Getting season two of Robot Chicken, volume one of Moral Orel, volume two of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and volume three of Space Ghost Coast to Coast just seemed like a bonus. Well worth the suggested retail price of $69.98 for Adult Swim fans who haven't already purchased any of the included sets.
The pilots are a mixed bag, but mostly good. The Best of Totally for Teens is a live action parody of a moralistic teen variety show hosted by thirtysomethings trying to be hip. It's a promising premise, one that should maybe be revisited, but the pilot is a bit of a mess. It hits topics ripe for satire in the format like teen insecurity, drugs, and sex, and has the right look for Adult Swim.
This is an early review.
This two-parter really made me hate Clay Puppington, and I don't think I can say that about any other cartoon character. Hell, Cartman from South Park has done tons of horrible things, even indirectly killed people, but watching Clay treat Orel so poorly and so dismissively made me want to break off his frail, wire-supported arms.
Clay: Orel, you know you shouldn't upset your mother by coming home with dirty clothes, because then your mother talks to your father, and no one wants that.
In my last review I said that Moral Orel would benefit tremendously by being a half-hour, rather than an eleven-minute, show. Creator Dino Stamatopoulos has said the same thing in interviews. There's simply too much subtext to cram into such a short amount of time.
(S02E12) Stop-motion animated sex is kind of disturbing. While watching this episode I wondered how much needed to be cut to make it suitable for air. Perhaps nothing needed to be cut, but this was certainly one of the more sexually graphic episodes.
The series was renewed for a third season recently, but I wonder how deep the "idea well" is for a series like Moral Orel. The city of Moralton and the denizens therein are trapped in their own little world, and it's not a world like Robot Chicken or Family Guy where gags can just come from anywhere, and it's not a satire of everything like The Simpsons. I'm obviously a fan of the show and its menagerie of characters struggling to appear righteous while committing all the sins us "normal" folks do, but the Moral Orel universe is so specifically constructed to represent a certain way of life I can't imagine it continuing further without starting to repeat itself.
Note: This is an early review. The episode airs Sunday, or you can watch it here now.
Clay: Orel, throw dogma a bone: pray correctly.
I liked this episode. I didn't love it, but I liked it.
First, the animation and effects keep improving with every subsequent episode, and this one had several moments where I was really impressed with what they were able to accomplish, especially with the dream-like meditation scenes: Orel's room disassembling and reassembling as he slips out of, and back into, reality was unlike anything the show has done before, and his encounter with a Buddha who speaks like a Southern waitress was probably the pinnacle of the episode, a combination of great visual effects and funny, but poignant (but weird) dialog.
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.
(S02E04) Sadness is nature's spankings. - Clay Puppington
Those of us who have been watching Moral Orel since the beginning know that the show is more complex than it appears on the surface. The inner tensions within his own family and the other grown ups in Moralton were hinted at in the first season and have come more into focus this season. I'm not a television writer, but I imagine trying to meld the funny and the emotional into an eleven-minute amalgam can't be easy, which is why I think the "slow reveal" approach has worked so well for Moral Orel. In this episode, when Orel finds out his mother might have another family, the scene doesn't feel like it was suddenly sprung on us out of nowhere, because Bloberta's unhappiness and detachment has been part of the show's subtext since it first aired a year ago.
In the beginning, Dino Stamatopoulos created Moral Orel, and it was good.
Anyway, if you read my interview with Dino, you know that at some point Moral Orel would be getting the versatile digital treatment, and Warner Bros. has just announced that Volume 1 will be in stores March 20, 2007. The set will include fifteen episodes, and I'm going to assume that means the ten episodes that comprised season one plus the first five episodes from season two (Dino also told me in an e-mail that'll most likely be the case). I tend to like my DVD sets in seasons rather than volumes, but when the episodes are only about 11 minutes long sans commercials, this approach does make more sense. No official word yet on extras, though Dino tells me they have recorded commentaries for the episodes.
(Left to right: Scott Adsit, Jay Johnston and Dino Stamatopoulos)
Dino Stamatopoulos has written for some of the funniest cult comedy series in the last ten years, including Mr. Show, TV Funhouse, Tom Goes to the Mayor, and most recently Moral Orel, an oft-misunderstood stop-animated cartoon created by Stamatopoulos himself. He's also written for other series, including Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Mad TV.
With the new second season of Moral Orel starting November 12, Stamatopoulos and I spoke on the phone about what fans could expect in the new season, and about TV comedy in general.
(S01E02) This is an early review courtesy of Adult Swim Fix. The televised version will air Sunday late night on Adult Swim.
This initial season of Moral Orel has been shown entirely out of order due to issues with standards and practices, though it hasn't really affected the series all that much since every episode works as a stand-alone anyway. In this particular episode, Orel figures out a way that he can masturbate and not spur God's wrath, and I can only imagine what they had to cut out to make this acceptable for television.
The episode begins at Orel's school, probably the only public school where "Jesus" could be an answer on a science test. Orel decides to use the bathroom not to go "number one" or "number two," but to go "number three." He only learned about "number three" recently, and like most adolescent boys, he can't get enough of it. The janitor catches him in the act and sends him to the principal, who explains to Orel that masturbation is actually worse than murder, and spouts off this fractured logic: "Oral, there are some things that are burned so deep into a person's subconscious that you forget just why they're there. You only know that they've scarred you in such a horrible and personal way that they must be right."
Dad: You need to start behaving like more of an adult around here.
Orel: But dad, I'm only twelve.
Dad: That's no excuse. Why your own personal hero, Jesus, was very mature at your age.
Orel: He was?
Dad: Of course. At twelve he was already busy proving the Jews wrong.
It's been over two months since there has been a new episode of Moral Orel on Adult Swim. So far out of the ten episodes made for this season we've seen only seven, which means we have three episodes still unseen. It also means I can do basic math in my head. Good for me.
Anyway, last night I caught one of Adult Swim's always informative "bumps" which read that those "lost" episodes will air starting next Sunday. If you're a fan of the show like I am and you thought it had gone away, don't worry. Here's what's coming up:
Episode 9, "Maturity," will air on May 14.
Episode 8, "Loyalty," will air on May 21.
The second episode will also air, though they haven't announced a date for that one just yet. Of course, I'll be covering these episodes once again in all their blasphemous glory.
Any show that views religion through a satirical lens is bound to be misunderstood. The Simpsons dealt with religious themes from the beginning and caught a lot of flak until it became clear that the target of its humor was not "God" but rather how human beings interpret religion and spirituality. The same could be said for South Park, especially with the recently vilified "Bloody Mary" episode. While South Park's approach is certainly more abrasive, neither it nor The Simpsons ever denies that God exists. The satirical crosshairs are always pointed directly at us lowly terrestrial beings.
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