STUDIO: Turner Home Entertainment
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 221 minutes
• Audio Commentary on all 20 episodes
• Chicken Nuggets
• Gag Reel
• VFX Comparison
• Alternate Audio
• Deleted Animatics
• Deleted Scenes
• Studio Tour
• Video Blogs

The Pitch

“Choking on the tail of popular culture like a slovenly Gen-X Ouroboros since 2005″

The Humans

Usually, Seth Green, Matthew Senreich, Breckin Meyer, Tom Root, Seth McFarlane, and/or Mila Kunis. But mostly Seth Green.

The Nutshell

Nerds buy action figures. Nerds get budget. Nerds play with action figures on camera. Nerds get paid.

The Lowdown

I like Robot Chicken. I like it lot. And for that, I worry.

I don’t worry because it’s a bad show. Quite the opposite, actually. I fully expected, going into the show’s third season, that the bloom would’ve been off the rose, Seth Green et al to get lazy and just start jamming in all they remember of the 80s with no caution to the wind, and for me to get bored shitless within three minutes. Let’s be fair, they DO jam in everything they remember of the 80s into the show (seriously, there’s a Turbo Teen joke. I’m baffled *I* still remember that shit.) but somewhere around the Game of Life turning into a case of teenage pregnancy and domestic violence for a poor pink peg, and an INS agent snapping the neck of Dora The Explorer‘s sidekick Monkey Boots’ at the Mexican border, the uncontrollable, hearty laughter was back in full force. Even better, the humor which didn’t rely on pop culture was getting ever so slightly sharper as time went on.

So, why the guilt, you ask? It’s not the show’s quality, per se. It’s the luck. The guys behind this show seem to have found every loophole to prevent it from becoming stale and exploit them like Joe Simpson’s kids. The 10 minute format and constant Ritalin-deficient channel changes prevent any one sketch or episode from outstaying its welcome, but also allow them to throw just about any “What if” concept against the wall and see if it sticks, no matter how dark, or cheesy, or obscure, and the people behind this show are just talented and funny enough to phrase easy humor in a way that strikes just the right chords with surprising regularity, and in its third season, the show’s accuracy rating is way up from seasons past, albeit with a lull in the final four or five eps (there’s a Tarzan sketch later that’s probably the biggest unfunny slog in all three season sets).

The problem’s not the show itself. It’s what it portends. It’s Silver Surfer to the Galactus that is pop culture-slathered Gen Xers growing up into artists. And it’s for that I worry about how much I approve of this show. It takes a sure hand to pull of the magic trick this show pulls off. Anything less, we get Revenge of the goddamned Fallen. And that’s troubling. A bunch of children raised on the modern definition of MTV mistaking their false memories of horrible television and video games with humor, without the comedic chops to make something creative of it. And that’s even taking out the idea that any of them are patient enough to bother with stop motion. The successes of this show are the harbingers of a lazy future.

And yet, I see Spawn getting into a Charlie Daniels fiddle showdown with Malebolgia, the ending to Million Dollar Baby being turned into a DirectTV ad, and Conan The Barbarian’s “What is best in life” line being turned into a big budget Rodgers and Hammerstein musical number, and it still brings out the giggles, which is, really, the point. Nothing more than 10 minutes of cheap laughs whenever you’re up past 11pm. And on that front, the show is a major success.

Just pray nobody gets any more of anybody else’s bright ideas.

The Package

It’s an Adult Swim DVD which means, of course, it’s fucking LOADED. For one thing, there’s audio commentary on every single episode. It’s not the most informative commentary you’ll ever hear–the fact that everyone involved has such a ball making this show almost prevents it–but what isn’t covered here is mostly covered elsewhere, and more importantly, the track itself is entertaining, with what seems like 5 people on the mic at all times, and guest stars galore.

“Chicken Nuggets” is one of those nifty “Follow the White Rabbit” type features where, on four specific episodes, a white chicken will pop up in the upper right, leading to a video commentary. Because there’s only two people on at a time it manages to stay on focus a lot more than the audio commentary, but it’s still pretty casual fare when all’s said and done.

The Gag Reel’s the one big disappointment in the set. One expected a featurette of people blowing their lines in the studio, or hilarious ad libs. What we get is a montage of just about every kill in the season. Lame.

The VFX comparison is short and sweet: A quick look at some of the bigger effects shots on the show pre-CG and after. The Alternate Audio section focuses on two sketches: The first, Donald Faison improvising his lines as Mumm-Ra in the Mrs. Doubtfire/Thundercats mash-up. If you’re up for two minutes of listening to Mumm-Ra masturbating to Cheetara licking herself, you’re in for a treat, I guess. The second, one of the best “stupid” jokes in the season, an episode of Law and Order re-enacted by an all-chicken cast, has Seth Green translating the plot of the show, and acting out his lines in clucks. Oddly enough, it’s as close as the show will ever get to being a clinic in emotive voice acting, as Green plays every chicken in the episode, differentiating each one with a personality and intensity all their own depending on the scene, which would still come across even if Green wasn’t narrating who’s speaking when.

The deleted animatics could almost fill up a third disc by themselves, and the only reason they don’t is because the quality varies more wildly than the fully produced show. There’s strokes of genius (A folksy ditty about people dying horrible, strange deaths during Manifest Destiny, a Last Starfighter/Street Fighter mash up, a too-meta-for-its-own-good Dilbert sketch), but a ton of complete failures (A Mike Fasolo Christmas being top of the list), and Green and his guest commentators (including Seth McFarlane’s shit-eating grin) are upfront and honest about why these never saw the light of the stop-motion stage. Same goes for the deleted scenes, though except for the extended Mousetrap sketch, nothing here’s really missed from the show.

The Studio Tour and Video Blogs are just as in depth about the process of making stop motion as anything you’d find on the fantastic Nightmare Before Christmas set that came out last year, and even then, I doubt you’d ever seen Henry Selick running out to say “HOLY SHIT, THE PUPPET DEPARTMENT’S MAKIN’ MOTHERFUCKIN’ MONKEYS!” So, in that regard, it’s even better.

Basically, more than you would ever expect a show like this to ever get or deserve.

9 out of 10