Robot Chicken Season Two Uncensored - DVD review
A few days before an advanced copy of Robot Chicken Season Two arrived in the mail, I had been watching my Mission Hill DVD. For those who don't know, Mission Hill was the creation of Simpsons writers Josh Weinstein and Bill Oakley. It focused on a college graduate named Andy French, living the typical slacker existence of an aimless college grad. The series aired when I myself was an aimless, slacking twentysomething, so I found the series funny, poignant, and often heartbreakingly real.
I realized while watching it that Adult Swim hasn't had a series with that kind of substance in a long time. Series like Baby Blues and Home Movies have been replaced by weird post-modern fare like Aqua Teen Hunger Force* and the works of Tim and Eric, with very little programming left with any real emotion.
Out of the current lineup, only Venture Bros. and Moral Orel spring to mind as shows whose twisted humor is complemented by true emotional underpinnings. Folks who have read my previous posts about Adult Swim's programming know I also love the "weird" stuff, but the gulf between these types of shows is quite obvious.
Robot Chicken, whose second season DVD hits stores on September 4, is an example of a show with only one concern: to make you laugh. I could switch on the Cranky Old Man part of my brain and decry it as an example of everything wrong with television entertainment: it relies almost entirely on pop culture for its humor, it's chopped up in tiny bits for viewers with zero attention span, and it is so much a product of our times one questions if folks viewing it a decade from now will understand any of it.
But here's the thing: Robot Chicken does what it does really well. Creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich clearly share a love of pop culture references with Green's Family Guy boss and occasional Robot Chicken voice actor Seth MacFarlane, but where Family Guy will merely recreate moments from pop culture and call it humor, Robot Chicken's sketches are often amalgams of several different references rolled into one: Inspector Gadget becomes reimagined as the Terminator, Papa and Brainy Smurf try to solve murders a la David Fincher's Se7en, Fisher-Price Little People become the jury from 12 Angry Men, and so on. Every episode is a ten-minute love letter to Generations X and Y who grew up playing with the dolls and action figures brought to life in each episode, and who live in an age where access to almost every movie, book, commercial and television program is right at our fingertips. Robot Chicken, boiled (broiled?) down to its essence, is a reflection of a culture with an access to the past previous generations could only dream of.
I was also sent a copy of the Season One DVD due to some obvious miscommunication with my contact at Warner Video, but it's worth mentioning here that both DVDs are worth having. Not much changed style-wise between the first and second season, but having the ability to pause the episodes is a godsend, especially for those bits that literally only last a couple of seconds. The second season DVD is especially nice because it's uncensored, so you can hear your favorite toys cursing just like you made them do when you were little and playing alone in your room. The DVD's supplemental material is the usual fare: deleted scenes, promos, audio outtakes, commentary, and at least one easter egg featuring a Nerf gun battle among the Robot Chicken staff.
Trying to watch too many episodes at once can wear thin quickly, so I recommend avoiding the "Play All" option and only viewing one or two episodes in a sitting. The episodes are brief for a reason: they throw a lot at you in a short amount of time, and if you spend too much time with them and start to space off, you miss a lot of the rapid-fire gags that make Robot Chicken such a fun viewing experience.
*Yes, I realize that ATHF was one of the original shows on the Adult Swim lineup, but it's an example of the type of shows I'm talking about.