Monday, August 24, 2015

A Milkshake, a Meatball and a Box of Fries walk into a room...

2001 - 2015

The end.

We bid you goodnight.


After 15 years and 138 episodes Aqua Teen Hunger Force has rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisibule.  The final double-sized episode premiered Sunday night and the show went off as true to itself as Breaking Bad.  Frylock died when the jewel on his back burned out, Master Shake was devoured by hostile clams and Meatwad grew up to marry a mortgage lender and raise two kids in the suburbs. What else would you expect?

Aqua Teen was the first home-grown show on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block that wasn't based on old Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters.  The concept went for broke in its craziness, three human-sized talking pieces of fast food living in the New Jersey suburbs and fighting crime when they weren't sneaking into the pool of their next door neighbor, Carl, a fat, balding, veritable Goodfellas extra.  On the very first show they were dealing with a giant dancing, mechanical rabbit that had escaped from the lab of a nearby mad scientist, and things progressed from there each week in 11-minute bursts of concentrated insanity.  Pretty soon they dropped the crime fighting gimmick and became just three roommates encountering love-starved mummies, thieving moon men, radioactive zombie pets, and a blood-drinking spider named Willie Nelson that lived in their attic. The personalities of the main characters balanced each other very well. Frylock was the nerdy voice of reason, Shake was a loud, obnoxious pile of "me, me, me" and Meatwad was an indestructible, child-brained innocent who cheerfully endured all of Shake's tortures.

The show's creators, Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro, amazingly wrote every episode and developed a framework flexible enough to allow for shows that focused on Carl's tribulations like being visited by the spirit of New York Giant Bart Oatts,  finding out what his life would have been like if he had a full head of hair or getting sexually assaulted by a dog cloned from Shake's hand (Yes, this was a very weird show.)  Carl even became the main character for a few episodes when he had to show the Aqua Teen's house to new tenants while the guys were being held prisoner off camera by their vampire landlord. The flexibility even applied to the show's title which changed each season after the 100th episode. From Aqua Teen Hunger Force, it became Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1, Aqua Something You Know Whatever, Aqua TV Show Show (with a great chilled-out jazzy theme by Flying Lotus) and finally Aqua Teen Hunger Force Forever.

There was an unsually somber episode where Frylock got skin cancer and a live action one where Shake was played by Bob Burgers' H. Jon Benjamin, Frylock by rapper T-Pain, Meatwad by a red exercise ball and Carl by the winner of a real Carl-lookalike contest. Animation purists weren't happy that the action was little more than moving cutouts back and forth but for me, the non-stop lunatic verbal humor trumped all.  The voice actors, Dana Snyder as Shake, Carey Means as Frylock and Dave Willis pulling double duty as the "dese, dem, dose" Carl and the Southern baby-ish Meatwad, were consistently excellent.

Not every episode was great. I particularly didn't like the few where Shake, a complete jerk, came out on top but when the show was flying, nothing was better. Of course, no TV program goes away forever any more. Aqua Teen will probably stream on the Adult Swim website as long as it exists and the reruns will assuredly be a part of the TV block for a long time, joining other cancelled shows like King Of The Hill, Sealab 2021 and The Cleveland Show. However Sunday, with Patti Smith singing the closing theme, was the real end of the line. As Carl once said "Truly they were an Aqua Teen Hunger Force".

No comments: