ShawConnect TV critic Brent Furdyk samples the pilots of the new summertime series
Starring: Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Patton Oswalt, Giancarlo Esposito, Mandy Moore, Vincent Kartheiser
The gist: Fox’s answer to the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim is a one-hour late-night animation block on Saturdays, combining 15-minute “shows” with a variety of experimental animated shorts, none of which are appropriate for the pre-teen kids who’ll probably be watching anyway. Animation Domination High-Def (or ADHD for short) debuts with a special half-hour preview on Sunday, July 21 before moving to its regular spot on Saturday nights, when it will fill the time slot formerly held by MADtv.
For starters, ADHD is introducing two 15-minute shows, Axe Cop and High School USA!, which are, respectively, based on an online comic created by a five-year-old and an Archie comics spoof from the guy who plays Starburns on Community (Dino Stamatopoulous, in case you were about to Google it).
Axe Cop lives up to its title, following the crime-fighting adventures of hatchet-wielding law enforcer Axe Cop (Parks and Recreation’s Offerman) and his flute-playing sidekick Flute Cop (Burning Love’s Ken Marino). As mentioned, Axe Cop is actually based on stories created by a five-year-old, which winds up being crucial information in one’s enjoyment of the show. Imagine the bizarre leaps of logic when a child makes up a story; then imagine how it would look if it were animated (in the first episode, for example, Axe Cop must jump his truck across a giant ramp in order to travel to a different planet so he can rent a dinosaur horn from the dinosaur horn store, because…well, I could explain, but it wouldn’t make sense anyhow). Axe Cop’s methods are effective if not particularly orthodox, in that his solution to most conundrums typically involves chopping somebody’s head off.
High School USA! is essentially an acid-trip, alternate-universe version of Archie and his Riverdale pals. In this skewed parody, Marsh Merriwether (voiced by Mad Men’s Kartheiser) is a ridiculously upbeat anorexic wuss who is inexplicably dating two girls, Cassandra (Moore) and Amber, who are forced to make out with each other when he ignores their romantic overtures. Brad (T.J. Miller) is the school bully, who loves to pick on nerdy Blackstein (Nathan Barnatt).
Other regular cartoons that will eventually be added to the ADHD lineup include Lucas Bros. Moving Co. (about scrawny twins who own a moving company) and Golan the Insatiable (a “mighty godlord” from an alternate universe comes to Earth and befriends a 10-year-old goth girl).
It’s like… Family Guy meets The Twilight Zone, as directed by a five-year-old Federico Fellini
Sample line: “Warthog Man? You’re not a bad guy — what are you doing lurking in the shadows? And why are you crying?”
IMHO: If the first few episodes are any indication, Animation Domination High-Def is as inconsistent as they come. Axe Cop, as it turns out, is actually pretty funny, and becomes even funnier as it progresses, while High School USA! just sits there, daring you to keep watching.
However, in order to really appreciate Axe Cop, you have to buy into the five-year-old mentality the show proudly displays, which yields exponentially increasing laughs. This will become clear in the July 27 episode, when Axe Cop and Flute Cop battle hordes of the undead during a trip to Zombie Island (in Space!) in order to rescue the world’s smartest great man from an evil piece of fecal matter. Nazis are also involved.
High School USA!, on the other hand, isn’t really all that much funnier than your typical Archie comic, even though it is far smuttier. After watching the first episode, I can honestly admit I had no desire to see any more.
Fun Fact: Axe Cop began as a web-based comic created and scripted by five-year-old Malachai Nicolle and illustrated by his 29-year-old brother Ethan Nicolle.
Verdict: Based on these first two series, ADHD is a decidedly mixed bag; Axe Cop is definitely worth your time; High School USA isn’t. Still, the show’s “sizzle reel” was chockablock with various shorts (including funny-looking parodies of Pokemon and Peanuts, featuring a grown-up and still-depressed Charlie Brown), and it seems likely the show will also serve as a showcase for weird and hopefully wonderful animation drawn from the outer reaches of the Internet. And because the shows are only 15 minutes long (including commercials), by the time you realize how lousy one of them is, another (hopefully funnier) one is ready to start.
Prediction: Will Animation Domination High-Def take over the niche carved out by Adult Swim? Doubtful, but the show has an excellent shot at finding an audience and possibly even serving as a petri dish of sorts that may be a breeding ground for new animation talent, and may even eventually result in the next Simpsons or Family Guy.
A sneak preview of ANIMATION DOMINATION HIGH-DEF airs on Sunday, July 21 on Fox before moving to its regular time slot on Saturday, July 27