Adult Swim has been around for just over a decade now, but its influence on the worlds of comedy and animation will be felt for decades to come. The brand of absurdist, experimental cartoons aired by the programming block found its fans in the insomniac college student demographic and have always aimed to please just that kind of crowd. Throughout all the years Adult Swim has existed there has always been one mainstay, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which is the only remaining show that aired the night the block premiered in September of 2001.
It’s a spectacular feat for any show to remain on the air for this long, especially a show that so rarely concerns itself with things like plot and characterization (not that their absence is necessarily a bad thing). Show creators Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro have noted that shows on air for this long tend to get rather stale, and have thusly decided to change the name of the show several times. First from Aqua Teen Hunger Force to Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1, then to Aqua Something You Know Whatever, and now to Aqua TV Show Show.
Even with the new title, new intro, and new theme song courtesy of Flying Lotus, the format of Aqua TV Show Show remains just as bizarre and rejecting of basic plot formulas as it always has. After all these years it’s still the fast food trio of Frylock, Master Shake, and Meatwad getting into surreal situations, often involving and at the expense of their oafish neighbor Carl Brutananadilewski. Tonight’s season premiere, “Muscles”, sees Master Shake take up exercising after suffering a near-fatal stroke. He quickly realizes that exercising is the worst thing in the world, and decides it would be easier to just drink some of Carl’s possibly illegal muscle building drinks to get the body he wants.
In true Aqua Teen fashion, the drinks have an adverse effect when Shake’s muscles wind up becoming sentient and go on violent rampages in fits of unprovoked rage. Voiced by John DiMaggio (Futurama, Adventure Time), the muscles are an insane piece of visual imagery as they grow out of Shake in the form of new arms and legs as well as a talking face on Shake’s chest. Since the show has zero sense of continuity, endings are just as if not more bizarre than the preceding episode, with tonight ending on Shake being send to a veal farm to fatten up and lose all the muscle he gained.
“Still funny after all these years” would be the most apt way to describe tonight’s episode. In the space of about 11 minutes I laughed more than I have at a lot of other shows claiming to be comedies that have come out in the past few months. Having not really checked in on the show since they began changing names, it was great to see a show that carried me throughout most of high school and college still entertaining at the same level it did all those years ago.