(Frisky) Dingoes ate Judge Dave Ryan's baby!!!
Our review of Frisky Dingo: Season Two, published January 6th, 2009, is also available.
Frisky Dingo is a…difficult show to explain. The product of essentially the same creative team behind Adult Swim's Sealab 2021, it, like Sealab, is an absurdist, Dadaesque farce. Unlike its predecessor, though, it's not based (however loosely) on a Sixties-era cartoon. It's a unique…um…glimpse into the…um…creative minds of Matt Thompson and Adam Reed. If you liked Sealab, you'll probably enjoy it. If not…well, it's kind of an acquired taste.
Facts of the Case
Meet Killface (Adam Reed). He's not quite human but not quite a demon, a struggling single parent, and 100% pure supervillain. Well, he is in his own mind at least. While he has a very impressive doomsday device—the Annihilatrix, a mega-powerful rocket engine pointing (almost) straight up that will propel the Earth straight into the Sun—he lacks the funds to properly market himself, except via a cut-rate direct mail postcard campaign.
Meet Xander Crews (also Adam Reed). Crews is a millionaire playboy ass, albeit a charming one. The heir to the Crews corporate empire (after his parents were murdered), Xander seems hell-bent on wasting every penny before the age of 40. He treats his excessively loyal girlfriend, newswoman Grace Ryan (Kate Miller), like dirt. But he does have one semi-redeeming quality: he lives a secret life as the superhero Awesome X, who—with his robot-pants-wearing henchmen the Xtacles—has somehow managed to rid the area of all supervillainy. Unfortunately, the bottom line must be served, and with all the villains out of the way, there's no need to keep the Xtacles fully employed anymore. While on his way to fire them, Xander has the perfect idea to keep Team Awesome X afloat: action figures—but nobody will buy a superhero action figure unless there's an archenemy to fight, right? It just so happens that Crews has just received a "Welcome to You're [sic] Doom" postcard from one Mr. Killface…
Also, there are about 400 other characters, too.
Spoiler alert: there are no dingoes, frisky or otherwise, in Frisky Dingo. The story behind the title tells you pretty much all you need to know about this show. The original title was Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which…well, if you're in the target demographic for this show, you probably know what that stands for. It would really have been the perfect title, but for the fact that there was already a band with the name Whiskey Tango. Worries about copyright infringement therefore put the kibosh on that particular name. Somewhere along the way, "Whiskey Tango" morphed into "Frisky Dingo," which wound up sticking as the show's name. So here we are.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is the reaction that about 99 out of 100 people will have after watching this show. Which is fine—to each, his or her own. But for the 1% of humanity that enjoys this sort of humor, Frisky Dingo is a rich experience. As noted above, there are dozens of characters who drift into and out of the storyline as the 13 episodes of this first season flail about like headless chickens. The show often breaks the fourth wall, and probably breaks several other walls that we can't fully perceive with our limited human senses, drawing the viewer into this bizarre-yet-familiar world. For example, at one point a character's retarded twin is discovered, made smart via a brain injection (a la Flowers for Algernon), used to further a plot point, and then promptly killed by an Xtacle. His stated motive? "This was already confusing enough without bringing a twin into it." True dat.
As was the case in Sealab, a lot of the gags in Frisky Dingo are timing-based; there are a lot of slightly-too-pregnant pauses and instances of characters talking over each other for comedic effect. The pace of this show is quite a bit faster than Sealab, though—and that's saying something, because Sealab wasn't exactly slow-paced. Brilliant little comedy bits appear and disappear like fireflies in the night—the show's absolute skewering of Live with Regis and Kelly, for example, is fantastic. Sealab's penchant for running jokes and unexplained slang (Cincinnati hotplate?) has also carried over into Dingo. In fact, the show may be too fast-paced at times, requiring the viewer to pay very close attention (or be ready to hit the rewind button) in order to follow the proceedings.
The most significant difference between Dingo and Sealab is that Frisky Dingo is actually a serial, not a set of stand-alone episodes. Oh sure, it definitely meanders in its storytelling—but deep down it's a linear story. In practice, this means you really can't pick up Dingo in midstream; you'll have no clue what is going on, who these people are, and why that demon-thing appears to have talons. This makes DVD the perfect format for the show, since you'll never have to worry about missing a chapter. As you would expect, all 13 of Season One's episodes are here, but sans the unofficial episode titles that were unofficially used during the official Adult Swim run. (The episodes are just numbered 1-13.) But…
The Rebuttal Witnesses
…that's all there is here. Thirteen episodes; nothing else. No extras, no fun stuff, no concept art, nothing. (Unless you count the facsimile of Killface's postcard advertisement that's a flyer for other Adult Swim DVD sets. And I don't.) It's true that the Williams Street crowd is known for their often less-than-stellar (okay…crappy) extras packages, but I don't think this is the answer. Especially with this show, which begs for some behind-the-scenes stuff and/or commentary from the creators. The episodes are clean enough—the show's cel-shaded animation style reproduces well here—but this completely bare-bones release has to be considered a major disappointment. Since Dingo, as of this writing, appears to be setting itself up to end after its second season, one wonders whether there's a multi-disc "complete" Frisky Dingo set to come in the future.
There's also the general Adult Swim caveat: these shows aren't for kids, and the humor isn't for everybody. In fact, I'd say (and, well, basically did say above) that the kind of humor in this show has a relatively limited appeal—which isn't saying that it's bad or ill-crafted, just that it's not everyone's idea of "funny." Try-before-you-buy is highly recommended.
It's hard to describe Frisky Dingo, which makes it hard to determine what kind of viewer would enjoy it. I think I can safely say, though, that the probably small number of people inclined to enjoy it will absolutely love it, and everyone else won't understand it in the least. For once, I don't know what to tell you, Gentle Reader. You'll have to make your own call here.
Guilty of aggravated bare-bones-ness, and of introducing the expletive "son of a WHORE!" into my vocabulary, but given a suspended sentence because of coolness and humor.
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