Yo, Cedric_alpha back again, and this time with my second crack at reviewing an Adult Swim show. Last time, I went to the weird anime-like side with Perfect Hair Forever. This time, I went way off base, going with a show that the characters on it, if they even look at an anime, would probably call it The Devil’s Work. That’s right, it’s time to take a journey with me, God, Jesus, and others, as I go through one of Adult Swim’s favorite cult hits (but not that kind of cult) in Dino Stamatopoulos’s Moral Orel.
The People and Story of Moral Orel
The setting of Moral Orel takes place in the state of Statesota, which is set somewhere between Kansas and Missouri (Apparently, there is no Kansas City in this world.) The stories focus on the God-loving/fearing Christian citizens of Moralton, and how they go about their daily lives of prayer and trying to be good in God’s holy graces. With “trying” being the word. It mostly focuses on a young boy named Orel Puppington, who really loves God and Jesus, and tries to be the good little Christian as he can be. Now, Orel is a really good kid, with a big heart. He is also very gullible, and gets into lots of stupid situations because of so many misunderstandings from the adults of the way God works. Be it from his father, his reverend, or any other person in Moralton, as long as it’s God doing, he will try to follow it, no matter what. These “situations” I pointed out? Well, it can be from anything. Like accidentally raising the dead cause they “don’t cherish life” (In the first episode), to doing crack because of trying to “give to the less fortunate”, to beating up gay kids cause he wanted to be “loyal” to his new friend, getting a Prince Albert (look this up yourself. *Thinks* Actually, don’t.) to “spice up marriage” and even getting rid of eggs, because “they came from a chicken’s bad place”.
There are alot more things that happen because of all these misinterpretations. But, as I said, most of those things happen because of the adults in Orel’s life. And to start with the adults, let’s begin with his father, Clay. Oh boy, Clay. I know there are alot of bad fathers in the Live-Action TV/Anime/cartoon world. But man, Clay is up there with the worst of them. More than likely even in the top 5. This guy is an alcoholic mess of a broken man. He has a crappy way of interpreting God’s ways to his son. His lessons always turn into belt beatings in his study for Orel. He is a shitty father and an even shittier husband. Hell, he doesn’t care for his other son he has (for good reason, which I’ll get to) and is just the worst role model to have. And yet, Orel does look up to him, very too much throughout the series. He is also a closeted homosexual as well, even though he does have a wife. But there’s a reason why he is with her, as seen in Season 3. It’s very depressing how they got together.
Then there’s Orel’s mom, Bloberta. How can I say it more clearly than she is a broken woman. Her whole life has been broken. Her marriage is a sham. She is so desperate for love, she will be with anyone. Her only way through the day it seems of getting through the day is to be cleaning everything with an ungodly OCD-like appreciation. She also doesn’t care for her second son, Shapey, and either does the actual father, who isn’t Clay. Hell, speaking of, somewhere in the second season, they replaced him with another kid, Bloc, who is just like him: ADHD riddled, screams aloud and alot, and just beats Orel and gets away with it because he’s 7. Orel’s parents really don’t give a fuck who their second kid is really. They might be the worst set of parents you will ever see, not just here, but in any TV show.
But it’s not just this family that gets focused. The town itself is a hodgepodge of broken characters. Reverend Ron Putty is a man of the Lord (being the reverend and all) but he is so depressed and lonely and wanting any (good looking) woman, it’s really sad. He even tries to listen to other people’s sex lives during Confessional for the good stuff. Ms. Censordoll is basically everything you wouldn’t like about a Christian. She burns books that goes against the Lord’s work. She protest anything that has a bad image for the town. And she just mean spirited and really manipulative throughout. She also has a really creepy obsession with eggs. Mostly cause “she doesn’t have her own.” Doughy, Orel’s best friend, is pretty much an idiot. But a good-hearted idiot. He, like Orel, has a terrible family life. However, Orel’s dad, bad as he is, actually does raise Orel in his own way. Doughy can’t even get a “son” from his dad. In fact, he treats him like he’s a nuisance in the way of having sex with his wife all the time, and gives him money to make him go away. No really. Nurse Bendy is basically a woman with the mind of a 8 year old, who gets fucked by the principal, Principal Fakey, often. Speaking, of, that principal has a wife, and it does eat at his conscience when doing it. Then there is Coach Stopframe, who is so in love with Orel’s dad, and will do anything to get him. Including, switching from God to Satan (or anything in between) to see who can grant him his wish. There are more characters in this show as well, and their lives are just as nutty. Really, the only character that seems to be sane on here is the sex shop owner, Stephanie. And even she has some issues.
