Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? is better than Netflix’s cartoon

Thanks to Netflix the world’s greatest thief Carmen Sandiego is back on the spotlight which she hadn’t really had since the 90s. What started as a computer game which received various sequels it also ended up getting various spin-offs, from two ame shows: “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?” and “Where in time is Carmen Sandiego?” to an animated series, and what better way to show appreciation than with a quick review / overview of the 90’s cartoon “Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?”.

We should first talk about the opening which is super catchy and there’s a reason for that since it’s actually a modern version with lyrics of Mozart’s “Singt dem grossen Bassa Lieder”. They really did a good job that this was some sort of crazy quest to find this one person who keeps outsmarting them all in the intro. Since it’s a song that you’ve heard so much in life it means that you already feel familiar with the show even if it’s your first time. You’ll never be as excited to start an edutainment show as you will with this opening; Sorry Magic School Bus. Go ahead and listen:

The episodes almost always begin with Carmen Sandiego stealing something, and I literally mean anything as just like in the video game she doesn’t just steal artifacts; Carmen Sandiego is able to steal impossible stuff such as buildings or even abstract concepts such as Math. Carmen Sandiego is a part of VILE while ACME are the ones in charge of getting her.

In the beginning and and end of the show we see the “player” chatting a bit with Carmen Sandiego which is supposed to represent you, the viewer, just like in the computer game. In the first seasons you never really see his face but later on they start switching “players” which actually takes you out as you now had different players every other episode instead of this one elusive person. The leader of ACME, which is a terrible name for an intelligence agency, is “The Chief” which is an AI program. He is the cartoony, Genie from Aladdin like character in the show to make it fun. He’s annoying but I didn’t end up hating him as much as I really should’ve so he gets a passed.

Not many shows are named after the main villain of the show and that’s what makes Carmen Sandiego so unique. She is shown to be somewhat of a morally gray character as she won’t steal if it’s actually going to cause physical harm to someone and she saves the heroes of the show on more than one occasion not to mention she leaves them tons of clues to solve the crimes just to see if only then they can stop her. She doesn’t just steal objects all over the earth as the title suggests as she ends up travelling through time in reference to Where in time is Carmen Sandiego?

Her plans are usually spoiled by the end but usually through some undeserving victory and yet she still manages to escape and show off. We learn a little bit about her through out the show and how she used to be an ex-ACME employee but just got bored. How much more awesome could she possibly be?

The two main characters actually chasing Carmen Sandiego through out the world are Ivy and Zack who are prodigal siblings and work for ACME. Ivy is the action girl and martial arts expert and overall awesome Lara Croft type character before Tomb Raider was even a thing. Zack is the smart kid who has photographic memory and can speak pretty much any language in the world and he can get to be a bit annoying as he was supposed to be the character most people watching were supposed to relate to and can be a bit bland. Carmen Sandiego has some henchmen with names but none of them are worth a mention here even if they weren’t bad characters.

It’s an episodic show though there are a few multi-parters and the show are entertaining but they are not very well structured. They start with the item of the day and we find out a little bit about that item and culture where it came from, you would think the rest of the episode would be about just that as there’s tons of stuff to learn about that one culture in an episode. But no, they jump very quickly after only spending a few minutes in that place to the next one where Carmen is hiding now and they explain quickly why we’re going there though it doesn’t always make a lot of sense and learn a little about that new place.

They usually end up in three different locations per episode and while they were trying to emulate the game kind of by having you search the world in every episode it doesn’t really work here as you don’t learn enough and they just throw random facts through out the episode. Counting each episode could’ve been a different part of the world it would’ve still been true to the game somewhat while making the show flow better and even make us learn more. It’s nice to have the trivia between commercials to see if you were paying attention. Overall the show is recommended if you are a fan of the character or want to trick someone into learning a little geography and history. Until then player…

Luigi Kawasaki

social hermit

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