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Tripping the Rift: The Complete Third Season

Starz / Anchor Bay // Unrated // January 6, 2009
List Price: $29.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Don Houston | posted January 29, 2009 | E-mail the Author
Background: As a fan of adult animation, I remember several years ago when the Sci-Fi Channel showed some balls by airing Tripping The Rift: Season Two; an animated program full of sexual innuendos that always fell just short of what I suspected the writers wanted to do but weren't allowed to do thanks to the forces of evil trying to control what adults could watch. Sadly, the cable channel dropped the show (like many others over the years) when it came time to renew for Tripping The Rift: Season Three and it was only a few weeks ago that the full season was released on DVD, the previous "movie" merely being a placeholder that took four episodes of the season and edited them together in an effort to keep fans placated until this release. I'll bring you up to speed on the show so far since I reviewed the movie and previous season, then delve into some season-specific commentary if you are not fan enough to but it sight unseen.

Arnie in a gay bar looking for Chode and some clothes.

Series: As a point of reference, I originally never saw the entire first season but it was easy enough to figure out based on an episode or two of the boxed set I picked up to review. Set in the distant future, space travel and a merging of alien cultures has been the norm of the universe for as far back as anyone can remember. The planets are governed by a bland group that resembles the Federation from Star Trek although a new group led by a man named Darth Bobo, a cross between Star Wars' Darth Vader and the clown-faced Creegan from Cleopatra 2525, is making headway top taking over. Each group demands conformity of the populace, with the Federation spouting all that crud we've heard a million times before and Bobo essentially being a power hungry emperor wannabe. On the fringes of the two groups are the cheats, knaves, and scoundrels of society that are looking out for #1 (much like the popular book by Robert Ringer in the 1970's), and one such group comprises the main characters of the television show.

The crew in black & white, how quaint.

The ship is called the Jupiter 42, an homage to Lost in Space and is led by Captain Chode McBlob, a guy that really only thinks about porn, sex, eating, and making a quick buck; some would say he's a universal male in that sense. The ship's computer, Bob, is a cross between Hal (of 2001: A Space Odyssey), the dry-witted computer from Red Dwarf, Orac from Blake's Seven, and at least a couple of other similar ship computers from a variety of series that based theirs on those two. Bob is about as helpful as a sack of dirt, generally pointing things out well after the information is of any use to the crew. The pilot of the ship is T'Nuk, and ugly, foul mouthed, three breasted cow that can best be described as the stereotypical mother-in-law who is not above using physical violence to get whatever it is she wants. Chode's nephew, Whip, is a lizard like creature (of a completely different species than his uncle) is the generic teenage slacker who is as smart as a brick and almost as energetic unless under the immediate supervision of an adult. The engineer is a robot named Gus; who is the butt of all the gay jokes since he's clearly designed as effeminate and just inside the closet. Lastly, is Six of One, the sexy android that is a cross between Xev of Lexx, Galaxina, and of course Voyager's Seven of Nine (I think her original designation was to be Six of Nine if you catch my drift). Six is owned by Chode and is programmed with a complete litany of sexual functions, though she's been upgraded to be the science officer of the ship too. If anything, she's the smartest one on the ship, the most likely to do the right thing, and the most willing to use her body to full advantage.

Even the "Unrated" version was censored.

Okay, so we have a crew of antiheroes flying around the galaxy in search of staying one step ahead of the authorities and those who'd do them harm, much like the aforementioned Firefly but with fewer ethics guiding their course. If played straight (no disrespect to Gus), the series would soon become yet another generic knockoff in a long line of knockoffs but this one was different. Not only was it animated, but it was a dark parody too. Admittedly, the animation used for the show was somewhat dated (remember that it was designed for a niche market on the Sci-Fi Channel after starting out as an internet short); looking like it came out of a mid-level computer game from the late 1990's. The comedic aspects were another matter altogether. The show has been compared to Southpark but in fairness to Trey Parker and Matt Stone's silly show, it stopped being funny years ago so the comparison does more for their show than Tripping. It has also been branded a cheap knockoff of Futurama, the failed Fox effort that also parodies science fiction, pop culture, and other movies but I think that's unfair too since although it tends to take a lower road at the material, it has just as many pointed barbs with a lot less political correctness. In all, the show is designed as a fun look at the genre and it skewers both sides of the political fence and modern topics equally though I can see why it bothers the G&L crowd as much, if not more so, then Basic Instinct, based on the frequent jokes about homosexuals and using Gus as the focal point of the humor.

Bobo and the Confederation discussing Arnie.

The basic humor of the show seems to be split about 50/50 between sexual references and social commentary, both using the wealth of material available from past movies and other sources as needed. From Chode saying "Geez, you bang a chick twice a day and you think you know her" to Gus (when asked to check a case for a possible explosive device) saying "I just finished watching Jessica Simpson in that moronic Dukes of Hazzard. What's one more bomb?", the playful sense of fun often missing in mainstream shows was offered up in spades. Each episode is replete with similar one-liners but there was a lot of visual humor too. In the opening credits, the C3P0 appearing Gus vacuums the ship with an appliance that looks identical to R2D2 as Whip pilots a smaller version of the Star Trek Enterprise ship about the cabin. Seeing drunken Vulcans, lightsabers, and a plethora of other standards from the movies is so common that it's doubtful that you'll catch them all (even numbers and address if you pay close enough attention). Ultimately though, the animation was good enough to convey the stories and the writing, however hit or miss it might be for some, was far better than average, perhaps best described as a version of Futurama made by a group of men sitting around drinking booze while watching old science fiction shows late at night.

Implied sexuality was big in the show.

