Cartoon Network Studios (2010-2011), Warner Home Video (July 16, 2013), 2 Discs, 440 mins, 16:9 ratio, Dolby TrueHD, Rated TV-PG, Retail: $39.98
Two slackers working in park maintenance continually try to avoid work, get the best of their boss, and accidentally have surreal adventures.
The Sweatbox Review:
I’m on quite a roll right now with getting review copies of shows I’ve never watched, each one with a distinct voice and weird in its own way. And by weird, of course I mean cool. Of course, weird can also be banal or stupid, but fortunately the subject of this particular review is funny and engaging. It’s also an Annie nominee, and winner of a 2012 Emmy Award.
The Regular Show was developed by CalArts grad J.G. Quintel, arising out of his student films The Naïve Man from Lolliland and 2 In The AM PM. Pitched under Cartoon Network’s Cartoonstitute initiative, the show was greenlit by the network and debuted in 2010. Quintel has said that the series is inspired by his memories of college life, as well as odd jobs he did as a student, while also being inspired by other slice-of-life and workplace comedies.
The gateway character is certainly Mordecai, a blue jay who serves somewhat as Quintel’s alter ego (Quintel also provides his voice). Mordecai is like many twenty-three years olds who have not yet found a direction in life that goes beyond serving their immediate needs. Mordecai’s best friend (and co-conspirator) is Rigby, a raccoon with maybe even less ambition, and certainly a more broken moral compass. For every bad impulse that Mordecai fights, Rigby is there to encourage. Though they are loath to admit it, they are both slackers, constantly finding excuses to avoid their work, and are easily distracted by whatever life pleasures present themselves— mostly junk food and video games. Mordecai also is crushing on local waitress Margaret, though Rigby seemingly hasn’t discovered girls yet. Rigby is that friend you had that couldn’t understand why you would forsake goof-off time with him for the sake of spending time with a girl.
The boys’ lack of work ethic is an ongoing source of frustration for their boss Benson, probably the first anthropomorphic gumball machine to ever star in a TV show. Benson has little patience for Mordecai and Rigby’s antics, but endures them regardless. Maybe that’s because his other employees are such a weird bunch, and make the slacker buddies seem at least normal in comparison. There’s Pops, a large-headed European gentleman who is lost in his own world of lollipops and misunderstanding, but at least he’s a really nice fellow. There’s also Skips, a Yeti who looks more like a white gorilla, and is naturally strong and also relatively wise. Less endearing is Muscle Man, a green-skinned dufus, and the enigmatic High-Five Ghost, who has a hand sticking out the top of his mostly-silent ghost body.
Everyone seems to live on the park grounds, so this isn’t just a workplace comedy. Indeed, this is a domestic sit-com as well, though with many surreal twists. Aside from the obvious bizarreness of the characters, the stories go beyond simple “slacker” plots, though the more grounded stories are actually some of my favorites. I would not say that I’ve ever been especially fond of slacker comedy (slackers rub me the wrong way), but these episodes are pretty amusing. Whether it’s seeing Mordecai and Rigby lament their lack of money (and having no notion of how to earn it) or watching them use a hologram to sneak off and order a limited edition burger, I found these stories consistently funny.
And then there are the more “way out” episodes, where you just have to admire the craziness of the plots. The first episode, The Power, involves a magic keyboard that gives Mordecai and Rigby the power to order people around. Just Set Up The Chairs starts with a typical slacker plot, with the boys whining over having to set up chairs (though they’re intent to do so, just to prove that they’re not slackers); but then they unleash an 8-bit video game monster that threatens to devour the entire world. In Prank Callers, the duo end up transported back into the 1980s, while Mordecai And The Rigbys sees them visited by their future rock star selves. Meat Your Maker involves killer hot dogs. And that’s just a sampling of the twelve 12-minute episodes from the first season. I didn’t even mention the gang of trouble-making unicorns.
The 28 episodes of Season Two keep up the same nuttiness, while expanding the cast and developing their relationships. We meet Muscle Man’s ex-girlfriend, Hi-Five Ghost’s brother, and see Rigby interfere with Mordecai’s attempts at romance with his long-time crush Margaret. The boys challenge a world champion gamer. Rigby gets killed by Mordecai once, and later by Skips, who must try to bring him back to life by arm-wrestling Death itself. Speaking of Death, Mordecai accidentally raises the dead during a cemetery movie night. And the boys try to get the best of Benson by having a party, making fraudulent statements in park records (which later become troubling true), and fight a new security system meant to prevent them from slacking off. Things also come full circle when Benson gets demoted in Benson Be Gone and he too begins to slack off with the other groundskeepers. And, going back to the beginning, the original pilot basically gets remade in First Day, where we get to see the boys on the job for the first time. And let’s not forget Season Two’s unveiling of the terror of the were-skunk!
