Adult Swim's Squidbillies are back for a fourth collection of irreverent and often times semi-nasty comedy. The premise of Squidbillies hasn't changed, and it still 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 moonlighting as a drug kingpin. 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.
The animation is still very sketchy and the series hasn't changed its look at all. This isn't a bad thing, mind you, it's actually a positive as it gives the characters a sloppy, sketchy unfinished look that suits the chaotic 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.
The ten episodes one this disc (taken from the show's fifth season) are laid out as follows:
The Many Loves Of Early Cuyler: Early decides that he can score with a lot of women if he starts a cult and sets himself up as the leader, subsequently allowing him to marry as many of them as he wants.
America - Why I Love Her: In this bizarre (even by the admittedly bizarre standards of a bizarre show) lets the core characters each sing about why they love America. Different reasons and different songs all make up this musical episode - perfect for Independence Day! The Drive-By Truckers guest star in this half hour episode.
Dead Squid Walking: Rusty's grandfather, Ga-Ga-Pee-Pap Cuyler (voiced by the 'dancing outlaw' himself, Jesco White) is in prison but when Rusty goes to visit him he winds up getting a treasure map from the old man. This leads Rusty to try and figure it out and find the treasure.
Young, Dumb And Full Of Gums: Dan Halen sends the town into a panic when he tells everyone that President Obama is putting fluoride into the water system along with other drugs in order to sterilize everyone and stop them from reproducing.
The Need For Weed: Lil's had a top secret pot growing operation going full tilt for some time now and when the knowledge of her super stash gets out, the band Widespread Panic (who appear as themselves) decides to head to town and get in on things.
Holodeck Redneck: In order to get the Squidbillies to use their imaginations, the Sheriff decides to take Rusty, Granny and Early to a holodeck run by a therapist voiced by Jonathan Katz.
Frivolacious Squidigation?: Granny goes to the fair and gets hurt on one of the rides, at which point Early figures he's found his ticket to financial freedom and so he decides to sue Dan Halen.
Fatal Distraction: Early gets himself one of them new fangled GPS units so that he can try to find Bin Laden, which is all well and good until it falls in love with him and decides to kill off Rusty and Granny so that it can have Early all to itself. And then Paul Stanley of Kiss shows up - sort of. Does anybody here like to take a taste of alcohol?
Lean, Green Touchdown Makifying Machine: Rusty's football skills are fast becoming more than anyone ever expected them to be, meaning he's got a very real chance at landing himself a college scholarship. Early is dead set against his boy going to college, however, and does all sorts of nutty stuff to stop that from happening.
Clowny Freaks: The members of Insane Clown Posse guest star in this episode in which Rusty joins a hip hop band, soon followed by Early, in which they put on make-up and start calling themselves the Clowny Freaks. Rusty, being a kid, grows out of this phase as soon as it starts but Early sees this as his new calling and doesn't intend to give it up. Ninjahood is eminent!
There's that old adage, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' and that definitely applies to this show. Yes, it's formulaic but that doesn't make it any less hilarious. Underneath the crass humor, the splatter, the ridiculous violence and other elements your mother doesn't like there's actually some clever social commentary about American culture, the south in particular. The series is rarely gentle and it shoots at its targets with both barrels, full force, but that's where a lot of the humor from the show stems from. A few interesting guest stars (Jesco White is a pretty perfect choice for this show!) help to breath a bit of fresh air into the series and the writing team doesn't appear to have come too close to running out of ideas yet - if you're not a fan of the series, this collection won't win you over as it really is more of the same BUT if do enjoy the show's semi-controlled insanity and barbed wire humor, there's a lot to love about this latest collection.
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 only.
Extras kick off with Squidbillies DragonCon 2010 Panel (10:39) in which the creators of the show appear on stage in front of the comic conventioneers, do voices, take questions and generally goof around. The Unknown Hinson shows up and does a song here, which is kind of cool. Voice Over With The Dancing Outlaw (0:58) is a quick bit with Jesco White doing his voice work for his guest spot, while Robotmoon Dragonmoon Wars (1:23) is an animated greeting featuring Early for the San Diego Comic Con that's pretty funny. The Making Of America: Why I Love Her (7:23) is an interview with Dave Willis and Shawn Coleman about how everyone worked on the Broadway style musical episode that is a highlight of this collection and how they tried to incorporate Blue Grass and Country music into what is essentially the Broadway format. Dougal County Ink-Off 2009 (2:54) is an amusing animated story in which Early tells is about his tattoo, what it means, how and why he got it, and what happened to it which then leads into a real life Squidbillies tattoo contest. Funny Pete Stuff (4:06) is a collection of promo spots for the show, featuring The Unknown Hinson and animated bits alike. Art & Music (12:15) is a still gallery of animation rough drafts, character sketches and related material set to some of The Unknown Hinson's music. Animated menus and episode selection are also included.
Squidbillies Vol. 4 doesn't stray too far from the show's established formula but its fans probably don't want it to. With that said, there are some remarkably bizarre and creative ideas here that, combined with the show's unique animation style, make it a whole lot of fun. It's not necessarily something that you're going to want to take in all in one sitting, but spread things out a few episodes at a time and you can have a whole lot of fun with this release. 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.