Newsflash: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may not have been the most normal Saturday morning cartoon ever. But for a TV show about anthropomorphic reptiles who are into cosplay and extreme sports and somehow picked up a Southern California drawl to their speech patterns, it felt pretty normal most of the time. It didn’t feel out of the ordinary at all to sit there and watch as villains that looked menacing just stood around to avoid engaging in sluggish fights.
But trust us. There were a few unusual episodes out there that stuck out more than others did. Here are just a few off the top of our heads (discounting that crazy European Vacation side-season that so bizarre it deserves a whole ‘nother article written about it).
Season 3, Episode 44: “Mister Ogg Goes to Town” by David Wise
If you ever thought Paul Reubens would make a good Mr. Mxyzptlk, this might be an episode of Ninja Turtles that’s right up your alley. Since there’s never been a correlation between these two pop culture figures in my mind – nor should there ever be, really – I tend to feel the opposite about it. Hence why I’m here, putting it right at the beginning of my weirdest ninja turtles episodes list.
Mister Ogg is basically the three-foot tall cousin of Ed Grimley from Dimension Z. And like any small floating nerdy man from the last dimension the alphabet will allow, he loves to eat porcelain. Loves. But it has to be antique, got it? So don’t just try and feed him any old used toilet from the junkyard (unless it’s from the 1970s and under).
When he finds Shredder’s secret stash of antique vases and goes on a binge, the Turtles are chasing him around while he turns the big apple into a fruit salad. Oh, did I mention he holds the secrets to creating liquid nitrogen too?
Season 5, Episode 6: “Donatello’s Badd Time” by Misty Stewart-Taggart
There are many characters from the cartoon that the movie franchise should never bring in, but the Badd family takes the cake in my book. The greasy kind of cake that you find slices of wrapped up at the checkout counter of the corner market. The kind that can sit there for eight years and never age because its stuffed with preservatives and vaseline. If the next film incorporated these hicks somehow (which it probably wouldn’t), we would be treated to a bizarre mash-up of The Devil’s Rejects and The Beverly Hillbillies. Y’know what, I’m going do us all a favor and stop myself there before I give Michael Bay any ideas.
When Donatello tries to help these here folks fix their crappy old pick-up truck that’s stuck on the side of the highway, the Badds steal the Turtle Van and start going on a moderately dangerous rampage across New York.
Meanwhile, guess what? A mad scientist is making a crazy new contraption and April’s doing an investigative report on it! That rarely happens on this show. Anyway, it’s called the Powersizer and it can radiate more energy than the sun…but it needs a giant diamond to power it. Go figure. Luckily, the Badd’s steal both of these things so they could cause even more trouble. See? This is why we can’t have nice things.
Season 4, Episode 10: “Name That Toon” by Misty Stewart-Taggart
The synth keyboard is a bare necessity in life, much like clean water, shelter and new Rick and Morty episodes. Whenever it’s a central part of any story set or made during the 1980s, I am immediately, 100% all hands on deck invested into it (especially if it’s like this).
But when the synth keyboard is misused by the forgotten love child of Rick Moranis and Woody Allen, I tend to be slightly offended. Enter Howie Hardy: the most annoying Phil Collins since Phil Collins. But instead of forming Genesis, a seminal act in the annals of progressive rock music history, he writes soulful ballads about the joys of wearing turtle pajamas instead. On one fateful antiquing trip with Irma, he finds a keyboard from Dimension X that just so happens to interfere with Krang’s new Dematerializer weapon.
So what does Howie do? He comes up with the tune “Teenagers With a Shell” – which is the doo-wop synthicide soundtrack to someone’s creepy pasta nightmare. Sounds like something recorded off of a cable access TV show in the dead of night, doesn’t it? Can’t you just see the exaggerated rubber pig masks? Okay, enough.
Howie busts through the fourth wall like the Kool-Aid Man by belting out another irritating but thankfully less disturbing take on the TMNT theme song, which saves the day. The gang thanks him by giving him a new keyboard that’s from this dimension that plays regular music like “Sussudio“ and not the kind that actually makes an impact on the world. Because that would just get to his head.
