Sealab 2021 - Season 1 (DVD, 2004, 2-Disc Set, Collector's Ediiton) Reviews

Sealab 2021 - Season 1 (DVD, 2004, 2-Disc Set, Collector's Ediiton)

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It's like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in my brain

Apr 2, 2005
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:hilarious

Cons:not enough extras

The Bottom Line: if you're looking for me, you'd better look on DVD, cause that is where you'll find me


Hey, fignuts! Remember when the only thing on late-night TV used to be infomercials, reruns or static? It seems that networks are finally recognizing that audiences who don't have to get up at the crack of dawn are just as lucrative as their prime-time counterparts, and no one has taken advantage of this as well as Cartoon Network.

At 11 p.m., Cartoon Network drops the kiddie fare in exchange for its "Adult Swim" programming block, an eclectic mix of comedy and action, American and anime. It's in this schedule that Family Guy earned the high ratings that convinced Fox executives to give the show another chance in 2005. One of the weirder shows on the Adult Swim lineup is the inexplicable Sealab 2021 (2 hours 30 minutes, TV-14, Warner Home Video).

Sealab is what Cartoon Network refers to as a "repurposed" cartoon - drawing upon the copious Hanna Barbera library and recycling old footage with new voices to save money. The original show was Sealab 2020, a short-lived environmentally minded show that no one on earth would remember if not for its new incarnation. The cartoon featured a team of scientists living and working in a massive undersea complex. Now, one year later, it seems that nitrogen narcosis has set in, because everyone's pretty much abandoned their real jobs and now spend most of their time standing around talking about such weighty, grown-up issues as HappyCake Ovens and dodgeball.

The main cast of characters include Brett Butler (no, not the southern comedienne) as Dr. Quinn (no, not the medicine woman), the only guy on the premises who seems to do any real work; Kate Miller as sex-fiend White Debbie, who's usually the one keeping Quinn from doing any real work; and Eric Estrada playing the mas macho muscle-bound Marco Marquez. There's also the scam-running communications officer Sparks, frustrated and furious technician Hesh, wildly idiotic researcher Derek "Stormy" Waters and a whole slew of orphans who speak in British accents because, as we all know, all orphans are British. Plus those jerks in Pod Six.

The leader of this motley crew is the incompetent and often childlike Capt. Murphy. Voiced by the now-deceased Harry Goz, Murphy is the dysfunctional eye of the surreal storm that is Sealab. While most of the characters at least attempt to do their jobs, Howlin' Mad Murphy passes time by running up the station's emergency beacon to operate his own pirate radio station or engaging scorpions to fight the station's maintenance robots.

The unique brand of humor on Sealab 2021 is an acquired taste, but it's certainly better than some of the other Adult Swim efforts, such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Entirely random and laced with oblique pop culture references (including, in the first season, things as diverse as Magnum, P.I. and Requiem for a Dream), the show isn't always clever or creative - witness how many times the "big ending" is Sealab exploding - but the writing and characters more than make up for any shortcomings.

The 13-episode first season of Sealab is newly out on a two-DVD set, complete with a small collection of extras. The episodes are:

Disc One:
I, Robot
Happy Cake
Radio Free Sealab
Chickmate
Lost in Time
Predator
Little Orphan Angry
Waking Quinn

Disc Two:
All That Jazz
Murphy Murph and the Feng Shui Bunch
In the Closet
Stimutacs
Swimming in Oblivion

The image quality is good, considering that most of what you see is the actual stiff 1972 animation. Where new material was called for, the design and colors remain consistent with the originals. The sound is sparse stereo, but the voices are all clear, and the sound effects never overpower the dialogue.

The extras are surprisingly light. We get the original pilot submitted by creators Matt Thompson and Adam Reed, with them and their staff providing the voices, badly. When the pair originally pitched the series, it wasn't picked up, and if this is the one they handed in, it's easy to see why. There are a few distinct changes, such as Dr. Quinn being known as Lebeau or the 22-minute running time instead of the 11-minute episodes we get now.

There are three alternate endings for the episode "I, Robot," with very little difference between any of them. One does add a bit of clarity to the story, however, and because the difference would have been about four seconds of air time, it would have been nice to have it included.

There's an uncensored version of the FCC guys' conversation at the end of "Radio Free Sealab," and no, they weren't actually cussing. Much. "Little Orphan Angry" gets a pair of deleted scenes, which actually have explanations for why they were cut: for instance, "Cartoon Network felt this scene was just too evil."

There are no commentaries on any of these episodes, which is a shame - getting the creators and crew from this show together always results in some funny stuff. As you navigate around the various menus, the alternate versions of the show's catchy theme song play, which is almost a bonus feature in its own right.

The line between insanity and entertainment is a thin one, and Sealab 2021 walks it carefully. There are no other shows like it on TV, but let's hope the future DVD releases spend a little more time on some extras to accompany it.


Recommend this product? Yes

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