Pop Culture Gadabout
Thursday, May 01, 2008
      ( 5/01/2008 10:27:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"THIS IS NO TIME TO MOCK THE PARANORMAL, LITTLE PAL!" Creatures of the great black-and-white comic book boom of the 1980's, heroes in a trio of comic adventure videogames, Steve Purcell's Sam & Max: Freelance Police perhaps had their greatest mainstream mass moment in 1997 as a Fox Kids' animated TV series. Though only lasting one season, the series sits with other classic short-lived samples of kid-vid wackiness like The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley as a stellar example of great boneheaded programming decisions. A loud and frenetic absurdist funny animal series crammed with jokes aimed miles above the heads of its prime target audience? Why didn't this do as well as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles again?

But Sam & Max's status as best-selling videogame heroes has happily helped both the comics from whence they came (recently reprinted in a spiffy new paperback collection) and their too-soon-snuffed animated teleseries. Those merry pop culture obsessives at Shout Factory (also responsible for the release of the collected SCTV - as well as such lesser lights as The Super Mario Bros. Super Show) have released a three-DVD set collection of the complete animated series. All fourteen shows are featured on the set's first two discs, with an "Exclusive Hyperkinetic Bonus Disc" featuring all the extraneous bonus disc brouhaha (including a Comic-Con set monologue with series creator Steve Purcell). I slept through the cartoon series during its original Fox Kids broadcast - though I was aware of the b-&-w comics - so I'm happy to have the chance to experience this inspired silliness for the first time.

For those unfamiliar with the characters, Sam and Max are a funny animal duo comprised of a trench coat wearing dog who delivers his patently ridiculous dialog with deadpan earnestness ("A world of roach-like leviathans lumbering through a gargantuan city-state!") and a willfully childlike hyperactive "rabbit-thing" with a love of pointless destruction. The twosome works in the vermin-infested big city as "freelance police," answering to the beck and call of an unseen Commissioner whenever big danger threatens the city. Abetting them is a redheaded girl genius named Geek (created for the show as a sop to the kiddies), who mainly serves to provide our heroes with elaborate Q-styled gadgets.

Our heroes' adventures range from basic comic book hero parody (as with a giant-headed intergalactic villain named Lactose the Intolerant) to more out-there fare like an episode where our duo are drafted into acting as marriage counselors for the Olympian gods ("Zeus, you're blocking!") after the Roman deities' marital discord wreaks climactic havoc on Earth. In "It's Dangly Deever Time," the star of an old Howdy Doody styled puppet show crawls out of the teevee from rerun perpetuity, bringing evil versions of a variety of recognizable Golden Age of Television kid show icons with him. Though Purcell and his fellow scripters significantly toned down the violence of the original comics, they definitely worked to maintain the absurdist flair of the Sam & Max universe. "My mandate," Purcell states at one point during his Comic-Con interview, "was keeping the weirdness quotient up to snuff." In this, he arguably succeeded.

The 'toon's writers also managed to sneak in jokes that probably were beyond the ken of the younger Fox Kids audience members. In a prison-set Christmas episode, for instance, we see a "Do Not Open Until Christmas" label covering Max's derriere as he stoops to pick up a conveniently placed bar of soap off the floor. In a sequence set outside the city sewers, Max jubilantly describes all the baby alligators he saw down below. "They're buoyant and log-shaped," Sam states, "but I don't think they're alligators."

As with the comics, the tone in Sam & Max is noisy and ultra-frenetic, yet also oddly sweet at times. Still, this is not a show to watch if you're worried about waking anybody in the house. I view a lot of my review discs on Saturday mornings while my loving spouse is still asleep, so if I have any one criticism of Shout's DVD set, it's with the absence of subtitles or closed captioning. So there I was, sitting in the living room, torn between my desire to hear all the choice lines and my wish to let my wife sleep late on the weekend.

Guess which need ultimately won out?
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:

A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page

Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine


Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery


Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett


Michael's Movie Palace

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag


News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

Peter David

Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Marc Bernardin

Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby


The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter

A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Roy Edroso


Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman


Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends

Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed

Powered by Blogger

    follow me on Twitter