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Robot Chicken
Season One

Fanboys can trace the evolution of Robot Chicken back to the page of Wizard Magazine. As it turns out from watching the just-released DVD, that's a direct line of descent with co-creator Matthew Senreich, who apparently worked on "Twisted Mego Theater" for that magazine. Okay, some of you knew that, but I didn't.

What I did know was that Robot Chicken is brilliant, reminding us that Seth Green deserves his reputation as a talented creator. Let's forget Four Kings if we can. That's just a paycheck. Robot Chicken is a passion.

The show pokes sharp fingers at a lot of sacred cows. Certainly the writers' attack on Peanuts seems both so wrong and so right. While some sequences like the Schultz parody run quite lengthily, Robot Chicken also dares to keep its comedy short and fresh. If a joke only needs ten seconds, that's all it gets.

While you might consider that a side-effect of a short attention span, it actually serves the comedy well. Better, at least, than Saturday Night Live, even on a good night. In fifteen minutes (less, really), Robot Chicken will have you reeling from its imagination.

Sure, it often leaps off from cartoons and action figures of the eighties. In its first season, we saw Voltron get served and both the Thundercats and G.I. Joe hit hard times. Maybe the show went back there once too often, as Cobra Command met The Office. Still, that segment, called "The Terrordome," worked extremely well. And the show also did a strange public service by chronicling Optimus Prime's death from prostate cancer. The bit was ridiculous, sure, but actually got strong approval from doctors around the country.

Just think, though - do you want a guy that watches Robot Chicken to be milking your prostate?

Many sketches reach back further, though. If you grew up in the seventies, you will notice a curious amount of Action Jackson figures and Mego World's Greatest Super-Heroes toiling away in the service of toilet humor. The brilliant artisans of Robot Chicken sculpt many more themselves, though, creating whoever is necessary for a given sketch.

Celebrities abound on this show, as it parodies pop culture with deadly accuracy. What's more surprising, though, is that often the actual celebrities do the voices of their animated action figures. On one level it makes sense that Green and Senreich have buddies like Topher Grace and Sarah Michelle Gellar making cameo appearances. You could even stretch that to include young starlet Scarlett Johanssen.

But when Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise drop by in "Gold Dust Gasoline," you know this show has had an impact. Even Mark Hamill reprises his role as Luke Skywalker because, let's face it, George Lucas was never going to get around to it anyway.

Aside from collecting the complete first season, the DVD set includes deleted scenes and alternate voicework, as well as a lot of behind the scenes features. Wisely, only a few episodes from the Sony website prototype show, Sweet J Presents, are included. I say wisely because already I'm eager for Season Two, and Adult Swim is going to need more extras.

Having them all laid out in one package is about the best gift I could have gotten (this month - if you count the Justice League and Batman Beyond season sets as being in a different month), as every episode has something that just gets funnier and funnier with each viewing. Then you can share them with unsuspecting friends.

While searching online, I've also discovered that the end theme is the same as the music playing in the mall during the original Dawn of the Dead, only clucked by chickens. Thanks, Seth Green, for making me laugh unknowingly at the undead. Now they'll get me for sure. But at least I'll die having seen "the Darkest Sketch Ever."

Robot Chicken, Vol. 1

Derek McCaw


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