Season 4, Episode 11: “Menace Maestro, Please” by Martin Pasko
In case you didn’t get enough Howie, he’s back in action here – in the very next friggin’ episode. Not sure why the producers wanted a double dose of this character, but I’m sure there’s some semblance of logic there. I mean, there has to be, you know? There just has to be…
This time, Howie and Irma ask the Turtles to investigate the legend of the phantom of the old Floxy theater. Punk-ass Shredder disguises himself as said phantom to use the mysterious organ as an energy source of some kind. You know how he rolls. Eventually, shred head is confronted by the real phantom who turns out to be Howie’s nerdy friend Eric – who is an alien named Irk that traveled to Earth in the spaceship which is currently disguised as the organ!
Read that sentence again if you need to. It’s all there.
Despite this being a terrible episode, it’s made worse by the unneeded presence of Howie who even characters on screen seem to cringe at. But he does make a better comic relief character here than he did in “Toon”, as he’s not at the center of the story’s action on more on the peripheral. After this, Howie Hardy was never seen or heard from again on the show. But in the TMNT/Ghostbusters crossover comic mini-series IDW published, he was seen marrying Irma’s counterpart Lucy. Wonder what happened there?
Season 3, Episode 16: “The Four Musketurtles” by Doug Molitor
Instead of flashing frat boys for beads after slamming five consecutive shots of Patron like Irma did, April dresses up as a 17th-century noblewoman for Mardis Gras. This is all an elaborate scheme to talk about her obsession with The Three Musketeers, a copy of which she carries somewhere on her person wherever she goes, so she can force unwilling listeners to borrow it. This time, it’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Leonardo reads the first two pages and tries to make everyone listen to him talk about it too. I’m glad she didn’t force him to read Atlas Shrugged or anything. That would get way too out of hand.
When he gets hit on the head during a jewelry heist by Bebop, Leo wakes up thinking he’s D’artagnan, and so everyone dresses up as the other musketeers to appease him. Then Irma tries to hook up with Shredder at the parade. He looks like he’s had enough Midori Sours to go for it. Do it! Do it! Do it!
Season 4, Episode 3: “Michelangelo Toys Around” by Bill Wolf
Just so you know, any episode in which Michelangelo gets mistaken for a large toy by poorly animated rich people probably is not going to be a very great one.
Neither is one in which the Turtles battle an army of clunky dinosaur robot toys with their own toy army instead of simply kicking them over.
Season 3, Episode 24: “Mutagen Monster” by Mark & Michael Edens
Bebop and Rocksteady cause a head-on collision between two trains that carry the chemical ingredients necessary to produce Mutagen. This spills out of the train yard and onto a couple innocent bystanding bulls. This causes them to mutate together to become one big giant horny bull! I say horny because it’s covered in horns, not because…yeah. You get what I mean. You saw the screencap.
Shredder and the Turtles try to fight for control over the creature which leads into a very groan inducing “bull-in-a-china-shop” action sequence. Does this sound like the premise of an entertaining episode to you? I don’t need to say anymore, do I? Good. Let’s move on.
Season 10, Episode 6: “Mobster from Dimension X” by Jeffrey Scott
Seasons 9 and 10 of the classic run are generally considered the worst by almost anybody and everybody who has ever laid eyes upon them since they quietly aired on CBS Saturday Mornings in the mid-1990s when nobody was watching. This episode is a good indicator of why the show went a little off the rails.
An atrocious new villain called the Globfather tries to steal yet another great new scientific device called the Protein Computer because he wants to bulk up. Lord Dregg gets involved somehow and lectures the Turtles on his plans like the big stuffy alien baddie that he is, which made me fall asleep right in the middle of this crummy episode.
Season 3, Episode 31: “Michelangelo’s Birthday” by Bill Wolf
Geez, Michelangelo gets a lot of the weird episodes, doesn’t he? Although the toy one was more unusual than this one, “Michelangelo’s Birthday” (which is technically March 6, 1975, by the way) is odd simply because it wastes our time with your average surprise birthday plot that’s stretched out far past its limits, yet has the potential to do more when it incorporates Shredder’s scheme to mutate the turtles again using Mutagen.
But instead of anything actually cool happening, he just turns the other three into big fucking balloons that do nothing but just float there. And how do Michelangelo and Splinter cure them? Moth balls.
Season 6, Episode 8: “Too Hot to Handle” by Bill Wolf
To say that TMNT beat the mad scientist trope like an Equidae’s corpse would be an understatement. But at least this one tried something new with it – having two in the same episode. Vernon’s egotistical nephew Foster counts as one, which explains his partial resemblance to MacGyver and his premature widow’s peak. His science project – a solar magnet – can attract the sun towards the earth and burn it up. Who cares if that would even get a passing grade. The question is – What are you even doing with your life? Why haven’t you built a solar magnet yet?