As you can see with the characters, this is not your fun little Veggie Tales story of how to interact with god. This is a dark comedy/satire. Actually, it gets more dark than comedy, with some episodes, like “Nature (Parts 1 &2)”, “Love” (As Orel says, “Poor Bartholomew”), “Numb”, “The Best Christmas Ever”, and “Help” being very dark and depressing. (“Help” and “Passing” are flashbacks of Clay and Bloberta’s own lives, and yet they some of the best ways at telling flashbacks, something a certain Toonami show with a blonde ninja could learn from.) Hell, the “Alone” and “Sacrifice” episodes are some of the darkest shit I ever seen for any TV show by itself. Dino Stamatopolous and his crew really goes in on this show, showing more of how family drama and faith can play out in the deep recesses of the mind’s work. It’s really something to behold. So something, that Mike Lazzo didn’t want this shit anymore cause of how dark it was gonna actually become. The third season got cut down to 13 episodes from 20, and then cancelled, because of how little comedy there was on the show. Lazzo wanted comedy. Dino wanted to tell his own way of things. Because of that, no more Orel. So yes, you CAN blame Lazzo for this.
Speaking of the seasons, they differ in how it goes. The first season is Orel stupidly misreading all of God’s lessons that he has been told, and stuff happens, and he gets a lesson in the “Study” for it. The second season kind does this too, being mostly episodic, but it all plays out in its own different ways, ending with “Nature (Parts 1 & 2)” and the hunting trip Orel and Clay take. Season 3 is revolved around what happened before/after the trip, and how Orel, his parents, and basically the whole city, changed when it happened. Season 3 is the darkest of all the seasons. Not that the other 2 aren’t. Because they are. But Season 3 is just gonna depress some alot more.
On to the animation, which, as you can tell from the pics on here, the show is not exactly a cartoon. Moral Orel is done in the style of Stop-Motion Animation, and it’s done extremely well too. As you know, stop-motion can be a very hard venture to partake in, and does take some time to make/set up. But it can look great once it is all ready. Dino and his crew does a great job showcasing this town of clay and cardboard, making it look pretty well in execution. The ending credits even have Orel doing stop-motion animation of his Jesus and Bible friends toys. (Episode 18 of Season 2 “Orel’s Movie Premiere” is actually Orel retelling Ep. 1-3 of Season 1 through the motions of stop-motion animation. It’s really quite amazing to see this work.) The way they had the camera angles focused on the clay figures can make the situation they are showing funny and surreal at the moment. The townsfolk and how they are build look splendid in how they are, even if most of their personalities are that of their own clay sculptures. The town is pretty well built itself, with a feel of small town USA. If small-town USA was entirely Protestant. The move-movement is on point throughout, and so is every facial features given to the characters as a whole. Point is, stop-motion is a hard thing to do, and takes time and effort to create for all of it to go well. They made this as perfect as you can, given how little time they had with their schedule. It’s one of the best things on this show, and I’m glad Dino stuck with it on his other Adult Swim show he did too (Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole).
The music in this can defer depending on the mood. There is the usually cheerful opening, where God goes into Moralton and sees the church, with Morel greeting him. The music sometimes can be really fun, and giving a good vibe when Orel is around. Hell, even the song “I Hate You, Jesus!” is very upbeat and lively. The various artist used on here do create different songs for the setting. Be it the Christian Rock songs played on the radio, to the depressing songs about life that can be heard throughout. The mood is gonna either make you love this, or just make you feel really depressed. And it’s usually the latter. (The music in the first S3 episode “Numb” really got to me myself. Yikes, it is sad.)
Now I can’t forget about the voice actors. What if I told you that Sandy Cheeks from Spongebob, Rigby from Regular Show, and Jem were all voices on here? Would you believe me? Well, it’s true. Carolyn Lawrence (Sandy) voices the title character of this show, doing a wonderful job as Orel. Britta Phillips (Jem) is great as his broken mom, Bloberta, and William Salyers (Rigby) is fun/depressing as Reverend Putty. A big shoutout goes to Scott Adsit as Clay. His performance is fine throughout, but he really shines in the very twisted dark scenes he delivers as the drunk God-fearing husband/father. Also on as the voices were Dino, his brother Tigger, Jay Johnston (who, along with Adsit, co-wrote and co-produced the show with Dino) and David Herman, who I loved as the deep voiced Coach Stopframe. The voice actors for this are a blast to listen to.
Overall, if you were looking for a fun show that was all about God and that, well, this show is not it. I mean, Moral Orel is still fun, but in its own dark, twisted, fucked up-type of way. Moral Orel has some actual good moments in it that made me smile. Like Reverend Putty and Stephanie’s relationship, which actually makes Putty more human than most times. And of course, the ending to the show (SPOILER!), with Orel all grown up and with the person he fell for, Christina, and them having a nice family. But mostly, this show is really dark and twisted throughout the whole show. I haven’t even mention how this show treats Catholics like they’re the devil. (Jews are actually treated so much better on this show than Catholics. Most of the time.) Or the other things that make this look like Backwards Town USA. But mostly, it’s a very good show that I would recommend watching. It’s definitely one of the best shows Adult Swim has put out, and wish they can show it again on TV, rather than online.
My rating for Moral Orel: 8.5/10
Now to end my review, let me leave you some words of wisdom from Clay himself.