Fearful that the old-fashioned situation comedy had long died away, Judge Dennis Prince was enraptured to find this wholesome collection of knee-slapping, family-oriented high jinks to chase his blues away. A singing cat-creature kid, a vicious mantis pal, and Mom and Dad...move over Beaver.
It's more unsupervised silliness afoot in this spin-off of a spin-off of a spin-off of an original superhero adventure. With that said, it's difficult to truly know who to blame for this one.
Years before they became deadly foes of the great Space Ghost, the quasi-cat creature, Brak, and his best mantis buddy, Zorak, were just normal kids like you and me…except for all the explosions, intergalactic visitors, and foiled follies over the existence of all mankind. They made lots of rude bodily noises, though, and that's kind of normal…kind of…except maybe that oozing mantis funk, but why quibble? Hey, it's The Brak Show—Volume 1 DVD from Warner Bros., and it's time to see how far a joke can be stretched.
Facts of the Case
Clutching to the coattails of the unexpectedly popular Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and the subsequent Cartoon Planet, the mentally unstable folks at Cartoon Network set about to create yet another spin-off series that shamelessly borrowed from Hanna-Barbera's stable of über-heroes—well, über-villains this time—to try to suck this once-creative well of ideas dryer than a spayed cat's hind teat. Well, with the attempted Brak Presents the Brak Show Starring Brak stumbling before it could ever find its feet somewhere below its stumpy legs, the intended variety show (what, another one?!) was ditched and leveraged into an unlikely sitcom setting. Here, we follow the adventures of the boyhood Brak (voiced by Andy Merrill), who grapples with the trials and tribulations of growing up in suburban Spacetown, flanked by his evil but lovable mantis friend/foe, Zorak (voiced by C. Martin Croker), while his similarly cat-like Mom (voiced Marsha Crenshaw) offers a maternal stability to the proceedings despite the self-aggrandizing assertions of the diminutive Dad (voiced by George Lowe). Add a hulking warrior robot, Thundercleese (voiced by Carey Means), the neighbor with an affinity for a well-manicured lawn when not blasting the cosmos, and you've got Americana in a nutshell, bucko.
Oh, it's whacked, all right…but it works!
No denying it—this one stays with you like dog doo on your shoe. The Brak Show goes beyond Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and the much-improved Cartoon Planet in that, with Brak, we get new animations of Brak, Zorak, and all the rest instead of that tiresome lot of pilfered samplings of animated SG elements from the halcyon days of the original Space Ghost and Dino Boy adventure series of the 1960s. No sir, this time we have new renderings, new characters, and plenty of new songs to boot! That's right—ol' Brak can't help but spontaneously break into a heartwarming verse that adds depth, meaning, and lasting impressions of the life lessons he encounters. For example, on caring for Thundercleese's pet goldfish, Mr. Tickles, Brak intones, "Three hams will kill him / Three hams will kill him / I shouldn't feed him / THREE HAMS!" You get the idea.
To add to the already impossibly realistic situations, the composite visual creations marry 2D character animations set alongside photographic elements of actual miniature sets and set pieces. Brak and his family live in a doll house, sit on doll furniture, and use teeny little dolly cups and saucers to sip their favorite warmed beverages. Hey, there's also a really tiny TV in Brak's bedroom and a quarter-scale time machine outhouse in Thundercleese's backyard. (If you recall, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast was also composited using a miniature stage set, desk, and crank-lowered TV monitor.)
OK, but is it stupid? Of course it is! It's all stupid, all the time. In fact, it's sooooo stupid, it's funny! It's funnily stupid and stupidly funny. You'll laugh until you stop at the inane notions that show creators Jim Fortier, Pete Smith, and Andy Merrill discharge gleefully before us. Really, this seems to be Andy Merrill's therapy on display as the melon-headed misfit appears to void himself of all the pent-up ravings he likely held in far too long as a child for fear of being rightfully beat down in the schoolyards of a misspent youth, or maybe it's just more irrefutable proof that Ritalin may be the best friend today's children could ever wish to have. Really, Merrill is unhinged here, but, strangely, his performances as Brak are so over the top that you refrain from smacking down this freakish kid only to see what other funny things he might say (that, or perhaps be on hand to watch him uncontrollably wet himself; after which, of course, you'd pummel him mercilessly).
So we spare all those involved because the show has a definite compelling quality and its replay value actually soars as you watch again and again to see if the undersized Latin-esque Dad really said, "I like the spandex because it makes each behind muscle look like a glorious small television." And, by the way, did Pepper the alien really indicate he was experimenting sexually due to the stress and loneliness of being on the road all the time? I think he did.
Comprising episodes spread across the first two seasons, here's what you'll find inside:
But if all this unbridled entertainment isn't enough (and it's not), there's a bevy of bonus features to further assail your intellect. While Disc One includes commentaries on "Goldfish" (character commentaries with Brak and another with Brak and Kim McFarlane, neither of which is very useful) as well as a non-character, creator commentary on "War Next Door" (rounding up offenders Jim Fortier, Pete Smith, Andy Merrill, and an annoying cell phone), it's Disc Two that really gets bevy-licious with a smattering of extra features. On that disc, you'll get a previously unheard and unseen radio play of a Brak Show pilot that plays over the "Bawkbagawk" episode; it's not entirely asinine, and, actually, it's pretty damn good. Then there's a whole stool-load of bonus snippets from Cartoon Planet featuring Space Ghost, Zorak, and Brak. High points include segments with the Cartoon Planet Band doing "Don't Touch Me" and "Scat Sandwich"; low points include difficult-to-stomach live-action shots of bulbous Andy Merrill in his cringe-worthy Space Ghost playsuit. But skip past that to find more bits culled from the failed Brak Presents the Brak Show Starring Brak and [adult swim] News segments. All told, it's enough cockamamie content to make you gag…in an oddly enjoyable sort of way.
So how does it all look in the realm of digital wizardry? It looks pretty good. The static menus are rendered in a widescreen anamorphic format (roughly 1.85:1), while the episodes themselves are presented in the original full-frame format broadcast in 2001 and 2002. The image quality is stellar ('interstellar,' you might even say), the detail level is as sharp as you like without too much edge enhancement along the way, and the color saturation is absolutely perfect with all colors looking rich and stable from start to finish.
The audio is delivered in the original Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix in English only ("'Cuz this is America, Ladies and Gentlemen. Yeee-haw!"), and there are subtitles in English, Spanish, and French for those of you who can read.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Well, I already said it was stupid. What more do you want me to complain about?
Strangely enough, this infectious little show, each episode running just 11.5 minutes, is impossible to resist and earned some of the highest marks this judge has ever awarded (God help me). But don't fight it; let go of your need to have meaningful mental stimulation and choose The Brak Show—Volume 1 instead. The brain cells you save will live to serve you another day.
I don't know. Was a crime committed here? If stupidity is criminal, then this disc set is certifiable. But, until proof of intelligent life can be found on this little green ball in space, this court finds no harm in a bit of fun among a boy, a mantis, and a stuffed lobster named Hippo. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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