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Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Vol. 1

Every episode of the blissfully silly Aqua Teen Hunger Force begins at the laboratory of Dr. Weird on the gloomy, rain swept South Jersey Shore, where the mad scientist unleashes some kind of plague on humanity that the trio of inept private investigators will have to deal with in the ensuing 11 minutes. Or not. Sometimes, Dr. Weird just jams on an electric guitar, rips off his clothes, or impales his put-upon assistant Steve with ears of corn. One can never be sure just what the hell Dr. Weird is going to do, which goes doubly for the rest of the show once we join up with our "heroes." Beginning life as a throwaway gag on Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, the Aqua Teens are the relatively mature and level-headed Frylock, the selfish and easily irritable Master Shake, and the childlike, shape-shifting Meatwad. Allegedly detectives, they spend most of their time hanging out in their neighbor Carl's above-ground pool without his permission. Occasionally, Carl — a pot-bellied, chain wearing Guido who is so classy he installs ground effects on his pool — barks at the guys for trespassing on his property. But mostly he is resigned to their unashamed freeloading. The pleasure in watching the Aqua Teens is all due to the mentally damaged creative genius of Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis, who fill out each 12-minute short with a frequently brilliant mixture of non-sequiturs and obscure pop-culture references, while guiding their characters through the paces of a poorly pursued investigation. Frylock does his best to keep the boys on track, but in the best comedy team tradition, Master Shake and Meatwad invariably complicate matters through their insatiable need for instant gratification. Consider the episode "Interfection," in which Master Shake's impulsive clicking of pop-up ads for desirable APR and online casino winnings hastens a torrent of advertisements that destroy their house (and, of course, Carl's), and, it would seem, threaten the very existence of mankind. Meanwhile, in "Escape From Leprechaupolis," Shake gets captured by a team of scheming leprechauns who use the promise of free gold to lure him into their rainbow machine's tractor beam so that they can mug him. The series' two best episodes to date are "Mooninites" and "Revenge of the Mooninites," which pit the Aqua Teens against the titular pair of moon dwellers, who look like they've walked out of an Atari 2600 video game. Believing themselves the center of our galaxy, they are emboldened by an unearned arrogance based on their superior vertical leap and ability to fire slow-moving, horribly destructive dots at those foolish enough to challenge them. In other words, they're harmless, though they do exhibit a seductive influence over Meatwad, who they send hurtling headlong into a life of crime and chain-smoking. The show's most important attribute is brevity; at 12 minutes per episode, Maiellaro and Willis don't have to bother with structuring a full story, nor do they feel a need to attempt any incisive satire like The Simpsons, Family Guy, or South Park. Whatever social commentary there is has mostly to do with willful naiveté and greed, both of which are exemplified by the amoral Shake, who isn't above selling Meatwad to the circus for a $2 profit, or futilely trying to cook him in the drier when he gets hungry. As with other gag-heavy shows of this type, the Aqua Teens are best enjoyed with a group of friends over whatever mood-enhancer you prefer. Though it gets some stiff competition from South Park, this may very well be the funniest animated show currently running on television. The only possible drawback is that the shows that close out the second disc seem a little less inspired than the rest, but there are still enough randomly hilarious moments to make them well worth watching. Warner presents Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Vol. 1 in a fine full-screen transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Extras include "Rabbot — The Original Cut," a slightly longer version of the first episode, which features some storyboard drawings to represent the added material, Episode commentary for "Rabbot," "Space Conflict From Beyond Pluto," and "Mayhem of the Mooninites," and a promotional short created for the 2002 San Diego Comic-Con. Dual-DVD digipak with paperboard slipcase.
—Clarence Beaks

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