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Monday, September 25, 2023

When Adult Swim first aired, the premiere episode of "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" proved to be the worst of the lineup. Though it is now in its fifth season on Cartoon Network and has proven to be hilariously surreal, the quality of the show is still sometimes reminiscent of its rocky beginning.

The recently released Volume Five DVD has episodes that are examples of the show's improvements - and examples of its pitfalls.

For those of you who have never smoked pot before: "Aqua Teen" revolves around Master Shake, a talking milkshake, Frylock, a talking box of french fries and Meatwad, a talking meat wad. The show follows their contact with various equally bizarre creatures, not to mention their neighbor Carl, a talking New Yorker.

Only a few episodes in the set are good. The best one, "Ezekiel," recalls the classic "Aqua Teen" formula of a weirdo creature irritating the characters, this time in the form of Shake's son, voiced by Patton Oswalt, whose comedy albums I recommend you buy instead of this DVD set. Equally good is "Hand Banana," wherein Meatwad and Frylock make a dog using the DNA from Shake's hand. Then there's the daring "Boost Mobile" episode, which is a wonderfully self-aware 10-minute advertisement for the cellular company.

When the show fails, however, it fails in a big way. There's an episode exclusively about Carl that completely falls flat to the point of tedium. Then there's the obligatory ironic clip show episode that's completely nonsensical - in the bad way. We can't forget the one where Frylock has cancer, which is kind of unsettling (again, in the bad way), despite a hilarious cameo appearance by party rocker Andrew WK.

Worst of all is the two-part episode where Shake shows deleted scenes from the movie. It's basically the average "Aqua Teen" episode padded with behind-the-scenes footage of Shake.

The special features of the DVD are surely a practical joke being played on the audience. The biggest offender is the "ATHF Movie Premiere with Space Ghost," which features Space Ghost voice actor George Lowe in a "Space Ghost" costume, interviewing the cast, crew and assorted Adult Swim personalities at the premiere of the "Aqua Teen" movie - for 30 minutes.

Lowe clearly has no pre-written material to work with, and nobody he talks to makes an effort to be entertaining or even interesting. Lowe himself comes off as a sad imitation of Fred Willard, whom I would rather be watching. The remaining special features include patience-taxing promos, a music video, and a surprisingly unfunny vintage "Space Ghost Coast to Coast" episode.

The two legitimately good special features on the DVD both feature behind-the-scenes footage: "Tera Patrick Eats a Hot Dog" has a casually-dressed porn star eating a hot dog while doing her lines, and "Granny Takes Her Top Off" depicts the recording session of someone's grandmother voicing a bit part for the show. The "Granny" bit in particular was pretty funny, and shows what I'd rather have on a DVD instead of half-baked attempts at humor that wouldn't fit into the show.

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