December 2, 2011

Justify My Netflix: Robot Chicken, Season 5

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Robot Chicken, Season 5

Today's movie: Robot Chicken, Season 5, 2011 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because I'm an obsessive fan of this "micro-sketch" comedy show on the Adult Swim network; but since I don't have cable, I'm forced to watch the show in big chunks on DVD at the end of each season like this.

The reality: Based on its longevity, and the calibre of guest stars it manages to attract (this season's cameos included Macaulay Culkin, Katee Sackhoff, Christian Slater, Olivia Munn, Sean Astin, Kevin Bacon, Elijah Wood, Diablo Cody, Mark Hamill, Jena Malone and a lot more), I think it's safe to say by now that Robot Chicken is one of the funniest and most respected comedies on television; but watching this fifth season last week, it occurred to me that this brainchild of Seth Green and Matthew Senreich may very well be changing the entire nature of televised comedy itself, in a permanent way that's ultimately for the better. And that's because this show is just so masterful at taking the kinds of random left turns that not a single audience member would ever expect; and that's partly because of the smarts of everyone involved, but partly because each episode only lasts twelve minutes, which frees up the showrunners to do sketches that sometimes last only a few seconds, which in turn encourages these people to sometimes think along the most bizarre, surrealist terms possible. I mean, just take this premise from season five which had me on the floor, laughing so hard that I thought my sides were going to split -- in which the astronaut from I Dream of Jeannie finds out that he's been fired because of NASA cutbacks, so forces Jeannie to first produce a brain-warping combination of liquor and prescription medication for him, then once good and messed up forces her to wreak havoc on the space program in literally the strangest ways you can imagine (giant butt cheeks knocking over rockets, etc), while flying around on her back, cackling maniacally and declaring himself to be the Hindu god of chaos and suffering.

That's freaking brilliant precisely because it's so unexpected and disturbing; and much like how the profound legacy and influence of Monty Python was never fully realized until a generation later, so too do I think that web-based comedians twenty years from now will be pointing to Robot Chicken and saying, "Here's where everything changed in the short-comedy format." Granted, this may be a little too overly analytical for a show that relies on fart jokes for much of its humor; but watching this latest, nearly perfect season, I couldn't help thinking that this has stopped being merely a program and is starting to enter the realm of cultural landmark. If you're not a fan yet, I encourage you to become one as soon as possible.

Strangest piece of trivia: The mad scientist in the opening credits is named Fritz Huhnmoerder, German for "chicken killer."

Worth your time? Absolutely

P.S. And what the hell, here's another hilariously surreal one from season five. Happy Friday!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:20 AM, December 2, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |