by Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch
Adult Swim, the late night adult cartoon programming block on the Cartoon Network, has unleashed a slew of new programs lately. Some of these have been one-shot specials and others are long-term series. We’re going to catch up with some of the more notable efforts from the people who gave us Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Sealab 2021.
First up, we have Squidbillies, which is largely the work of Dave Willis from the ATHF creative team. This tale of inbred squids living in the backwoods of Georgia is a veritable whitetrash-apalooza. The star is Early Cuyler, a squid that embodies just about every negative redneck stereotype imaginable. After an iffy first episode, Squidbillies has proven to be just as perversely funny as ATHF turned out to be. Subversive and wilder than you’d think a Cartoon Network show could be, Squidbillies could become a breakout hit, or at least a cult favorite. It’s a crudely drawn, yet skillfully crafted cartoon for people who think that “Deliverance” is one of the funniest comedies ever made.
12 Oz. Mouse, like hard liquor, explosives and pharmaceuticals is an acquired taste. Imagine if the late Hunter Thompson and comedian Steven Wright were held at gunpoint and forced to write a cartoon after a three day drunk. Now imagine that their hands were crushed with cinderblocks before they were then forced to draw this cartoon. That’s the spirit of 12 Oz. Mouse. 12 Oz. Mouse follows the adventures of a liquored-up mouse who drives a yellow jet taxi, robs banks and creates mayhem. It looks like it was drawn on cocktail napkins two minutes before last call. This cartoon will NEVER win any awards for animation. But if you find anarchy, violence and exploding stoners funny, this is the show for you.
The Boondocks, based on Aaron Macgruder’s controversial comic strip, despite having several laugh out loud moments is a bit of a disappointment. Maybe we’re just over-reacting to the hype, but we expected something better than this. For some reason, rather than imitate the style of the strip, the producers chose to make the show look like a generic anime influenced TV cartoon. The pedestrian animation is a bit of a distraction. The pseudo-militant ironic observations about race don’t quite work, at least in the early episodes. The show seems to rely too much on the shock value of repeatedly using the “N” word, but unlike Dave Chapelle’s show on Comedy Central, the jokes aren’t funny enough to justify it. You have to wonder if, rather than being a cartoon that demonstrates the futility of racism, that Boondocks will become the favorite cartoon of racist morons who just can’t get enough of hearing that word. If Boondocks can evolve beyond the simple shock humor, it may grow into an amusing and possibly important show. For now, we’ll take a wait and see attitude.
In what was probably a one-shot deal, Adult Swim recently ran a cartoon called Minoriteam, about a team of racial stereotypes who fight against “the white man.” There are two notable things about this cartoon: The racial jokes, though well intended, fell completely flat and were totally unamusing. However, the cartoon itself was done in the style of the 1960s “Marvel Superheroes” cartoons, which were barely animated and used artwork traced from the actual Marvel comics. If you can ignore the ham-handed, rather pathetic attempts at humor, you’re left with a nice visual tribute to the late Jack Kirby, whose influence on this cartoon is so strong that they even bothered to acknowledge him in the credits.
If they run this again, watch it with the sound off. It was written by Adam De La Pena, from Comedy Central’s Crank Yankers, which explains how it was totally devoid of laughs. In an unfortunate bit of timing, this show premiered the same night as Boondocks, and aired right before an episode of Squidbillies where Early Cuyler declares his hatred of “the white man.” It made it seem like it was white guilt night on Adult Swim. Minoriteam, with any luck, will not be picked up as a series. The joke didn’t even last 11 minutes without growing stale.
Next week, we’ll bring you the latest animation news about John K. and an Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, and we’ll take a look at some interesting Saturday morning cartoons.