Ponies Play, and Appleoosa's Most Wanted, all of these episodes ended arbitrarily. The most famous one being Discord's "sudden" reformation at the end of Keep Calm and Flutter On.

    It's because of this that his pony episodes feel a little more structurally broken. There's a desire for loose ends to be tied by the end of all his pony episodes, but that doesn't always happen, both in the episodes and real life. Polsky has gotten better with structure, especially with the recent Brotherhooves Social. But with Sonic Boom, it doesn't matter if the loose ends are tied because the universe is stuck in a status quo. However, a lot of Polsky's MLP episodes pushed a narrative that was interesting, different, and in a direction that was unexpected. Along with that, MLP is changing a significant amount, but some of Polsky's lore changes (such as Daring Don't) aren't brought up again, which is a shame.

    Final Verdict: A lot of Polsky's story ideas seem out of place and pulled out of nowhere, but its within those wacky ideas that we get the most thematically interesting episodes. With both the Pinkie Sense, Daring Do being real, and Spike being a Crystal Empire hero, Polsky adds onto the lore in ways that seem insubstantial and weird. But like with Equestria Games, once these bits of lore are tested and continued, we have character growth or with Feeling Pinkie Keen, an interesting explanation (or lack thereof) for a world that sometimes makes no sense. The Pinkie Sense doesn't have to make sense, or the Mirror Pool, or in some ways, Daring Do being real. With Polsky's episodes, the journey is more important than the payoff.

    Polsky's characters in MLP and Sonic Boom act as if they are in on their episodes, and react to whatever happens, regardless of whether it feels natural or not. It reminds me of a Greek tragedy, or Scary Movie 2, which he helped write. I still think he is fit to write for the show, but I want more episodes to be devoted to the lore gems that he gave us in previous seasons. I want to see an episode that expands upon Daring Don't, or whether or not Pinkie still has her Sense. We may get the weirdest and "out of nowhere" episodes with Polsky, but I don't mind at all.

    That about sums up this week's editorial. I leave you with these questions: is there a part of Polsky's writing style that I missed? Do you think that the writing for his sketch comedy shows or South Park still correlates to his cartoons? Finally, is there a piece of lore that Polsky brought up that warrants expansion? Leave it in the comments below. Thank you for reading this editorial, and I'll see you next week.

    Disclaimer: I am aware that Polsky has written for other shows such as South Park, a few sketch comedy shows, and Scary Movie 2. But considering all those shows are worked on with a staff of writers, I wanted to focus on the episodes that Polsky wrote himself.