One of the more recent additions to the Adult Swim line up, Superjail! is produced by Augenblich Studios, the studio that brought us the ultra-twisted Wonder Showzen and the thoroughly enjoyable Nickelodeon Series, Yo Gabba Gabba. At the time of this writing the second season has yet to appear, but Adult Swim says it's coming, so fans of this seriously messed up series will just have to be patient. Until then, the first season is now available in its entirety on DVD.
For those who haven't seen the series, what the Hell is Superjail! all about? Each episode starts off with a running gag (kind of like the first few seasons of Aqua Teen Hunger Force did) where a white trash hillbilly crook named Jackknife (Christy Karacas) commits some sort of crime only to be captured and whisked away to a massive super jail by a robot named Jailbot. Once Jackknife is in the super jail, all bets are off and the episodes don't generally revolve around him but instead tend to focus on The Warden (David Wain), his right hand man named Jared (Teddy Cohn), and a transvestite prison guard named Alice (Christy Karacas again). There are a few other recurring characters who appear in the series, such as the German Doctor who tends to use the inmates for experiments, and two odd twins (both voiced by Richard Mahler) who have powers all their own and sort of just wander around the jail causing various problems. There are also two gay inmates, a black guy and a white guy, who don't appear to have any names but who, along with Jackknife, seem to somehow manage to not get killed by the end of the episode. The rest of the inmates? Well, they're more or less cannon fodder.
Even by the bizarre standards of the Adult Swim line up, Superjail! is pretty nutty stuff. From the opening scene, the series is always very over the top and chock full of animated violence and depravity. There's a really thick and palpable feeling of perversion that runs through the entire series and there's something about the animation style used in the show that might make you want to take a shower after watching. That said, as skuzzy as the series is, it's also wildly creative and often times jaw-droppingly funny, so long as your sense of humor runs towards the more perverse side and you appreciate black comedy.
With only ten episodes in the can, the series hasn't had a whole lot of time to really build much continuity, not does it really need it. The recurring characters are all there and established enough to matter. Alice is basically a sexually confused version of The Venture Brothers' Brock Sampson, she's tough as nail and not in the least bit worried about ripping an inmate's arm off if she needs to. The Warden, who is a bit of a control freak and who wanders around the jail in a flamboyant purple suit with a top hat on, lusts after her constantly while the series hints now and then that Jared, who the warden treats like a slave sometimes, has repressed homosexual desires for his boss.
The series' plots tend to all basically follow the same formula, in that Jackknife shows up and something happens in the prison to rock the boat - once that boat is rocked, violence will ensue and the show will break into a barrage of wild, psychedelic carnage showing off some fairly impressive and often times amazing design work and color coordination. A few prime examples? In the first episode the Warden sets up a bar in the jail to woo Alice with. She shows up with another date while Jackknife and a few cronies plot their escape. The underwater portion of the prison opens up, and the psychedelic carnage arrives in the form of a massive flood and all but the aforementioned characters die in horrible, violent, and rather amusing ways. Another example is the Combaticus episode where Jared and The Warden uncover an ancient Aztec gladiatorial arena which they decide to use to host inmate battles. The Twins create their own warrior, named Combaticus, who is seemingly unstoppable, until a create that is a hybrid of The Warden, Alice and Jared is unleashed, killing all sorts of people in the crossfire.
Superjail! Season One includes the following episodes:
Don't Be A Negaton
Mr. Grumpy Pants
Time Police Pt. 1
Time Police Pt. 2
Watching all of the episodes back to back can be a bit much, but in two or three episode jolts, Superjail! is pretty great. You run the risk of overdosing on the show if you watch too much in one sitting but taken in smaller doses the show is a sweet drug indeed. There's so much detail in the background and so much weird stuff going on at any given time in the show that it's got a considerable amount of replay value. The vast majority of the material happens in self contained episodes, which makes it easy to get into, while the running jokes make regular viewing rewarding in its own way.
Superjail! Season One arrives on DVD in a series of good 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfers. The 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 about as good as the animation style employed will allow. No problems with print damage, dirt or debris are evident and aliasing aside, this material looks nice. It may bother some people to know that the profanity in the series is bleeped on this DVD release.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix on this set is quite good. Dialogue is clean and clear and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. The music and Cheeseburger's opening theme song sound great with some very distinct electric guitar noticeable in the track. Everything is properly balanced, the levels are fine. You'll notice some pretty channel separation in a few of the more chaotic scenes featured in each episode, and the directional effects add to the insanity of it all. Subtitles are provided in English only.
The best of the extras on this disc is the Pilot Bunny Love 11:39() episode. In it, Jackknife carjacks a vehicle only to find a little girl in the back, for whom he steals some bunny rabbits with disturbing results before being whisked off by Jailbot. The animation isn't quite as polished and it's fullframe as opposed to the widescreen episodes that make up the first season, but that screwed up sense of humor that makes the series as funny and twisted as it is runs rampant. The Adult Swim website features an interactive video commentary available for this pilot episode, but for whatever reason it hasn't been included on the DVD, which is kind of annoying.
Aside from that, look for animatics for the following four episodes: Bunny Love, Superbar, Time Police Pt. 1 and Time Police Pt. 2, a video for Cheeseburger's Comin' Home (3:07, the song used over the opening credits of each episode), static menus and episode selection. A 'play all' button is also there off the main menu for those who want it.
The extras are disappointingly light, but the audio and video quality is decent enough and the series itself is enjoyably perverted. Superjail! Season One would have benefited from some more supplemental material but the strength of the series itself is enough to recommend this show to those who can appreciate the twisted side of things.
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.