This is an enjoyable series, one which I found easy to get into after a couple of episodes, despite initially being slightly put off by the design of the show. Once you’re into that universe, though, you can’t imagine the characters and environment being any other way. I do like how the main characters speak so naturally, reminding me well of folks I used to go to school with, even with the craziness of the plots and weird supporting players. Rigby and especially Mordecai keep the show grounded and the stories relatable.
This Blu-ray set has all forty quarter-hour episodes from the first two seasons, offering hours of the best in slacker surrealism.
Is This Thing Loaded?
The first Blu-ray disc has the requisite Trailers for Cartoon Network product, including recent DVDs of Adventure Time and Regular Show. But after that, we get to the good stuff, including Audio Commentaries for all 40 episodes! Many episodes even have two commentaries. Contributors include creator J.G. Quintel, plus various storyboard artists and others. J.G. and his crew are actually well spoken and provide good comments, though beware— there’s a fair bit of dead space too. The fellas have the type of fun that makes one feel as if you are among friends, and it was nice that they took hours of their life to record these commentaries. I’m not sure I can return the favor, but the ones I listened to were pretty good.
The first disc, with the first season, has most of the other bonus material, staring with The Unaired Regular Show Pilot (7:58). It looks like they had the show just about nailed down right from the start, with only slight design and voice differences detected, in this tale of rock-paper-scissors gone horribly wrong. Next is the Animatic For The Unaired Pilot (7:33), as well as the Animatic For The Power (11:15). The Original Pencil Tests From Saerom (0:38) are from the pilot, as done by the South Korean studio.
Much less substantial is the four-second CG Test For Hogepodge Monster (0:04), while it is nice to see the 2010 Comic-Con Teaser Trailer (2:35). An essential inclusion on this set is Quintel’s The Naïve Man From Lolliland Student Short (4:08), which first introduced Pops to the world and gives an idea of his origins. It’s very crudely done, but it’s no doubt a precursor to Regular Show.
The Party Tonight Music Video (2:06) gives us the song from Mordecai And The Rigbys as performed by live action versions of the cast. It’s fun.
Original Regular Show Commercials (0:48) showcases a pair of spots from cartoon Network.
J.G. Pitches The Power (16:32) has Quintel returning to the original Post-It Note storyboards and re-creating his initial pitch of the show. By now, I was really appreciating the effort made to include the show’s creator in the bonus material.
That continues as we move on to the second disc, where the main featurette is the Interview With J.G. Quintel (5:06), as the creator introduces himself and shows us around Cartoon Network.
Sam Sings Mystery Karaoke (2:00) is kind of a mystery itself. The Sam of the title is presumably voice actor Sam Marin, and here he is shown in silence acting up in front of the microphone. His prancing and bopping is a bit amusing, but you’ll likely lose interest before the end of its runtime. So, the set ends on a low point, but at least there’s lots of other great material to get through first.
The two discs, each holding one season, are held on opposite sides of a typical Blu-ray case, with inserts also included that have the Ultraviolet code and disc contents listed in detail. The cover slip duplicates the art on the case, and is textured to simulate a family photo album.
Ink And Paint:
This is another flawless Cartoon Network presentation on Blu-ray. I’m a little surprised they bothered with a Blu-ray release for this program, but Blu is almost always better. The video is perfectly stable, and I noticed no banding or digital artifacts. Assumedly, this is a digital-to-digital transfer (though the show is hand-drawn), so each episode is also free of any physical damage or debris. Most of the show has pretty mundane visuals, but for those special moments when the gang engages in otherworldly adventure, it’s nice to see sharp lines and bold colors when appropriate.
There is just the English track, surprisingly in Dolby TrueHD, though it’s not an especially challenging one for a sound system. The show is dialog driven, with only occasional moments of anything approaching bombast. But again, at least we know that this is the best presentation possible. English subtitles are available for the hearing impaired.
If you need trippy plots to make slacker stories more palatable, then this is the show for you. Taking full advantage of the cartoon medium, Regular Show has unique characters, surprising twists, and lots of craziness, while still feeling oddly down-to-earth. Video is perfect, audio is satisfactory, and the extras are numerous. This is a great set for the show’s fans, and hopefully more will be encouraged now to check the series out.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?