Released on DVD last week is one of my guiltiest pleasures, “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Vol. 2,” from Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup.
A couple of 7s ago, I was going on about “Wonderful Days,” a visually stunning piece of animation with a mediocre story.
Well, this is sort of the opposite.
“Aqua Teen Hunger Force” uses the lowest level of CGI to complement a 1950s radio show-style script that is just as brilliant heard as seen. “Aqua Teen” works for people who read comic books for the stories more so than the illustrations.
The animation isn’t necessary; it’s just one of the perks.
“ATHF” is about punchy dialogue, warped humor and masterful comedic timing, so much so that it hardly matters that the jokes are coming from talking fast-food products – Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad – their meth-head next-door neighbor, Atari-esque Moonmen, and rapping, diaper-wearing spiders.
If you’re already familiar with the series, then chances are you either find it spleen-bustingly funny or a total waste of mental energy.
For you nightbirds, there are plenty of opportunities to catch “ATHF,” as Cartoon Network airs back-to-back 15-minute episodes Monday through Thursday at midnight and 3 a.m., and single episodes Saturday and Sunday at midnight and again at 3 a.m. But the extra features on the DVD, along with some of the series’ finest and funniest moments, make it a must-have for “Aqua Teen” disciples.
The DVD contains “Future Wolf II” a mockumentary of the origin of the series. Plus there is a bonus episode featuring Willie Nelson as himself, a guest on Adult Swim’s “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” where Master Shake and Frylock hijack Space Ghost’s talk show. There’s also the classic episode “Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future,” featuring Danzig as himself.
What’s missing is a catalog of music videos from old school rapper Schooly D. (who performs “Aqua Teen’s” opening song) and Adult Swim geek rapper MC Chris.
Speaking of cartoons with cool tunes, also out on DVD last week is the first season of “Sealab 2021,” which recycles old analog masters of the 1972 series “Sealab 2020,” À la “Space Ghost Coast to Coast.”
MC Chris not only supplies lots of the music, he also plays the voice of Hesh, a crew member on “Sealab.” (Join Chris’ cult following and check out mp3s of “Fett’s Vette” – an ode to everyone’s favorite Bounty Hunter from a galaxy far, far away – and other nerdcore rap songs at www.mcchris.com.)
“Sealab 2021” (airing at 11:30 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. Saturday nights on Cartoon Network) contains some of the best of Harry Goz’s run as the voice of Captain Murphy before he died last year. And Erik Estrada (remember ChiPs?) is priceless as “Vitamin M” Marco.
The humor in this Adult Swim gem is as dark as the bottom of the ocean where the Sealab sits (the majority, if not the entire crew, is killed off in almost every episode, “South Park’s” Kenny style). There’s also light social satire. Like “Aqua Teen,” the “Sealab” episodes are less-than-15-minute hits. And, if you’ve got a taste for the twisted, it’s as funny as it is shameless.
Caution: The program block is called Adult Swim for a reason, and is intended for a mature audience.