Robot Chicken: Season One
Robot Chicken: Season One
Seth Green's stop motion opus to absurdity
By Adam Frazier

The brainchild of Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Matthew Senreich, Robot Chicken is a sketch comedy series that parodies pop culture conventions using stop motion animation of toys, action figures, dolls, and claymation.

As part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block, Robot Chicken airs 15-minute episodes with sketches that range anywhere from three minutes to five seconds, each interrupted by a change of channel to a completely new and random skit already in progress.

While the shortest sketches are usually quick sight gags - a giraffe getting hit by a train, for instance - the longer ones are amazing spoofs of pop culture. Skeletor, Cobra Commander, Lex Luthor, and Mum-Ra stuck in traffic on the way to work; Voltron has a dance-off with a space monster; Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise organize another Cannonball Run, with Vin Diesel racing against the Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider and the Super Mario Brothers. Yes, it's truly that random and off-the-wall.

In one sketch, Joey Fatone trains for a martial-arts tournament to get back at the Yakuza squad who murdered his fellow N'sync bandmates. He ends up squaring off against the combined forces of Britney Spears, Ashley Simpson, Jessica Simpson, Avril Lavigne and Christina Aguilera - who form a giant beast with five heads and a voracious appetite for destruction.

Another sketch is The Real World Metropolis, a spoof in which several superheroes stop being nice and start getting real. Someone is stealing Catwoman's Hello Kitty undies, and Superman refuses to do his chores because he's too busy saving the world to be bothered with vacuuming. You get the idea.

Perhaps my favorite skit from season one picks up in the Autobots' locker room after a skirmish with the Decepticons. A couple of the guys mention how they've noticed Optimus Prime's frequent trips to the bathroom lately. Turns out he has prostate cancer. Bumble Bee is crushed, and the team is at a loss when their leader suddenly and shockingly dies. The whole parody is proceeded with one of those classic 80s public service announcements where Optimus Prime warns us humans about cancer and suggests we get our asses checked pronto.

Like other animated shows such as South Park, Beavis & Butthead and The Simpsons, Robot Chicken offers multiple layers of humor, from the juvenile to upper-brow societal satire. The animation offers fond nostalgia for those who grew up in the 80s and remember playing with He-Man, Thundercats and Star Wars toys. The voice talent should be mentioned as well, as actors like Breckin Myer and Donald Faison often lend their voices to the show. There's also a seemingly never-ending list of guest stars that take sketches to the next level. Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself, has appeared in numerous skits to play his Jedi alter ego and Family Guy's Seth McFarlane, Lance Bass, Conan O'Brien and even the cast of That 70s Show have all appeared at one time or another.

The only thing lacking in Robot Chicken is the structure of the show itself. It's just too damn short. Minus commercials, each episode runs a little over 10 minutes in length. There's so much content packed into the episodes, however, the length doesn't seem to matter in the end. In fact, it's probably just the right length for what it is. It leaves you wanting more and lends itself well to the DVD format.

Speaking of the DVD, season one is filled with some pretty awesome bonus materials. Features on the disc include commentaries on all episodes with Seth Green and writers. There's also a photo Gallery, deleted animatics and scenes as well as a behind the scenes featurette.

The commentaries are great. Seth Green and a variety of writers and actors talk about the show really explore all the interesting behind-the-scenes stories that inspired the show. Robot Chicken is a show that has to fight low budgets, cautious censors, and the limitations of stop motion animation and the writers and creators take every chance to explore those obstacles.

Basically, if you're a fan of anarchic obscure references to 80s cartoons and video games, you'll love this show. If you're a frequent watcher of shows such as Family Guy or anything on Adult Swim, you're probably already hooked on Seth Green and Matthew Senreich's opus to random absurdity.
Reviewed by: adam
1 Comment(s)
Much like the Robot Chicken himself shay-shay strapped me down and forced me to watch this a while back. Here's my only beef with it... with a show like this it's unfortunate that if you don't get one of the skits, or if it's just not that funny it's really a downer. A normal show could have 5 minutes where you don't laugh and it's no big deal, but with this show if you're not laughing for about 20 seconds it almost feels awkward. It's an unfortunate byproduct of the style of the show. BUT for the most part I think this show is amazing. Optimus's public service announcement was also my favorite.