Monday, June 6, 2011

Aqua Teen has new title, pretty much the same

Aqua Teen Hunger Force - Volume One     If anyone out there misses Aqua Teen Hunger Force and is wondering when the new season starts, do not be fooled. It began about a month ago, and continued last night, but under a new title. Now appearing on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1 has a new moniker and theme song, but otherwise, is pretty much the same. In interviews, it was said that the new series would get back to the characters' roots, taking them out on detective mysteries, as they did in the pilot. That lasted for a few minutes, and then they quickly slipped back to the formula that has worked for them for the past ten years. In fact, there is a ten year time jump in the new first episode, but now that that story is past, there's not noticeable differences. Except that Dr. Weird (C. Martin Croker) is not supposed to appear again.

     Last night's episode, "Freedom Cobra," finds Master Shake (Dana Snyder) doing all her can to pick up girls in the park, including getting a vicious attack dog. When none of the ladies passing by pay his any attention, he insists to Meatwad (Dave Willis) that they are all lesbians. Yep, every single one of them. Then he sees a guy with a tattoo getting action, so he heads to the parlor and wants the best ink $3-$5 can buy. The artist gives him a Freedom Cobra wrapped around a sword. Shake is not tipped off by the fact that the thing must be installed during a lightning storm, and so is surprised when the Cobra comes to live and demands to eat people. Putting Shake in a trance state, the Cobra consumes first the dog, then neighbor Carl (Willis). As it eats, it keeps getting bigger and bigger. Frylock's (Carey Means) solution, a laser tattoo removal doctor, can do nothing.

     Aqua has a history of treading into gross territory, but it surprisingly avoids that in this episode until the very end. Could definitely have done without the laser doctor shooting blood all over Shake as he gestures and explains the plastic surgery that has been done after feeding Freedom Cobra his hands. As the blood spurts into Shake's unnoticing mouth, I admit to squirming a little.

     Most of the episode is very funny. From Shake trying to pick up girls in the rain, to wanting a tattoo that blatantly states a message, spelled out, in English, to his killing of a not-getting-it Carl, the story dances around sex and murder without actually showing them, thank goodness. Who knows how intercourse even works for a giant milk shake? Is anyone really curious to find out? Instead, the episode hints at a lot, and plays on Shake's insecurities, which have provided fodder for many an episode.

     Surely next week the Cobra will be gone, despite the episode ending with Shake still on a killing spree. And Carl will be back alive. Aqua doesn't need to come up with fancy dream sequences or anything. It has ventured into such game-changing plots before, simply to back off and pretend they never happen in the following installment. Perhaps one day the series will deal with that and explain it, perhaps in a series finale, but given the show has been on the air since 2000, and it's still delivering stories often as good as earlier seasons, that doesn't appear to be in the cards anytime soon.

     Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1, formerly known as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, airs Sunday nights at 11:45 p.m. on Cartoon Network.

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     To buy Aqua Teen Hunger Force DVDs, please click here.

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