The Watcher - My milkshake is better than yours
I'll be kind and call "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" an acquired taste.
The freaky, frenetic animated series, a staple of Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim," follows the adventures of three crime-fighting (sort of) fast-food products: Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad. I say "sort of" because really, not much justice gets served in each 15-minute episode. (And no, the name apparently means nothing — there are no teens involved and the only obvious water comes from the above-ground pool of their neighbor, Carl.)
The series falls squarely in the "South Park" camp, with an appetite for the most random, erratic and flat-out gross storylines creators Matt Maiellaro and David Willis can come up with. Each episode begins with a brief detour into the lab of the mysterious Dr. Weird, whose latest diabolical invention seems to always somehow cross paths with the Aqua Teens, though usually not in any kind of pat "Superfriends" sort of way. Thus we get plots that involve larceny-minded leprechauns, a chronically depressed doll or a diaper-wearing giant spider.
The recently released Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Volume One two-DVD set collects the first 16 episodes of the series, with commentaries on three of the shorts and an alternate cut on the "Rabbot" pilot. One joy of the DVD is getting to see the series develop, because disc two clearly outshines the earlier material.
My favorite may be "Revenge of the Mooninites," in which the monotone Moon people (who resemble "Space Invaders" villains) return to wreak more havoc on Meatwad and company, thanks to a magical belt that channels Foreigner songs. That's right. Foreigner. Such off-the-wall — and inspired — pop culture references make up for the series' more juvenile moments, times when it feels like a packed bong might be required to find this shit funny.
"Aqua Teen Hunger Force" most likely enjoys a healthy Atlanta following, thanks to the pool of local talent involved in its production. The hometown boys must be doing something right, because we haven't seen a biggie-sized DVD set of "Harvey Birdman" or "Sealab 2021" — yet.
Speaking of "Adult Swim," the granddaddy of the whole subgenre is also enjoying a long-overdue DVD premiere. __Space Ghost Coast to Coast: Volume One takes us back to the early days of the Cartoon Network interview show. What's crazy is the realization that the series premiered almost a decade ago — in 1994.
The early episodes show a Space Ghost still finding his stride, obviously not yet comfortable with his second career as talk show personality. The best of the two-disc set may be "Batmantis," with Adam West, Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt from the '60s "Batman" series as guests. Other memorable interviews include Timothy Leary, Michael Stipe and "Weird Al" Yankovic, among others.
Though I tend to be bored silly by the commentary features on most DVDs, the background offered on the first full "Space Ghost" episode frequently delights. Producer Khaki Jones sheds some startling insight into how the B-list Hanna-Barbera super hero came to helm his own series, and leaves us longing for a more fleshed-out documentary that looks at the amazing ways the Cartoon Network has recycled some of those old characters. Sadly, the other extras, like the artwork gallery or skit with Zorak singing "Jingle Bells," tend to disappoint.
The "Space Ghost" DVD, nonetheless, makes for a lovely little nostalgia piece, if you're nostalgic for the early-to-mid-'90s. Otherwise, "The Brak Show" will do just fine.
The Watcher is a weekly column on television, DVDs and other small-screen delights.__