Thursday, 14 July 2016

Robot Chicken, Season 1 (2005)

A mad scientist recovers a dead chicken from a road, reanimates it as a cyborg monstrosity, then straps it into a chair and forces it to watch a huge bank of TVs.

... and that's just the opening credits.

Robot Chicken is a series of rapid fire comedy sketches, made in stop motion animation, and ranging in length from literally-just-a-second to three minutes or more.  I think the concept is that we're viewing things from the perspective of the chicken, as it is bombarded with images, but frankly I don't think that matters overmuch.  The point is that it fires sight-gags, pop culture references, bizarre mash-ups, and scatological jokes at you at a mighty impressive rate.  Each 11-12 minute episode packs in a wealth of material.

How funny will you find it?  Well, if you're of a certain age (having grown up in the 80s really helps), and have a pretty twisted and thoroughly nerdy sense of humour, you'll probably find it hysterical.  I showed Robot Chicken to a friend of mine when it first came out, and he laughed so hard I was legitimately worried he was going to pass out from lack of oxygen.

If, on the other hand, you're the kind of person to find concepts like "The Masters of the Universe: where are they now?" or "let's do Se7en with the Smurfs" more baffling than bizarrely amusing, then you'll probably find the whole thing very dumb and boring.  For myself, I generally find the stuff that trades on pop culture mash-ups and errant absurdity can often be very funny indeed, while the (quite frequent) bodily-function based gags can get a little tiresome when watching several episodes back to back.

Apart from the decidedly off the wall and off colour humour, Robot Chicken's other appeal is "spot the celebrity voice actor": Macauley Culkin, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Burt Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson are just some of the famous names to pop up in the end credits, while N'Sync's Joey Fatone turns up to play himself in a Karate Kid / Voltron pastiche.  Because Robot Chicken is the kind of show where that happens.

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