Squidbillies: Volume One (TV)
R1 - America - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (12th November 2007).
The Show

What can you possibly make out of a show that looks like it was drawn by kids with ADHD and follows a family of hillbilly squid...yeah that's right they're squids and they just so happen to be hillbillies...yeah ha!
I would have loved to have been at the pitch for this show, it's such a strange concept. But then again Adult Swim is populated by many shows that are simply random in their approach and humor and are not exactly made for everyone.
"Squidbillies" has had its fair share of problems getting off the ground going back to 2004; I suppose that stems from creative issues. The series was heavily promoted leading up to the premiere but that date came and went and another show was aired instead. "Squidbillies" was pulled from its premiere date as the series underwent heavy script revisions and rewrites. The show was re-tooled and eventually would premiere a year later. During the lead up some footage was shown at comic conventions and throughout the publicity for the show many people still didn't know what to make of it and garnered some mixed reactions. It certainly wasn't the easiest launch for Adult Swim but eventually the series developed a following and a second season was ordered.
The series follows Early (Unknown Hinson), a hillbilly squid who was imprisoned for armed robbery, he held up a store to get a walkman for his lady, Krystal (Mary Kraft). After 15-years in prison, early gets released and returns to his life in squalor and poverty in the mountains of Georgia. Early lives with his sister Lil (Patricia French), Granny (Dana Snyder) and his son Rusty (Daniel McDevitt)...as far as plot that's about it and the series follows their antics on a daily basis as Early is kept under the keen eye of the Sheriff.
To be honest this is such a random series, probably much more so than other Adult Swim staples like "Metalocalypse" (2006-Present), "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" (2000-Present) and "Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law" (2000-Present), to begin with the humor is very dark to a simple and almost retarded degree, this is not entirely a negative thing, as the series producers are clearly trying to lampoon hillbilly culture and they certainly have succeeded in that regard. From the poverty stricken town in the mountains, the accents and slang, dress sense (trucker caps included) and juvenile sense of violence is all capture within the confines of each episode and are occasionally humorous, if also repetitive...
The animation is also very unique to the series, the backgrounds and sets have a very stylized look to them, like water paint on corrugated cardboard but the character animation is much simpler and often made up of squiggly lines (take the character of the Sheriff for example). It's an odd mix between the backgrounds and the character animation but it works and gives the show added point of difference, well as if the whole squid-hillbilly thing wasn't enough.
Carrying on from a similar trend of shows featured on Adult Swim the themes of "Squidbillies" are dark, dealing with racial issues and gun violence among other things but taken to a grotesque but often comical outcome. The writing is quite well crafted for a show that has undergone such massive change and development over its evolutionary period leading up to the premiere.
It's hard to recommend a show such as this, and much like other fodder seen on the network certainly is an acquired taste, if you've seen the series on TV and liked it then this DVD set is certainly for you, otherwise a rental is advised before purchase.

Video

Presented in the show's original broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 this full screen transfer is quite good and probably slightly better than when they appeared on television but still has a few flaws. The major problem is that the image does shimmer and a lot of lines tend to jiggle onscreen. The overall image is clear and clean though and colors appear well rendered. Blacks are deep and I could not find any edge-enhancement some minor compression artefacts are seen but overall it's a serviceable transfer once you get past the flaws which are common in some animated content.

Audio

A single English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is included as is the case with most of the content from Adult Swim, it's more than likely to be the series' original broadcast sound format and is presented well here with clear dialogue (well as clear as you're going to get once you get past the thick Southern drawl the characters talk in). Sound effects sound natural and make good use of the front speakers, depth is limited but the music comes across well adding to the range of the overall track.
Optional subtitles are included in English, French and Spanish.

