The holidays will have a lot to offer fans of all types of entertainment, including those of us who enjoy some pretty sick and twisted stuff. For those of you who enjoy grown-up animation, Adult Swim has released Adult Swim in a Box, a massive 12-DVD set that includes volumes of several of their classic series, as well as some of their more popular recent efforts. In all, six different programs are represented in the box, each a season’s worth of episodes. This collection is a decent mix of funny, bizarre and down right repulsive animation, the type of entertainment that has made the channel a big hit with stoners, college students and insomniacs.
Included in Adult Swim in a Box are: Space Ghost Coast to Coast, one of Adult Swim’s original hits. In it, the Saturday Morning super hero Space Ghost was re-imagined as a talk show host and the end result was often hilarious. Volume Three, the collection included here, contains 24 extended episodes including appearances by Beck, Rob Zombie and the always unpredictable Andy Dick. The success of Space Ghost in the late ’90s led to several spinoffs, one of which was Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I like Aqua Teen Hunger Force a lot. Despite its limited animation and strange setup (its heroes are an angry milkshake, a box of french fries and a mass of ground meat), I find the writing and performances biting and funny. Volume 2 contains 13 episodes, commentary, deleted scenes and a feature on the creation of the series.
Another one of the “classic” Adult Swim series included in the box set is Sealab 2021. Like Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Sealab 2021 incorporates stock animation footage (from a series called Sealab 2020) and new dialogue written for the old footage. The season 2 set has 13 episodes and several bonus features including commentary on all 13 episodes and a tribute to the late actor Harry Goz, voice of the show’s deranged “Captain Murphy.”
As I said, Adult Swim in a Box also contains several of the new voices in Adult Swim, including Morel Orel, a clever sendup of those stop-motion Christian shows I knew as a kid. Orel is a gullible do-gooder who gets into predicaments like raising the dead. I like the series’ stop-motion animation a great deal, yet I wasn’t always laughing. Mostly I sat watching with a smile of admiration. Metalocalypse is nicely drawn, but it’s not my taste at all. The show follows the misadventures of extreme death metal band Dethklock. I liked the character design and the artwork, but the gratuitous violence felt pointless and the show in general rather unfunny. On the other hand, this box set includes the uncensored Season 2 of the sketch series Robot Chicken. Loose and rapid fire, Robot Chicken throws so many jokes at you that even when one fails completely, there are 20 more right behind it. Robot Chicken is critically loved and has won many awards. This show is a winner and holds up the tradition of Adult Swim.
The bonus of the box is the disc full of Adult Swim pilots. There are six pilots total on this special DVD. The two I thought stood out were Korgoth of Barbaria and Welcome to Eltingville. Adult Swim in a Box contains a great deal of entertainment. The nice thing about this collection is that it’s priced under $70, whereas you could pay over $160 if you were to buy all of these collections individually. For fans of Adult Swim, it is a treasure trove of goodies. For the casual fan, like me, it’s hit and miss.
Adult Swim has also released seasons 1 and 2 of their popular series Xavier Renegade Angel on a separate DVD collection. This series, which uses motion-capture CG animation, is one of the most surreal mindfucks I’ve seen in some time. In it, Xavier, a bird-beaked, blond-haired freak who walks around in a loin cloth and tennis shoes and has a snake for a hand, attempts to be a philosopher out to help people. Instead, he’s more of a bumbling egotist who only makes matters worse in any situation. I hated this show; not once did I even crack a smile. The combination of new agey b.s. and pointless violence (with a dash of bestiality thrown in) really turned me off. But what do I know? The show is a hit, placing in the top 10 of key demographics for late night programming. For the life of me, I don’t know why. Perhaps one of you out there reading can explain the appeal. Mind you, I understand the talent that goes in to making this show and obviously they’re doing something right to garner such popularity, but I am definitely not the intended audience. For those of you who are fans of Xavier, the 20-episode collection is available now.