1 year. It’s been precisely 1 year since the Adult Swim Squad first got off the ground. I remember it like it was yesterday: receiving the invite, writing up the 2015 Singles program, posting dank memes for the fellow Squad members to enjoy, and then moving on to other reviews, articles, and weekly recaps to satisfy whoever could be reading. And now, for the 1 year anniversary of the Swim Squad, I’ll be writing about my top 5 favorite Adult Swim shows (in no particular order). I do have a couple of rules in place as far as what shows I considered putting on this list.
1. It must have first premiered as an Adult Swim original. So this discounts stuff like Home Movies and Big O which first premiered elsewhere before getting an additional season funded by the network.
2. Shows that are currently airing on the block are eligible, provided that they have aired at least 3 complete seasons as of this writing, so as much as I’d like to put Black Jesus or Rick and Morty on here, they’ll have to wait.
With that out of the way, let’s get on with this list.
1. The Boondocks
The Boondocks is probably the one Adult Swim program I’ve found myself rewatching more than any other on the block. It’s a show I find endlessly addicting for a multitude of reasons, most of which I covered in a past opinion piece talking about the somewhat unfavorable season 4. However, even factoring season 4 in, The Boondocks still leaves you with one of the most impressively consistent runs of any television program out there, with episodes full of stunning animation/music, witty social commentary, and a great cast of characters that are all ridiculously entertaining and fun to watch interact with each other. As cliché as this might be to say, it’s a show that’s capable of making you laugh, think, and even feel genuine sadness for when the characters are at their most depressed or strung-out. In fact, most of my absolute favorite episodes are the ones that forego satire and choose to zero in on the life issues and emotional struggles that plague the populace of Woodcrest. The Boondocks is just a perfectly well-rounded series on all fronts and is definitely worth watching and re-watching.
2. The Eric Andre Show
The following statement might make me sound like a bad [as] fan: Abso Lutely Productions, for the most part, kinda rubs me the wrong way, though mainly anything directly involving Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. Because of this, I usually either avoid stuff produced by the company (I’ve intentionally put off on watching Nathan For You and Review due to this), or I usually go into them with low expectations. The latter was definitely the case when I first tried watching The Eric Andre Show, and while it didn’t hook me at first, I definitely got more into it the more I watched it. I think the main thing that sold me on the show (and continues to sell me on it) is the two leads, Eric Andre and Hannibal Buress. Many of the sketches are suitably absurd enough to be funny on their own, the musical guests at the end of each episode are always a personal highlight for me, and the editing is top-notch ridiculous (seriously, kudos to whoever has to edit this show), but Eric and Hannibal tie it all together, proving themselves not just to be two of the best comedic performers currently working, but also one of the all-time great comedic duos. The chemistry and comedic banter between them is what holds the whole thing in place, even if the relationship is just “Hannibal’s the straight man unimpressed by Eric’s random-ass bullshit”. With the show currently airing its 4th season, I’m looking forward to enjoying more off-beat strange talk show shenanigans from the two for the foreseeable future. One last thing… YOU’RE WATCHING BIRD UP! THE WORST SHOW ON TELEVISION!
3. The Venture Bros.
Confession time: I got into The Venture Bros. kind of late in comparison to everyone I know. I didn’t start watching until literally 5 days before the season 5 premiere, at which point I binged the entire series in the days leading up to the premiere, and I loved what I was watching. The main appeal for me with The Venture Bros. is that for a show that’s considered one of the quintessential building blocks of the Adult Swim line-up, it’s the one show that’s arguably the *least* like anything else that’s aired on the block, past or present. Besides the fact that the show actually seems to have an art style and level of animation that looks like it wasn’t scribbled on the back of a napkin in 5 minutes, the series is more focused on constructing a deep narrative across a constantly expanding universe than it is about anything else. Hell, even the show’s comedic sensibilities, while certainly adult and raunchy, is nowhere near as experimental or abstract as its contemporaries on the block. Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer have put a massive amount of work into successfully constructing one of the most well fleshed-out and detailed worlds ever crafted for any fictional work: a constant hive of adventure and action where dangerous threats can pop up at any time, allies and enemies can change allegiances and pull heel turns at any given time, and the Monarch will always be there to be the most egotistical self-absorbed douche in the world. It’s a triumph of story, animation/direction, and even music (they’ve released two soundtracks of J.G. Thirlwell’s fantastic musical contributions to the series), with the wait for each new season always feeling completely worth it. Here’s to the inevitable season 7, whenever that may be.
This one’s a no-brainer if you know anything about me at all. As an up-and-coming metalhead during my freshman year of high school, I naturally gravitated towards Metalocalypse for its over-the-top aesthetic, which perfectly mimicked damn near every metal album cover ever made, and of course its amazing music (Dethalbum II was the album that made me wanna take up playing drums). As I continued watching the show, and as I became more active within the local metal community in my hometown, Metalocalypse became so much more. Peeling back the story layers to reveal a larger-than-life apocalyptic narrative weaved through the career of the world’s mostly popular death metal band felt like the perfect encapsulation of so many Adult Swim shows: one-note gags that evolve into something more elaborate and complex as time goes on. The show’s comedy is also highly relatable to someone like me, as I can tell you from personal experience that plenty of metalheads behave almost exactly like the titular characters, although I can assure you that more veer towards behaving like Toki than they do Murderface, oddly enough. And while it’s a shame that the series probably won’t get to finish the way Brendon Small wanted it to end, the 4 seasons/musical that we got stand up as some of the finest television Adult Swim has aired. It’s probably the one [as] show that I have the most personal connection to, which is of course why it’s here
And to end this list on a bit of a curveball…
5. 12 oz. Mouse
I’m… not even sure where to start with this one. 12 oz. Mouse is essentially the precursor to Xavier, Renegade Angel in my opinion, as both feel like they were crafted from the same root idea: “how can we take a thematically/narratively engaging premise… and present it in the most intentionally abstract and vehemently off-putting manner possible?” The “animation” at this point is infamous for being easily the cheapest and shoddiest you can find in any series: past, present, or future. The crude designs and cheap colors/effects are basically the only thing that you can pay attention to when watching it, and the awkward stilted low-key conversational style tends to reinforce the awkward experience of watching the show. So why is it here?
Well, when you peel back the uncomforting nature of its upfront presentation, 12 oz. Mouse manages to devise one of the most bizarrely compelling narratives for any Adult Swim show. The multiple layers of mystery and intrigue presented as Mouse, Skillet, and company attempt to unravel everything from Shark’s schemes to the mysterious omnipresent clock and the true nature of the Shadowy Figure remain consistently engaging from the start of the series to its admittingly awkward conclusion (?). Every twist and turn the plot goes through shows a surprising level of thought and effort put into it, and while I’m upset that the series didn’t really end in any significant sense of the word, the story we were given is nothing short of incredible. Maybe a future April Fools stint will give us another episode that shines light on the mysteries still left hanging and what exactly Fitz’s role is in this grand scheme, and if that should be the case, then I’ll await with baited breath. Now… OUTTA MY WAY I’M DRUNK AS HELL!
And that concludes my list of favorite Adult Swim shows. Thanks for reading, thanks for following the Swim Squad for all this time, and here’s to another year of doing this!