Extras

Warner Brothers has released this series with extras that include no less than 5 alternate pilot episodes, a bonus episode, a comic con preview, a series of deleted scenes and 3 featurettes. Below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:
On this disc we've got the 5 "Pilots of the Apocalypse", these are incomplete alternate pilot episodes that were created during the year-long development process, each of these episodes includes a brief introduction before with the creative team commenting on how bad these episodes are, they include:

- "Hot Dog Fever" runs for 13 minutes 50 seconds, in early versions the father and son characters were called RV and Donny, here Donny wants a Hot Dog sop they end up in a Chinese restaurant. This episode did not reach animation stage and is the recorded session cut as an episode with the script.
- "20 Minutes to Disappointment" runs for 20 minutes 44 seconds, another recorded pilot session this time with RV tells of Donny's brother Billy who they venture into town to get after having caused trouble and end up in a Chinese restaurant wanting hot dogs.
- "This One Almost Lost Me My Career" runs for 13 minutes 29 seconds, this is an alternate version of the previous episode with a few characters missing to streamline the episode, this one made it to the rough animation stage.
- "Back to Square One: The League of Pointless Characters" runs for 11 minutes 20 seconds as RV's son wants to join the army and a Shark named Ol' Kentucky returns to the woods for revenge.
- "Space Baby in the Morning Starring Matt Harrigan" runs for 12 minutes 30 seconds and sees a radio host, Countrysaurus getting killed and being replaced with a Space Baby DJ.

DISC TWO:
First up on this disc is "Anime Talk Show" an episode which runs for 10 minutes 41 seconds and is a special presentation talk show panel featuring Space Ghost, Meatwad, Early and a Shark-boy as they try and talk about the show they've just watched but instead focuses on how the Shark-boy's human father had sex with a shark, Meatwad wants candy and Early shots off Space Ghost's hands. This is a very strange slip but also very funny.

Following that is the "Comic Con 2004" preview clip which runs for 1 minute 25 seconds and is the pre-opening credit teaser sequence of Granny sleeping while early shoots his gun.

Also included are 12 deleted scenes which can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' option and include:

- "Ep. 11: Butter Churn" runs for 39 seconds, Early wants to churn some butter.
- "Ep. 12: Hellish Jay" runs for 1 minute 10 seconds, Early insults Hellish Jay.
- "Ep. 14: Alternate Bubba Routine" runs for 59 seconds, this is an alternate stand-up routine that Bubba performs.
- "Ep. 14: Eugene Mirman as Elder" runs for 1 minute 19 seconds, Eugene is approached about being on tour.
- "Ep. 14: One of Us" runs for 1 minute 23 seconds, Eugene wants to be one of the country folk.
- "Ep. 16: Alternate Fight" runs for 56 seconds, this is an alternate version of the fight Krystal and Early have.
- "Ep. 17: Longer Tool Race" runs for 2 minutes 20 seconds, this is a longer version of the race that Sheriff and Early watch.
- "Ep. 18: Bonecrusher Squid" runs for 1 minute 42 seconds, Rusty fishes out a Squid that tempts them back into the water.
- "Ep. 18: Larryjon Squid" runs for 1 minute 28 seconds, this is another version of the previous scene.
- "Ep. 19: Back Rub Incident" runs for 36 seconds, early doesn't recall any improper back rub incident.
- "Ep. 19: Jefferson's on TV" runs for 1 minute 20 seconds, Lil refuses to stop watching the "Good Times" marathon on TV.
- "Ep. 20: Alternate Open with Billy" runs for 45 seconds, Santa passes Billy's house as he wishes for new arms and legs for Christmas.

Following that is "Back When They Were RV and Donny: Early Squid Sketches" featurette that runs for 20 minutes 35 seconds and is a reel of storyboards, development sketches of the various characters and backgrounds/sets created for the show cut to music from the show. This clip could have benefited with a commentary by the artists.

Also featured is "Star Bar Squidbilly Circle Jerk" featurette which runs for 21 minutes 24 seconds, this is a clip which includes some of the crew of the show at an Atlanta bar as they talk about the music for the show, recording the music and also voice talent, designing the church and the Glug ad among other things. It's a discussion among crew with some beers thrown in as they take a look back at the series and the work they did.

Rounding out the extras is "Unknown Hinson: Animation Master, Cartoon Craftsman" featurette which runs for 11 minutes 6 seconds and is a video diary of the voice actor Hinson and his rebel ways and the difficulty of working with him and how the sound department has to improvise to get the character recorded.

Packaging

This 2-disc set is packaged in a fold-out digi-pack house in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Show: B Video: B- Audio: B Extras: A Overall: B+

 


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