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by Rob Allstetter
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Unlike pro baseball players and recording artists, animated series rarely suffer from the "Sophomore Slump." The second seasons of cartoons are usually better than the first for a variety of reasons, mostly that the creators have more experience and time to prepare a show for the second go-round.

Such is the case with Kids' WB!'s Men in Black: The Series, which begins its second season on Saturday, Sept. 19. Thirteen episodes -- based on the movie, which was based on Lowell Cunningham's comic book -- are being produced at Columbia TriStar.

"The second season will be the same as the first, only more of it," said producer/writer Duane Capizzi. "There's more spills, more thrills and more chills basically.

"We got out of the gate on last season so quickly that we had very little development time. Between the seasons, we were able to go in and discover what was working and what wasn't and we kind of fine-tuned everything. Not what I would call major overhauls, certainly, but we just went into season two with the attitude of pumping everything up.

"So, as a result, season two is going to have the same kind of storytelling, but it will have more action and more laughs."

There will be one significant change from the first season. Gregg Berger, whose credits include Duckman, Channel Umptee-3 and Spider-Man, is taking over as the voice of Agent K. Burger's voice is already being heard on promos for the show.

"We wanted to bring some of the Tommy Lee Jones' kind of twang to the role," Berger said. "We sort of missed that the first time out. We're still playing the character the same, very dry, very deadpan, just a little bit more of Tommy Lee Jones' spirit."

Keith Diamond reprises the role of Agent J, and viewers will find the character a little more in line with the movie character in the second season.

"We came under fire for not playing J as cool as Will Smith played him in the feature," Capizzi. "Our reasoning -- and we felt very strongly about it -- was that we needed a contrast between K and J and we felt that from a pure entertainment level the feature worked, but from a character standpoint, the movie worked best in the first half, when he was a rookie.

"You got a clearer cut sense of a difference. J was really the fish out of water; they wanted him to be the audience identification point. This is a guy who, when he was on the streets of New York, was on top of his game. But, this world of MIB, is so strange, so bizarre, he's always several steps behind, trying to play catch-up.

"We thought that worked really well in the first season, helping to define the organization and the world."

But in the second season, instead of being several steps behind K, J will be just slightly behind him the world of MIB.

"We're playing it almost in real time as this is his second year on the force and he's hip to the game now," Capizzi said. "We've made him much cooler, more of a wise-cracker, more sarcastic, more on top of things."

The second season will also feature more of the supporting cast, including characters such as Frank the Pug and the Worm Guys. Troy the Symbiote, a popular character from the first season, will also be featured, becoming an intern at MIB.

Some villains will also return, including Alpha.

"We've managed to rebirth him -- as you will -- even though he was presumably destroyed last season," Capizzi said. "In fact, we rebirth him a couple of times this season. We get into this pattern of destroying him and then rejuvenating him -- sort of like a chrysalis. He'll be back in several different forms, but I don't want to give away too much on that."

Also look for a new villain called Drekk. "He has an extremely hot temper and hot hands to match," Capizzi said.

Among the highlights for the second season is a visit of the agents to Tinseltown.

"We are going to do an episode where J and K go to Hollywood and solve a Hollywood mystery," Capizzi said. "The premise of that story is that all the aliens you see in big-budget studio films are actually real aliens. The 1950's were a time where they were guys in rubber suits, but, as aliens infiltrated society, the MIBs managed to get them employment and it kind of made sense."

Another episode has K and J becoming super-heroes.

"They get infected by alien technology and find that they've gained super- powers," Capizzi said. "So we're kind of doing our super-hero episode. But, of course, a trio of villains have also come into contact with the same piece of alien technology, and it's battle royal time."

Capizzi was especially excited with the season finale.

"The agents actually take one step into space," he said. "We're never going to fly them to other planets in the series, but we do have a space station adventure planned."

Capizzi said a lot of the same writers return for the second season, and Steve Roberts, who worked on Max Headroom, is also contributing. Rafael Rosado has joined the crew as supervising director.

It was hoped that Cunningham, the creator of Men in Black, would write an episode of the second season, but he could not because of a scheduling conflict.

"We came really close, but it didn't work out," Capizzi said. "We are going to make it a point to have Lowell write one for season three."

That is, of course, if there is a third season -- which, based on the quality of the second season, is something Capizzi feels confident will happen.

"Everybody who has been privy to season two has agreed that it's really a knockout," Capizzi said. "Season one was great, but season two is even better from all standpoints."

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