Please Note: The stills used here are taken from promotional materials and other sources, not the Blu-ray edition under review.
The TV Series
Coming off its sixth year on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, Robot Chicken arrives on Blu Ray with its herky-jerky satirical mojo basically intact. The single-disc Season 6 has all the stuff that makes up the usual Robot Chicken zaniness: deliberately cheap looking stop-motion animation, hyperactive take-offs on obscure '80s-'90s pop culture, static, channel clicks, and celebrity guest voices that inspire a "huh?" reaction ("Stanley Tucci was in this episode?"). Actually there's one minor adjustment this season - in the opening credits, the re-animated Robot Chicken finally gets to tie up the mad scientist and force him to watch the wall of televisions tuned into Robot Chicken. Score one for tortured Robot Chicken, free at last.
Given that Robot Chicken's humor derives from a simple equation (one pop culture thing + another, possibly dirtier pop culture thing = comedy gold), it's a little amazing that the show still delivers some hilarious, top-notch goods for this go-round. Highlights: the Scooby Doo gang teaming up with sullen Lisbeth Salander to solve a mystery, The Fast and the Furious on Big Wheels, Polly Pocket on Hoarders, Captain Kirk contracting an interplanetary STD, the crypt keeper's sad, pun-filled life following Tales from the Crypt's cancellation, Mr. T's childhood trauma, and an alternate Terminator in which sanctimonious vegetarians created a future Earth ruled by gun-toting cows. Sure, there are a lot of overlong sketches that stretch out an already weak idea (the Biggest Loser parody with Miss Piggy, Garfield, Mario and Winnie the Pooh comes to mind), but the biggest impression I get is that the show is running much more smoothly this year. After a few inconsistent seasons which relied too much on the easy potty-minded jokes, the show's gotten a little less edgy but more satisfying.
After watching the first Robot Chicken season on Netflix, it's interesting to note the subtle changes the show has taken since then. Of course, the stop-motion animation is much less jerky now, but they've still managed to leave it chintzy looking enough to not betray the show's core "we made this in our garage with the action figures of our youth" aesthetic. While the gags are still largely inspired by obscure pieces of Pop Culture's past detritus (remember the early '90s Hip Hop dance called The Runner? Yep, they made a gag of that), the humor seems much more broad-based and inclusive now. They appear to be repeating themselves more often these days, however. For instance, E.T. pops up in at least three different gags (the funniest one involving Rambo getting tortured with the notorious E.T. Atari 2600 game). At its best, Robot Chicken touches on the kind of things that kids actually think about while zoned out watching television. This season addresses burning questions like - why was Gadget the only Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers regular who wore pants? And - what was that "purple stuff" from those grating Sunny Delight commercials, anyhow?
While this season of Robot Chicken is dominated by milder, more narrative-based sketches (quick gags of a few seconds or less appear a lot less often), these uncensored episodes contain a few racier bits capable raising an eyebrow or two. The best segments strike a good balance between shock humor and sick nostalgia. Other, not so successful bits depend on pun-based groaners that bring to mind the "Mad About Shoe" Krusty the Clown sketch from The Simpsons (America's Best Dance Crow?). The great thing about Robot Chicken, however, is that the gags flash by so quickly that even the few dodgy bits are quickly forgotten.
Aside from the animation and writing, Robot Chicken wouldn't be the same without all those celebrity guest voices (it's kind of amazing how unfamiliar even the most famous of them sound in this context, though). Along with the vocal talents of series creator Seth Green, this season includes contributions from Jon Stewart, Kat Dennings, Evan Rachel Wood, Skeet Ulrich, Allison Janney, Sam Elliott, Whoopi Goldberg, Christopher Lloyd, Olivia Wilde, Brecklyn Meyer, Alex Winter, Smoove B, 50 Cent, Ke$ha, Zachary Root, Stanley Tucci, Billy Zane, Abraham Benrubi, Brent Spiner, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Stan Lee, Frank Darabont, and Joss Whedon.
Warner Bros' Blu Ray edition of Robot Chicken: Season Six consists of the following twenty uncut and uncensored episodes, housed on a single disc (titling the episodes after forms of death - clever):
The Blu Ray:
Robot Chicken's crisp and colorful imagery is served well by the Blu Ray's 1080p 16x9 high def image. The high resolution image on this digitally shot series looks amazing; the only flaw I found was that the image was a touch over-sharpened, resulting in lightly pixelated edges.
A single Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is the only listening option here, in a mix that gives a spacious, not too overwhelming polish to the dialogue and sound effects (surround is used sparingly if at all). English SDH subtitles are also provided on all of the episodes.
Arthur the nerd would definitely approve of the generous amount of bonus content that's been included with this season:
After six years of jerkily animated pop culture parodies, Robot Chicken is kind of like being with the snotty kid brother who matured into … a snotty teenager who still gets off on telling the same booger jokes. Maybe it's a little less edgy than it once was, but there are still plenty of laughs to be had in these crunchy bite-sized episodes. Simply put, if you enjoyed the previous five seasons of Robot Chicken, you'll enjoy this season, too. Warner's Blu Ray edition sports excellent video and sound, along with a veritable buttload of extras. Recommended.