After justifiably earning itself a decent sized cult following in its first season, Adult Swim's Squidbillies are back for more irreverent and often times semi-nasty comedy. For those not already in the know, the Squidbillies revolves around a hillbilly squid named Early Cuyler (voiced by Stuart Daniel Baker better known as singer/songwriter Unknown Hinson) who lives in a small redneck town in the hills of Georgia. At one point during his younger days, Early had a thirty-two second sexual relationship with a mammoth woman named Krystal (voiced by Mary Kraft) that lead to the birth of Rusty Cuyler (voiced by Daniel McDevitt). Krystal didn't want a squid baby and so the child was left on the doorstep of Rusty's sister, Lil (voiced by Patricia French), who works as a hair stylist when she isn't making meth. Why didn't Early take care of his son? He was in jail for fifteen years for robbing a liquor store. The local Sheriff (Bobby Ellerbee) took pity on Early when he found out that he had a son and so Early was given early release. He set out to find a job and wound up a patsy CEO for Dan Halen (voiced by Todd Hansen), a local evil corporate industrialist. The show essentially revolves around the exploits of these central characters who, of course, have no problem finding plenty of bizarre scenarios to get into.
This second season, with the premise having already been established, allows the writers to play with crazier situations and elaborate on the characters a little bit more. It makes for a stronger season than the first, and a funnier one at that. By toying with 'redneck' stereotypes the show goes right off the deep end without ever looking back. A prime example of this is the first episode of the season, where the Sheriff leaves his PDA on Early's porch. Rusty gets a hold of it and programs it, or thinks he does, by writing in a list of Judas Priest songs that he thinks 'kick ass' and his father tries to get him to use it to help fix his car, not believing the lack of tires to be the reason it won't work. Meanwhile, the PDA's are multiplying and slowly but surely making life in the backwoods town a whole lot better for everyone. All is going well, until Early finds out that the computers are not only gay, but intend on getting married, at which point he and the Sheriff round them all up and throw them into a flaming pit. So in the very first episode the writers have played off the redneck fear of technology, love of trucks, and innate homophobia - and it all sort of spirals out of control from there as the show tackles To Catch A Predator style TV journalism and tween love, religion, plastic surgery disasters, the 'green' movement, and plenty more.
The animation is often very sketchy, giving the characters a sloppy, sketchy unfinished look but it suits the material well. The backgrounds employed throughout the series are more interesting in that they look to be painted in an almost surrealist manner. As such, Squidbillies is a really interesting and unique looking show. The show also makes excellent use of music. From the opening theme (performed by country legend Billy Joe Shaver) to the background music, the instrumental bits that pepper each episode really help bring the atmosphere out into the open. That said, the series also gets repetitive at times. In almost every episode, Early will get drunk and likely shoot something, Rusty will do something stupid, and Granny will say something slutty. The characters never really seem to develop at all, which is a strike against the show and a quality that makes a series like South Park continuously entertaining after all these years. This makes the series a blast in one or two episode doses, but a little tiresome in longer stretches.
Taking into account that the series is broadcast one short episode at a time, however, these weird little mainline injections of crass, violent, and absurdist humor can be a lot of fun so long as your sensibilities aren't too sensitive. The show points its finger at backwoods hicks and has no qualms whatsoever about using those types as the basis for its humor, offering little in the way of anything even remotely resembling redeeming social context in return, but it is funny. This is a show about an alcoholic ex-con squid, after all, we can't necessarily expect much of a message from it and it essentially delivers exactly the kind of stupid humor you'd expect a show with a such a premise to deliver.
The episodes in this set are laid out as follows:
The Good One
The Appalachian Mud Squid: Darwin's Dilemma
The Unbearable Heatness Of Fire
Armageddon On It!
Gimmicky Magazine Show Spoof Parody About Dan Halen
Flight Of The Deep Fried Pine Booby
An Officer And A Dental Dam
The Okaleechee Dam Jam
Mud Days And Kornfused
Pile M For Murder
Ultimately the series is a predictable and formulaic one, but it's still funny enough to be worth a watch, particularly for the more seasoned fans of some of the Adult Swim line's more esoteric fare. The material here isn't so much edgy as it is crass and stupid, but let's face it, crass and stupid can sometimes be really entertaining and in short doses, that's exactly what this screwy series is.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen episodes look decent on this set with some noticeably strong color reproduction and black levels. There are no problems with edge enhancement or mpeg compression at all thought some very obvious aliasing and line shimmering is hard not to notice. Aside from that, this is a pretty nice effort and the series looks quite good. The odd painted backgrounds are colorful and sloppy just as they should be and detail levels are fine. No problems with print damage, dirt or debris are evident and aliasing aside, this material looks nice.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix on this set is quite good. Dialogue is clean and clear and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. The music and Billy Joe Shaver's opening theme song sound great with some very distinct acoustic guitar noticeable and everything is properly balanced. You'll notice some pretty distinct surround activity in a few of the more chaotic scenes featured in each episode, and the directional effects add to the insanity of it all. Optional subtitles are provided in English, French and Spanish, closed captioning is available in English only.
The extras kick off with Dragonbillies (1:22) a strange promo for the show that turns the characters into firebreathing dragons who, well, sit around and breath fire. It's strange, and kind of dumb, but that's probably the point. Squidbillies Circle Jerk 2: Return Of The Self Congratulation (22:58) is an irreverent featurette that features the show's creators sitting around drinking beer and talking football before showing us some of the voice actors doing their thing and allowing some of the talent involved on the show to elaborate on what they do and how they do it. Some pertinent clips are used here for illustrative purposes but the bulk of this featurette is made up of a talk with the creators all hanging out on a porch somewhere just shootin' the shit.
Moving right along, Funny Pete Stuff (10:06) is a collection of ridiculous promotional pieces for the show that originally aired on Adult Swim last year while the aptly titled Art And Music (9:49) segment is a slideshow of promotional and conceptual artwork for the show set to some of the cool instrumental guitar music that makes up most of the series' background score. Rounding out the extras is the Dragon Con 2008 (9:19) featurette, which is essentially a roundtable Q&A session held at Atlanta's longest running comic book convention where the series' creators field questions from the audience and talk about their inspiration, the characters, and other aspects of the show. Some spiffy animated menus and episode selection options are provided on each of the two DVDs in this collection.
In short bursts, Squidbillies Vol. 2 is pretty amusing stuff. Longer doses of it will probably lead to boredom but taken in stride, the series works. Adult Swim have done their usual decent job with the DVD release, presenting the material in nice quality with an array of quirky and rather ridiculous supplements. Fans of the show already know they want it, and the set comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.