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|Written by Emily Goodacre|
|Monday, 11 July 2011 00:00|
Allow me to clarify: I do not mean adult cartoons in the sexy sense. That's between you and your laptop. No, I am simply talking about television cartoons that are aimed at adults. No doubt most of you are familiar with The Simpsons (back when it was good, anyway), Family Guy, Futurama, South Park, etc. Here are a few that are a bit less well known that I highly recommend you check out! (Please note that I am only discussing the first season of each show for simplicity's sake, and that's where you should begin in any case.)
Kind of a cross between a James Bond spoof and a workplace comedy, this show follows Agent Sterling Archer and his fellow employees of ISIS, a private spy-for-hire agency. H. Jon Benjamin voices Archer, a hyper-competent agent but terrible human being. The head of ISIS is his mother Mallory Archer, voiced by the excellent Jessica Walters, reprising her boozy rich-lady persona from Arrested Development. Rounding out the team is Archer's ex Lana, her new boyfriend Cyril, and various insane office drones. The point of this show is not the spy missions, and not a lot of screen time is spent on them. Much more time is spent on the absurdist notion of a spy agency involving as much of the daily grind and awkward conversation as any other office (although there are slightly more genetically modified goat-boys escaping the lab than in most workplaces). The bizarre interactions and personal quirks of each of the cast members are what makes this show so brilliant and so very, very wrong. I'm a personal fan of how out-of-control Cheryl/Carol's desire to be choked gets.
Having nothing whatsoever to do with the title, only 11 minutes per episode, and meandering well beyond any semblance of a plot, Frisky Dingo is almost a post-modern take on a cartoon. It's also very, very funny. And thank God, because while you may have no idea what's going on, you'll still be laughing. The first couple of episodes set up a premise of billionaire/masked hero Xander Cruz/Awesome X vs. alien villain Killface, but the show quickly veers off into a series of compounding distractions for the characters until you find Killface and Xander working side by side as slaves at a Chinese toy factory, both blinded (in separate incidents), and Xander is buck naked, wearing a blond wig and going by the alias Barnaby Jones, and you ask yourself, "How did we get here?" Don't fight it; just go along for the ride.
New on Fox and the most mainstream on this list, Bob's Burgers is still quite clever. H. John Benjamin voices Bob, the proprietor of (you guessed it) Bob's Burgers, a family-run restaurant in a touristy sea-side town. Bob is usually the straight man to his crazy family: wife Linda (frequently tries to class up the restaurant with dinner theatre or anus-centric art), son Gene (considers wearing the promotional burger costume while playing his keyboard in front of the restaurant his ticket to fame and fortune), and daughters Tina (supremely awkward and way too open about her adolescent sexuality) and Louise (a pre-pubescent megalomaniac in a bunny-ears tuque). The clear standout in this show is Louise (voiced by the always brilliant Kristen Schaal) as she runs roughshod over her siblings or turns dim neighborhood kids into sweatshop laborers to sell street art, but they all have their moments of hilarity. I'm a particular fan of Tina's, "I think my subconscious fears and my budding sexuality are getting all mixed up. So I dream I'm being attacked by zombies, and I start screaming, 'Do you want to make out?'"
Should I have just entitled this article, "You Should Be Watching Anything with H. Jon Benjamin"? Seriously he is the best voice actor in the business. In this series of shorts he plays Satan himself as a shlubby guy in a Cosby sweater who tries to do his job but also just wants to kick back with some karaoke and a mango margarita once in a while. He also really wants his daughter/the antichrist Lucy to take over the family business, but she would rather study art and go to Burning Man with her new boyfriend DJ Jesús (yes, the second coming of Christ. Did I mention not to watch this show if rampant blasphemy makes you uncomfortable?). And then there's the special team (2 priests and a nun) sent by the Vatican to find the antichrist that keeps getting distracted by book club politics and vampire altar boys. The animation is quite crude (peripheral characters don't even have legs), but it's all about the voice work as the Sister Mary (hilariously voiced by Eugene Mirman) tries to prove to the priests that she doesn't have a secret penis, or DJ Jesús performs his magic tricks/miracles (he calls them "nearicles").
Another example of a show with one perfect season before unfair cancellation (pour one out for Freaks & Geeks and Terriers), this is one of those shows that inspire people who've seen it to quote it endlessly and nonsensically ("Unacceptable?! Did you see the pool?! They flipped the bitch!") and people who haven't seen it to ask, "What the hell are you talking about?" To them I say: Jooiiiinnnnnn usssssssss! The basic premise of the show is succinctly captured in the theme song (ahem): "Way way back in the 1980s / Secret government employees / Dug up famous guys and ladies / And made amusing genetic copies. Now their clones are sexy teens now / They're gonna make it if they try. / Loving, learning, sharing, judging, time to laugh and shiver and cry: Clone High." The show is a great send-up of teen dramas as an overly-literal ballad plays over a funeral montage, or the expected drug episode sees the entire school get hooked on smoking raisins. The main characters are Abe Lincoln (all-around nice guy), Joan of Arc (emo-girl), Cleopatra (spoiled princess), Ghandi (non-stop party machine), JFK (over-privileged lothario) as well as Principal Scudworth and his robot servant (my favourite character) Mr. Butlertron. This show is laugh-a-minute, and it's the little moments and historic jokes that make it perhaps the funniest show of the '00s. Bonus: the voiceovers on the intros and next-time-on segments are perhaps the best part: "Previously on Clone High: you, the audience, were moved very deeply. [Whispering] Trust me".
Previously in "You Should Be Watching":
Tags: archer, bobs burgers, cartoons are for grown ups too, clone high, frisky dingo, h jon benjamin is emilys hero, laugh shiver and cry, lucy the daughter of the devil, secret, tv