Okay, with the previous material helping bring newcomers up to speed, let me say that I greatly prefer having all the episodes in a single multi-disc package (especially since I haven't seen any of the episodes, when last I looked, the show had been summarily cancelled). So the movie version was merely a cheap way of enticing a future season set from what I can see, combining episodes Chode Eraser, Skankenstein, Witness Protection, and Raiders of the Lost Crock of */@?#!. All of them refer to mainstream classics that are parodied, given the "Tripping" treatment in terms of sexually spicing them up and then edited together in a rather clumsy fashion. That one episode, Skankenstein is even in black and white (Chode remarks that the producers ran out of fucking money), is part of the silliness the movie embraces, the minimal additional footage to put the Arnie Robot into each skit kind of funny as well as creative.

Season Three began with a Terminator inspired attempt to kill Chode and moved into a spoof of horror flicks before taking on the Ebay phenomenon and the show "24". Then came a nod to the trickery of the Bobo's with a guest appearance by Chode's older counterpart and Six coming into some money used to buy Chose out. The night time soap opera "Desperate Housewives" then led to a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" misadventure, chased by a paternity episode and a race for millions of kronigs. The final two episodes involving weight loss (to regain his libido) and Whip failing yet again but they rounded out the season (and series) in such a way that I found myself laughing beside my gal pal who hates this kind of show, her reaction nearly as surprising as she chuckled away with me. The differences here include what appears to be some budgetary issues with the animation (Six doesn't jiggle as much for example and the earlier episode of Skankenstein where the B&W was used but acknowledged by Chode) yet the rapid fire, hit or miss jokes continued in such a manner that fans of the show will be just as delighted with it as ever (and I'm not just saying that because they quoted me on the cover).

See what I mean?

I'll be the first to admit that I wish there was a bigger budget and more time allowed to develop some of the jokes so they fit better but this is very much like an adult situation comedy in terms of being able to jump in at any given spot and appreciate just how lewd, crude, and amusing the warped humor could be. Granted, there are some people out there that probably are too high strung to appreciate the lowbrow humor of the show and I wish the staff could have made it even more overtly adult (the "censored" bits did make a few episodes funnier, especially given how they spotlighted it so readily, but more animated nudity and sex would have pushed it beyond the scope of Canada's Teletoon network). So, while I am completely biased in my appreciation of the show and think it was a great way to spend some time laughing at the various movie spoofs (heavy on the science fiction material of course), I acknowledge that a few of you might not agree with my rating of Highly Recommended. To those of you out there that are of such an opinion, by all means find a show you like better to read about. As for me, I will be content for now to enjoy the three seasons that made it against all odds.

Season Three

1) Chode Eraser
2) Skankenstein
3) To Ebay Or Not To Ebay
4) 23 ½
5) Chuckles Bites The Dust
6) The Need For Greed
7) Hollow Chode
8) Raiders of the Lost Crock of $%?&*!
9) Witness Protection
10) The Son Also Rises
11) Extreme Take-Over
12) Battle of the Bulge
13) Tragically Whip

Chode caught in the act of cheating on Six.

Picture: Tripping The Rift: Season Three was presented in an enhanced anamorphic widescreen color 1.78:1 ratio it was shot in for cable back in 2007; this version like all the others in that it was released in the MPEG-2 codec for a standard definition offering. Having finally seen the first season and reviewed the second season, it looked like the production company updated the look of the show but still retained the general type of computer generated imaging (CGI) that was reminiscent of Shrek and somewhat more advanced than the wonderfully hilarious Mr. Stain on Junk Alley (an extra on most of the FUNimation releases a few years ago). Without going into a multitude of technical terms, the characters had an internal consistency with all the usual shading techniques and other tricks used to make it look pretty good, if somewhat dated. It also reminded me of an adult animation The Princess Has Come of Age I watched awhile back, although the voice acting was substantially better with this series. There were some uncaught technical glitches where the animation seemed to distort but I only noticed it a few times, again reminding me of my earlier computer game analogy. There was also the weirdness of the episode Skankenstein where the footage was done in black and white, brushed off as the result of cheap producers but more likely due to a rushed production altogether.

Chode showing his deep affection for Six.

Sound: The audio was presented in a 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo English version having a 192 Kbps bitrate and 48 kHz sampling rate. The music was often a sly imitation of other genre music, even going out of the way to come close to commercials and sound effects employed elsewhere. The vocals were supplied by a number of popular character actors, Jenny McCarthy taking over the role of Six that Carmen Electra and Gina Gershon had previously). In large part, the synchronization between the animated mouths moving and the spoken words was accurate and after a few episodes, they seemed somehow fitting in the roles. As an experiment, I turned off the screen and listened, noticing no unnatural pauses or parts that seemed out of place. Some of the dialogue was a bit rushed but the nature of the material was such that it didn't matter much.

If you want politically correct humor, look elsewhere.

Extras: This time, there were only a few trailers and a paper insert written as though coming from Chode McBlob in the form of a quiz. Lastly, there was a cardboard slipcase for the DVD case; admittedly a weak lot but at least all 13 episodes to the series were here.

Final Thoughts: Tripping The Rift: Season Three combined parody, social satire, and an obvious love of movies with a somewhat darker brand of humor than most of us are used to from an animated series but did so in a manner that typically made me laugh out loud. I was happy to finally see the entire season and not the edited version comprising the movie release from last year, some of the jokes making more sense now that they were placed in their proper context. As I said earlier in the review, I'm a fan of the genre and parodies in general so the series worked better for me than it may have for some of you but the replay value was quite high and the closer you look at any given episode, the more details you will find spoofing a variety of shows, pop culture icons, and genre clichés so check it out if you have any interest in watching this type of show.

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Highly Recommended

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