For those unfamiliar with the series, Robot Chicken skewers movies, music, television and other facets of pop culture using... action figures! It might sound kind of strange - and it is - but the series, created by Seth Green and Matthew Seinreich, is actually a lot of fun and often times quite hilarious. Each episode runs about fifteen minutes or so in length and is presented in a 'channel surfing' format meaning that what you see are little sketches enacted with action figures that replicate the bits and pieces of television you would see if you were sitting around working the remote. Somehow it manages to work, even if it doesn't sound like it should.
While there is no real plot to speak of, a lot of the episodes feature some funny running gags. An example? King Leonidas from 300, famous for yelling 'This is Sparta!!!' ever so intensely in that film, is put into a few different scenarios that are not at all related to the movie. He watched 3 And A Half Men and yells out 'This is not funny!!!' and kicks over his TV. After a few more skits we see him sitting at a family dinner table where he yells out 'This is scrumptious!!!' before devouring his meal. Another popular recurring character is a frustrated robot who shows up at random to hump various household appliances. There's no real rhyme or reason to any of this, but those who appreciate absurdist humor won't bother concerning themselves with that anyway.
The show's appeal lies in its insane amount of obscure eighties pop culture references, political jabs, and penchant to put various and inappropriate characters into situations involving extreme sex and violence. Anyone out there remember Crystar - The Crystal Warrior? Just imagine what would happen to him if a pair of junkies trying to manufacture their own crystal meth ran into him. The Will Smith film The Pursuit Of Happiness is parodied with a Fonzie action figure in the lead and a Chaucie action figure playing Smith's son in The Pursuit Of Happy Days while the founding fathers morph with the aforementioned Spartans from 300 in a hyper-stylish and ultra-violent remake of 1776. Wanna see Stevie Wonder and superhero Daredevil compete on a game show together? This is the show for you.
Obviously how much you get out of the show will depend on how many of the (sometimes incredibly obscure) characters, shows and movies that are referenced you are familiar with. Not that those who don't 'get' all the jokes can't appreciate the insanity of it all, but the broader your eighties pop culture media spectrum is, the more you'll get out of the series. It's also hard not to at least get something out of the quirky stop motion animation style used to bring all of these action figures to life. Like South Park the film is pretty daring in its approach to tackling topical subjects and current affairs. There are plenty of digs at the Bush Administration littered throughout the series and parodies of current television shows to go alongside nods to older series' like Law & Order and of course, the series' favorite, G.I. Joe.
Not every sketch will have you on the floor with laughter - the skits range from hysterically funny to rather confusing to just flat out odd - but for pop culture junkies the good will absolutely outweigh the bad here. This season doesn't differ in approach from the two that came before it but if it ain't broke, why try to fix it?
It should be noted that this release of Robot Chicken: The Complete Third Season is presented completely uncut and uncensored, meaning there are no bleeps present to cover the profanity and there is periodic action figure nudity present throughout the series.The DVD
The 1.33.1 fullframe picture on this DVD looks better than you'd probably expect it to. Color reproduction is nice and bright without looking overdone while detail levels stay pretty strong and consistent throughout. There's a little bit of shimmering here and there but not major problems with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement to complain about. There's a bit of softness to the picture at times, but really, the quality here is perfectly acceptable.Sound:
It's hard to complain about the English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track on this DVD, even if a 5.1 mix might have been kind of fun. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and there's some fun channel separation in the mix. There aren't any problems to report with hiss or distortion and the levels are all properly balanced. Optional subtitles are provided in English, French and Spanish.Extras:
As tends to be the norm with Robot Chicken releases, this two disc set is stacked with extra features and it's obvious from the 'across the board' enthusiasm that the cast and crew of the show really dig what they do for a living. Let's start with the commentary tracks - there's one supplied for each of the twenty episodes contained in this collection courtesy of... well pretty much everyone involved in the show with the odd guest star. Guest star, you say? Yep. None other than Billy Dee Williams himself pops up on one of these tracks to give his input on the show and his contribution to the series. In between a lot of in-jokes and good natured ribbing we learn about where some of the ideas came from for the various skits seen in the collection as well as what went in to bringing these stop motion/toy bits to life. Fun stuff.
The rest of the supplements are spread across the two discs in the set as follows:
The Chicken Nuggets section includes four parts: #41 Werewolf Vs. Unicorn (11:41),#43 Squaw Bury Shortcake (12:03),#44 Rabbits On A Roller Coaster (12:57) and #45 Tapping A Hero (12:37). All four segments include video commentary intro/outro segments from members of the creative team putting this material in context. All four are well worth watching as they include plenty more of the screwball humor that the show is known for.
Also on the first disc is a brief one minute Gag Reel and one minute's worth of VFX Comparions that show before and after and in progress shots of some of the skits while they were being worked on.
Moving right along, there's also a wealth of extra excised/unfinished/alternate material here. There are two Alternate Audio clips included, both quite brief, for the Mumm-Ra Donald Faison skit and the Law & Order: KFC Seth Green bits. Both are amusing to check out, despite their short running time. More substantial is the selection of Deleted Animatics which includes excised bits for twenty-two different bits. The Deleted Scenes section includes eight different bits that were chopped out of the broadcast episodes, one of which is the unusually funny Superheroes Tonight - Jeopardy which will definitely tickle the funny bone of comic book fans and Jeopardy devotees alike.
Giving us an interesting inside look at how and where Robot Chicken is made is the Studio Tour (11:33) guided by Seth Green and Matt Seinreich. This gives us a look at where the mayhem all comes to life and shows off some of the miniatures built for the show and includes some interviews with members of the writing staff. Complimenting that are the eleven different Video Blogs that have been compiled here. These brief snippets touch on different aspects of how the show is put together by covering writing, voice work, set and puppet design, animation, directing, visual effects, lighting, puppets, and of course, the toys themselves.
Static menus, and chapter stops are included on both discs.Final Thoughts:
Robot Chicken: The Complete Third Season sticks to the formula that has made the series a cult hit. Anyone who enjoyed the first two releases already knows they want this and those who haven't given the series a shot and who appreciate quirky, distasteful and wonderfully irreverent humor ought to give it a shot. Highly recommended.