Question: I wanted to know if you've seen Sealab 2021, on Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" line-up. This is (usually) one of the funniest shows I've seen in a long time, and I just wanted someone else's opinion on it. — Derek W., Richmond, Va.
Televisionary: I couldn't agree more, Derek. I've made no secret of my undying love of the Cartoon Network. And I've thought for some time that the original Adult Swim late-night fare — Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Brak Show, Harvey Birdman, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, etc. — is funnier by far than nearly all of the formulaic, anemic, laugh-free refuse vomited up by the comic geniuses at the major networks. (Gee, think I feel too strongly about this? And please note that I said "major" — HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm and BBC America's The Office are downright hilarious and I don't want anyone thinking I'm lumping them in with the big four's dreck.)
Sealab 2021 in particular is, along with Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad of the ATHF, some of the strangest stuff that's ever been on TV.Perfect example: when Capt. Murphy, alone in Sealab, tipped a vending machine over on himself trying to get a freebie and became addicted to the venom from the scorpion that kept stinging him. I left the room for a minute and missed the ending, in which (I'm told) the scorpion apparently gave birth while its venom transformed Murphy into a Hulk-like scorpion lord with babies running all over him. I walked back into the room and asked my wife what I missed. Her answer: a soft "I'm not sure I can explain...." And then there was the episode in which Sealab was imploding and Dr. Quinn couldn't get anyone to help him save it because they were all too busy debating the finer points of allowing one's brain to be placed in a robot body. Or the one where the captain got himself and the whole crew stuck in the storage closet. Or the one where he lost his HappyCake oven and made the crew go looking for it in a sub, which got them attacked by a giant squid. (I could go on and on, so I'll make do with saying once again that the truly weird Sealab is a favorite.)
My one complaint about Adult Swim is that the Cartoon Network folks are muddying its brilliance with reruns of series they didn't produce. Futurama is sometimes worth a laugh, but it's not up to the Harvey Birdman or Aqua Teen standards. (I do think Home Movies usually passes muster, though.) And while I think Cowboy Bebop and the other anime stuff can be cool, it doesn't really fit with the comedy.
But hey, who am I to kvetch? I find myself actually singing stupid Brak tunes and repeating Sealab and Aqua Teen lines incessantly. I can't say that about any network comedy except for The Simpsons. (And for those of you who haven't had the pleasure, stay up late or set the VCR for the 11 pm-to 2 am/ET block, Sunday through Thursday nights.