BUY IT AT AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO: Turner Home Entertainment
RATED: NOT RATED
RUNNING TIME: 228 Minutes
• 6 never before seen pilot episodes
• Anime Talk Show
• Comic Con 2004
• Deleted Scenes
• Gallery of art/music
• Star Bar/Behind the scenes
• Unknown Hinson, Animation Master, Cartoon Craftsman
• Audio Commentary on select episodes
They’re hillbilly squid. Throw in some Patrick Swayze, .38 Special and frequent and graphic violence and you’ve got something that taps into the formula that Adult Swim has been feeding off of lately.
Unknown Hinson, Daniel McDevitt, Charles Napier, Dana Snyder, Patricia French and a smattering of uncredited guest starts throughout the volume.
Early Cuyler (Hinson) has just been released from prison and looks to reunite with the son he’s never known in Rusty (McDevitt). Ever since he was birthed, Rusty has lived with his Aunt ‘Lil (French) who runs a hair salon/peanut eatery that is a front for her illegal drug production. Joining the fray is the senile Granny (Synder) who mostly pines for sex and television alternately. Also included in the shenanigans at numerous points is the local sheriff who seems to be more of a friend to Early that an enforcer of laws and Early’s boss Dan Halen who runs just about everything in town and has the multi-story building that hovers over it.
Fellow CHUD/Collider contributor Andre Dellamorte aptly described Aqua Teen Hunger Force as a show that works as “anti-narrative”, stating that the show’s allure is in how it constantly flouts convention and refuses to be linear or have a plot. Squidbillies, with many of the creative minds behind ATHF involved, seems to have one foot in the ATHF sensibility while the other allows for a more plot driven form of animated television; allowing for storylines to develop even while the plot gears tend to find themselves grinded to a halt at many points in each episode.
The place where the anti-narrative predilection seems to shine through most is during the long stretches of dialogue between the main characters. It’s here that their general hillbilliness comes through most acutely (although the running gag of Early’s changing hats is both hilarious and pretty revealing as well); mangled English, circular logic (if any) and arguments that spring out of nothingness take up a good part of the show’s running time on an episode-by-episode basis. However, they do manage to include a good deal of conceptually funny material as well; the inanimate hardware product race they view at an Atlanta Braves game and the mistaken identity of the therapist Early and the sheriff enlist for help with their issues are both examples of well-thought and properly executed comedy. This addition of the conceptual to the absurd banter and scenarios that a show in the vein of ATHF helps make it a step above its predecessor.
Also working in this show’s favor is the stripped down style. The town sheriff is nothing more than a handful of squiggles in the form of a human body (like a child’s sketch) and even though the animation style becomes more realistic when the characters are put into violent situations, the design of the Squidbillies themselves are rather crude in their nature. However, this simplistic style belies the truth behind this production, there’s a lot of genuine artistry going on in this show. The backgrounds are the best I’ve ever seen on an Adult Swim animated show, as the artist behind them was allowed to go a little more abstract than the usual set which allows for beautiful looking forests and skylines. The country music is also suited to this show’s raw sensibilities and even the parodies that sneak in every so often (‘Thirsty Eyes’) feel fully-formed. This attention to mise en scene helps make the entire production feel richer than it could’ve been if everybody would’ve been satisfied to coast on the ‘har har redneck squid’ premise, and the viewer reaps the rewards.
As always with Adult Swim programming, there’s a little bit of the ineffable involved in what exactly makes something ‘funny’ on the show: is there something inherent in a woman saying of her erect nipple, “Why don’tcha stick that in your eye?” or is it the cumulative effect of nonsense layered atop of nonsense? In any event, even if some of the episodes weren’t laugh out loud funny and some of the characters grate on your nerves (the worst offender being the granny character, who is the most superfluous of all the characters, and her bits tend to be the most stream-of-conscious, which is the area I feel the show excels in least), it still manages to exhort a chuckle or two during each episode’s run time.
Seeing as how this is a show that works as a monument to abject stupidity, its no surprise that the most successful episodes are usually centered around a concept as stupid and illogical as the main characters: racism, religious fanaticism, and the pandering comedy of Larry the Cable Guy are all covered here and lead to some of the more successful bits the show has to offer. Ridiculous targets deserving of derision seem to connect with a show that is aiming to be ridiculous and derisive at its core. However, the creative zenith comes in the final Christmas-themed episode on the disc, where Santa Claus is captured and held hostage for the still-beating heart of Jeff Gordon. It not only features my favorite line from anything I’ve reviewed so far this year (too good for me to spoil, in fact), but is a well-paced and generally inventive way of tackling a Christmas special (this and Moral Orel’s fantastically depressing Christmas episode are on par with some of South Park’s finest yuletide-themed missals) that shows what the writers and staff are capable of. Perhaps future episodes of the series will pick up from the dizzying heights the last episodes left them on. In any case, I found it to be reasonably entertaining if not always funny, so it comes recommended.
As always, Adult Swim steps up to the plate in all facets of their DVD releases. The packaging shows thought being put into the aesthetic of each program (here with the made-to-look hand crafted packaging) and they never skimp on the supplements, showing that they understand their audience and they want to make the purchase worth their while, given the constant re-showing of episodes on a weekly basis. The show looks pretty good (although movement isn’t the animation’s strong suit, but that’s by design), although it’s not going to look any better than it already did on your TV in the past. There’s a goodly amount of extras here, even if some of them aren’t really particularly elucidating or entertaining, there’ll definitely be something here for the diehards who follow the show. There’s optional audio commentary for a few of the episodes spread out over the two discs, and they’re the laid back affairs that most Adult Swim commentaries tend to be with small bits of anecdotal information parsed out while mostly consisting of conversation between the actors/creators. The six never before seen pilots (on the menu listed as being ‘OF THE APOCALYPSE’) aren’t particularly invigorating (they’re cast reads while the screen displays the script itself) but are interesting to see how Squidbillies developed as time progressed (in fact, this seemingly simple premise has bedeviled the Adult Swim community for quite some time in terms of how to present the material to the audience). This is evidenced by the Comic Con 2004 teaser for the show, creating an epic buildup to a reveal of Early trying to shoot his chaw as he spits it in the air, waking up his nearly comatose grandmother next to him.
The deleted scenes are more line trims than anything, so watching a scene nearly identical to the original isn’t actually that fun. The Anime Talk Show is…different, to say that least; moderated by Space Ghost it features Early, Meatwad and a half shark half boy who constantly talks about how his human father put his penis in his mother’s shark vagina. That the absurdity ratchets up from there should be no surprise. The gallery of art and music is actually much better than most products of this ilk tend to be as I feel the art and music are two of the shows strong suits. The Star Bar behind the scenes interview is labeled as a circle jerk on the DVD menu, and it features a bunch of the shows artists and creators shootin’ the shit at a local bar complemented by some substantial behind-the-scenes footage. Definitely worth a view for fans of the program. I like the easy conversational tone it allows for even while interesting anecdotal information makes its way out. The Unknown Hinson featurette is one of those mockumentaries, this time following the life and times of the actor who supplies the voice of Early. It’s moderately funny (his temporal displacement watch at least amused me), but not a home run. Overall, a nice heaping of extras, as usually is the case with Adult Swim discs. They know their audience, that’s for sure.
7.8 out of 10