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Adult Swim DVDs:
Aqua Teen Hunger Force and
Space Ghost Coast To Coast

Before accepting shows as diverse as Trigun and Futurama into the line-up, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim had a pretty homogeneous sensibility. That is, deadpan humor full of awkward pauses followed by lines straight out of left field, revolving around situations that were just plain bizarre. As Kyle Baker commented about Cartoon Network, it was cartoons that don't move.

But damn, are they funny.

It's only appropriate that for the first Adult Swim home video release, Cartoon Network went to the granddaddy of the concept - and then threw in the strangest of its children. Both Space Ghost Coast To Coast and Aqua Teen Hunger Force debuted last week, in collections subtitled "Volume One." For fans of either series, they're a must.

Both collections focus on the shows themselves, with minimal extras. The expected episode commentaries are here, but with the cultish nature of Adult Swim's fanbase, I can't say if they offer anything new. Certainly over the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Rabbot," there's a lot from the creators about shaping the concept, and they take the task fairly seriously. The Space Ghost commentaries not so much.

That "Rabbot" commentary actually comes over the original cut of the pilot, much longer and cruder (in style, not content) than the aired version. In some scenes pencil sketches instead of full animation illustrate the soundtrack. Considering the nature of the show, it's just possible that that was a joke considered and discarded.

The more you watch Aqua Teen Hunger Force, the more hypnotic it becomes. Of all the shows of the original Adult Swim block, this was the one I dismissed out of hand. But watching three episodes in a row, it started to make a strange sort of sense. At the network's insistence, these animated fast foodstuffs became detectives, and though the creators execute that begrudgingly, it allows everything to fall into place. If a sentient Rubik's Cube can solve crimes (as it did, without irony, on Saturday mornings in the early eighties), then why not Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad?

If gaining an appreciation of this concept is wrong, I don't want to be right.

The disc also includes a promo done for the San Diego Comic Convention in 2002. If, like me, you were not a big fan of the show, watch this extra only after you've fallen under the spell of a couple of episodes. It makes more sense that way.

Rather than any extra promos, the Space Ghost DVD includes an art gallery. It's probably for completists only, but it's still cool to see the original Alex Toth influence. Rounding it out is a holiday music video by Zorak, sort of singing Jingle Bells. Sort of.

A lot of Space Ghost Coast To Coast feels like a strange time capsule, as would any talk show. The rhythm of the show is, in a way, timeless, but seeing the guest list for the first couple of seasons definitely makes an unspoken comment on the uncertainties of fame. If pressed to describe who the show attracts, it might be easiest to describe as B-Level celebrities. And yet, in the first episode a pre-icon Ashley Judd shows up to utter just one confusing line (played over and over) about making chocolate pie. (She's also badly made-up - definitely a pre-fame appearance.) To make it more surreal, the headliner of the episode is …Judy Tenuta. Scratch your heads elsewhere.

Of all the episodes, the one that should touch the hearts of Fanboys is "Batmantis," featuring Adam West and a pair of catwomen, Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt. Threatened offstage by a villainess calling herself "Your Mom," Space Ghost wilts. Luckily (?), Zorak dons cape and cowl to fight the menace, though he instead spends more time trying to pick up Meriwether.

An acquired taste, perhaps, and the animated chat show is really more strange than offensive. Donny Osmond serves as a guest, for gosh sakes, even though he clearly only thinks he knows what he's doing there.

But for anybody you know who's sense of humor is the slightest bit out there, these DVDs should be a gift right up their alley.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Volume 1

Space Ghost Coast to Coast Volume 1

Derek McCaw


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