The second one is Philo Sofo, who fits the classic mad scientist stereotype much better. They fight over who gets to destroy the world first. Since this plays out much duller than I’m making it sound on paper, let’s move on to…
Season 4, Episode 31: “Donatello’s Degree” by Jack Mendelsohn
Donatello finally finishes his degree in Women’s Studies at Sopho University, a correspondence school that apparently accepts an underground sewer block as a legitimate address. Problem is, the school thinks he’s a she, so he asks Irma to pose as Ms. Donatello and pick up his degree. Sounds cute so far, doesn’t it?
But Professor Sofo shows up again with another awful global destruction scheme – this time about making the earth spin so fast on its axis that everything on its surface would fly off. Also, something about saving a bunch of fish by unleashing them into the sewers? Weird.
Season 4, Episode 39: “Unidentified Flying Leonardo” by Sean Roche
God damn there are a lot of season 4 episodes on here! I should have just named this article “Season 4 Was Fucking Nuts!” Oh well. It’s a little late for that, isn’t it?
To be fair, season 4 was over 40 episodes long. And yes, I know seasons 9 and 10 are considered the craziest ones. They were truly the weirdest, I agree. That’s why I put a season 10 episode up there. Quit with the gnashing of the teeth already (it’s not good for the enamel).
Leonardo and April head upstate to investigate UFO sightings in a small town called High Falls. The townspeople think that Leonardo is the alien because they’re racist. But turns out there’s no alien – the UFO is actually just an experimental helicopter designed by another friggin’ mad scientist who needs to seriously practice his John Wayne impersonation if he wants to be taken more seriously. And why is he doing all of this? To make his crops grow bigger via laser beams.
At some point, I thought this was an Attack of the Killer Tomatoes crossover. In fact, now I really wish it was.
Season 4, Episode 29: “What’s Michelangelo Good For?” by Francis Moss
Michelangelo! Uh. What is he good for?
Stopping mad scientists and gettin’ laid, apparently. Plus, he’s got a mean Tarzan impression…
Mad scientists are a dime a dozen over there, aren’t they? But one in particular splices together hybrid beast people on his own island. His name: Doctor Lesseau. Hmm. Do you think that maybe he was inspired by Dr. Moreau? Yes, I mean Marlon Brando. No, Val Kilmer was the other guy. Not the crazy fat one. Except…y’know what, let’s just talk about this afterwards.
There’s some cool animal mash-ups to behold here, such as the Elephant-Tiger (Elephiger), so it’s worth a watch. It also gives Leonardo a semi-love interest in Dr. Jane Goodfellow, a veterinarian who has the soothing voice of an ‘80s cartoon goddess. Outside of dodging lily bombs in a canoe like Ariel and Sebastian, nothing much happens between them. He does not “kiss de girl.” She kisses his pet pigeon more than she does him, in fact. I guess she doesn’t want the slime to mess up her lip gloss.
Season 4, Episode 32: “Poor Little Rich Turtle” by David Wise
The most powerful and respected fifteen-year-old girl in the original TMNT universe is Buffy Shellhammer – annoying rich girl extraordinaire. She cusses April and Irma out after their exclusive interview ends, showing off her true colors. Yet somehow this brat winds up tagging along on an adventure through the sewers with our heroes, stabbing our eardrums with the tiny shrill dagger of her highly pitched voice.
Shredder hooks her up to his Brainalyzer machine which is automatically destroyed by her bossiness. She becomes a better person because of her adventures at the end I guess, but since my ears are still ringing from her voice, I remain unsympathetic and wooden towards her. Yes, wooden I tell you!
Season 4, Episode 22: “Big Zipp Attack” by David Wise
There is a law of ‘80s Saturday morning cartoons which states that there must be at least one adorable critter capable of causing frisky mischief per series. The Ninja Turtles more than exceeded this quota during their decade on the air, but they kept on cranking them out anyway. “Big Zipp Attack” introduces an alien species of debatable cuteness into the mix – Zipps.
The Zipps like to float and whine and nibble on things. They also love chocolate. In that respect, they sound uncannily similar to my ex. Yet the plot itself is nothing to write home about. Which is why I’m writing for a stranger like you. But we’re friends now, aren’t we? We survived Howie Hardy’s singing together. That kind of thing changes you in the inside.
Stephen Harber is on Twitter @onlywriterever.