Hey, do you mind if Judge Clark Douglas borrows your garlic deodorant?
"Crime doesn't pay unless you get away/but you won't, 'cause you can't."
The initial idea behind Cartoon Network's surreal 15-minute animated comedy Aqua Teen Hunger Force was pretty simple: an innocent wad of meat (aka "Meatwad"), a self-serving milkshake (aka "Master Shake"), and a world-weary serving of french fries (aka "Frylock") would solve mysteries together. Very quickly, the "solving mysteries" angle was dropped and Aqua Teen Hunger Force become a show about the three characters (and some colorful supporting players) just hanging out and getting involved (or not) in random what-nots. Alas, after 100 episodes of trippy silliness, the showrunners decided that they were bored with the format and would be re-launching the show as Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1. So, how much has changed?
A lot less than the first couple episodes of the show might suggest, actually. In a wonderfully entertaining series of fake-out, we witness A) the three characters once again attempting to solve mysteries as a retro-style detective unit, B) Master Shake cryogenically freezing himself for nine years and re-awaking in a post-apocalyptic future, C) Master Shake making the horrifying discovery that an alien creature has been humping his face during that entire nine-year period, D) Master Shake frantically attempting to reunite with his old pals in Seattle, and E) everything returning to normal. Well, basically to normal. We now have a main title sequence featuring the main characters fighting crime (despite the fact that this element of the show only lasted five whole minutes), a Seattle location that looks pretty much exactly like the previous New Jersey incarnation, and…yeah, that's pretty much it in terms of changes. If you dug Aqua Teen Hunger Force, you'll be just as satisfied by Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1.
As for the actual episodes included here: First up, you have the seven remaining unreleased episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, though they are included on the disc labeled "AUPS1 S1." Meanwhile, the sparkly, brand-new Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1 episodes are included on the disc labeled "ATHF FV" (the "FV" standing for Final Volume). I suppose this is meant to be a little joke about the fact that the two shows are basically indistinguishable. Or a printing error. Either way, insert Nelson-style "haw-haw!" here.
The actual tales included are the usual mix of brilliant absurdist comedy (I particularly love the story about the slovenly Carl actually being a spy who has been doing surveillance work on the gang for nine years), random oddities (Frylock attempting to bring Carl to Jesus by introducing Carl to Jesus' gay hairdresser?), and undercooked half-ideas (the silly, violent business with the triangles). The show isn't running on fumes or anything at this point, but even with its punchy new main title sequence, Aqua Teen H…uh, I mean Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1 has fallen into a series of familiar rhythms. Its random violence feels less random, its absurdities more familiar and its unpredictable wildness more predictable. Still, hanging out with these characters (particularly when you're half-awake and have nothing better to do) remains a pleasure. My only complaint is that the fiercely intelligent Frylock is a bit too marginalized in this volume, as the show seems more interested in the louder antics of the impossible horrible Master Shake and the (admittedly hilarious) misadventures of the impossibly adorable Meatwad (seriously, never has a gunk-filled blob of bloody meat been so undeniably cute). Carl fans (of which there are many) will be pleased to note that the world's worst neighbor gets his fair share of appearances, too.
The show looks quite strong on DVD, offering bright colors, sharp detail (not that this incredibly cheap series needs it) and deep blacks. Audio is also sturdy, with the typically hip/strange blend of rock tunes and funky underscore making the biggest impression. Fans of the series will be disappointed to note that a new "Terror Phone" installment (the elegantly-titled "Terror Phone 3") is the only supplement included.
Aqua Unit Patrol Sqaud 1: Season One is another fun batch of weirdness with some of Adult Swim's best characters. The name change is little more than an amusing gag.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Terror Phone 3
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