One of the more recent additions to the Adult Swim line up, Superjail!, now back on DVD in its second season and with a third season on the way, is produced by Augenblich Studios, the studio that brought us the ultra-twisted Wonder Showzen and the thoroughly enjoyable Nickelodeon Series, Yo Gabba Gabba.
The basic 'formula' for each episode hasn't really changed much from the first season, but for those who haven't seen the show, 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, along with Jackknife, seem to somehow manage to not get killed by the end of each episode. The rest of the inmates? Well, they're more or less cannon fodder.
So how does this second season shape up against the fan favorite first one? Honestly, it's good, but it's not as good as what came before it. It still hits many of the same notes and is just as outrageous as what was done earlier in the series but the episodes and characters aren't quite as memorable here. That's not to say that you won't enjoy this second batch of insanity, because if you enjoyed season one it's pretty much a sure thing that you'll enjoy season two, but it doesn't quite fire on all cylinders each and every go round.
Superjail! Season Two includes the following episodes:
Best Friends Forever
Lord Stingray Crash Party
The Budding Of The Warbuxx
Superjail Grand Prix
A few stand out episodes from this season try something different, like the season opener in which the opening sequence where Jailbot brings Jackknife back to the jail is thrown for a loop - the seemingly invincible Jailbot is shot down out of the sky and both he and his captive wind up in dangerous situations one after the next while the Warden tries to figure out what to do without his favorite robot enforcer around. This one mixes up some out of jail high jinks with the usual prison bound insanity that the show is known for. In Hotchick a big gooey alien blob lands in the prison and gets into Jackknife's head where it comes up with the idea to take on the form of a hot female, and once this happens the Warden eventually falls in love with her. It turns out she's after those weird twins that hang out in the jail, but the details behind her appearance and her mission are pretty funny and shed some welcome background information on some of the show's more mysterious characters.
The topical Gay Wedding episode finds Jean and Paul ready to tie the knot in the big house and the Warden and Alice can't wait to help plan the big event. Things go wrong at the bachelor party though when someone gets a little too touchy feely with the male stripper brought in. Will our gay lovebirds set aside their issues and get hitched? Only the glory hole in the bathroom will ever really know. The prison turns out to be haunted in the Ghosts episode and the doctor decides the best way to deal with this is to kill the Warden so his spirit can crossover and deal with the pesky spirits causing problems in the jail. Once he does that he meets an ancient Aztec priest (guest-voiced by John Waters) who has ties to the Superjail's past. In The Budding Of The Warbuxx the Warden watches a Reefer Madness style anti-marijuana movie and decides to crack down on drug use in the jail, the only problem with that idea being there isn't any drug use in the jail at all. Meanwhile, one of the twins starts growing something strange made of crystal out of his stomach, and the inmates hold their own movie night - insanity ensues as these three plotlines twist together. The Superjail Grand Prix episode is also a good one, as it gives the prisoners a chance to compete in a race against a ringer that the Warden has kidnapped - the prize? Their freedom, so obviously all bets are off and it's every man for himself.
If not every episode is a winner, the good for sure outweighs the bad here and on top of that, we get the series' amazing visual style to enjoy over and over again. There's so much going on in the backgrounds of any given episodes and it's going on with such frequency that the series winds up with a lot of great repeat value. Additionally, this series fleshes out some of the recurring characters in ways you probably won't expect and in ways which actually contribute to the continuity of the series - not that it seems all that concerned with it. The universe of the series expands a little bit here though, and that's a good thing. As violent and chaotic and crass as it is (and Superjail! is very much all three of those things for pretty much every second of every episode!), it's also a wonderfully zany and ridiculously creative show unlike anything else on television. The series will consistently take you by surprise and its continued unpredictability makes it a whole lot of absurd ultraviolent fun.
Superjail! Season Two arrives on DVD in a series of good 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfers that look pretty much exactly the same as the first season episodes did - which is a good thing. 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.
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 main extra on the disc are commentary tracks on the following episodes: Best Friends Forever, Lord Stringray Crash Party, Hot Chick, Gay Wedding, Ghosts, The Budding Of The Warbuxx, Superjail Grand Prix and Vacation. A few different cast and crew members chime in with their thoughts on the series, why they liked working on the show, different bits that work particularly well in different episodes and more. The audio quality is a bit rough in spots, they kind of sound like they were recorded in a tin can, but the content is fun, entertaining and frequently very interesting.
Also worth checking out is an eight and a half minute interview from Periscope Magazine with Joe Bradley and Christy Karacas. It's worth checking out as it's pretty funny but it also offers some insight into the creative process behind the show. There's also a ten song live set from Cheeseburger on here, shot at Andrew W.K.'s venue Santo's Party House in Manhattan, so that those who dig the show's opening theme can further dig more music from the band that created it - it clocks in at just over forty-one minutes. The disc also contains an animated Cheeseburger video for the track 'Winner.' Rounding out the extras are some animatics and animation test clips, some intro clips, static menus and episode selection. A 'play all' button is also there off the main menu for those who want it.
If the content isn't quite as good as the first season's batch of episodes were, Superjail! The Complete Second Season is still plenty awesome and insanely entertaining - and the extras are solid too. It won't convince those who weren't impressed the first time but fans of the series already know they need this. Recommended, now bring on season three!
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.