Moral Orel: The Unholy Version, Volume One - DVD review
A simple search on this site for the words "moral" and "orel" should provide you with all you need to know about my feelings for this Adult Swim series, but in a nutshell: I've been a fan since the first Christmas episode aired back in December of 2005.
As it turns out, "The Best Christmas Ever" was actually supposed to be the last episode of the first season, something that is discussed at length on the audio commentaries of this DVD set, which hits stores on April 24. Going back and watching the shows in order (the set contains all of season one and the first five episodes of season two), it's easier to see how the writing and animation improved as the creators became more and more comfortable with the town of Moralton and its citizens. The first ten episodes follow the same basic template of Orel trying to do good but ultimately having his intentions backfire, resulting in such chaos as attacks by Christian zombies who pray before they devour people, and a rash of pregnancies across town caused by Orel injecting his sperm into women while they sleep using a pastry bag.
The latter plot is from "God's Chef," an episode that was delayed because it didn't quite meet the qualifications passed down by standards and practices. It's also, in many ways, the quintessential Moral Orel episode: the only reason Orel does such an unthinkable act is because he sincerely believes he's doing the right thing by not wasting his seed. If Moral Orel were nothing more than a kid doing sick things without remorse, it would have gotten old quickly, but it's that underlying innocence that makes it work.
The show really hits its stride in the second season as the episodes begin to focus more on the other citizens of Moralton and not so much on Orel exclusively, but season one has a few standout episodes of its own, including the aforementioned Christmas episode and "The Blessed Union" in which Orel meets Stephanie, a heavily-pierced lesbian who runs the only sex shop in town. Orel is too young and naive to understand sex, or why it's necessary to get his "johnston" pierced, and the friendship he strikes up with Stephanie is really quite touching.
As for the DVD set itself, the biggest selling point for fans will be the uncensored episodes. The audio commentaries contain some information about the series, but at eleven minutes per episode it becomes clear that's easier said than done. At least the behind-the-scenes footage gives fans a better idea as to how the show comes together.
The DVD also includes the original opening animation, which is not much different than the opening they ended up using, except God's no longer shaking a bird from his middle finger, thus "flipping the bird" in two different ways. Also included is an early scene with Stamatopoulos doing the voice of Reverend Putty, a role that later went to William Salyers, a man Stamatopoulos admits was much better suited to the part.
Also included is the Adult Swim panel from Comic Con, which includes an optional audio commentary from creator Dino Stamatopoulos (along with writers and performers Scott Adsit and Jay Johnston), not to mention a second commentary from Venture Bros creators Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick, who were also on the panel with the Moral Orel gents (two of which were drunk, see if you can guess which) and Seth Green and Matthew Senreich of Robot Chicken.
Seeing three wildly different shows on the same panel is a testament to how willing Adult Swim is to take chances on new ideas. Whether or not you're a fan of what Adult Swim offers, it's hard to deny that it is the only place on the TV landscape where ideas too outlandish for any other channel or network are given the chance to find an audience. While networks are afraid to try any idea that hasn't already been done a hundred times before, or simply want to recreate an American version of something from overseas, Adult Swim is giving talented people a venue for their work, and that's beyond admirable. Granted, Adult Swim offers content that's not exactly suited to network television or even some basic cable channels, but that spirit of letting new ideas either thrive or die on their own merit is something that more people in the TV biz should try to emulate.
Oh yeah: there's at least two "easter eggs" on the DVD, and they're pretty easy to find.