Metalocalypse (Cartoon Network, Mondays, Midnight)
Confession time: I’d never watched Metalocalypse until April 30. I probably would have never watched it if the oddest thing hadn’t happened. Upon arriving at work two days prior, characteristically late and generally unkempt, I found the office buzzing about me. Glances. Whispers. “Dude, did you get your mail?” someone asked. “You gotta burn me a copy,” said another. “Check your box,” came a third.
I’d been sent a Metalocalypse screener. One episode. “DethWedding.”
“Ah! He got the album too!” came a fourth voice as I opened the package, narrating the scene for the benefit of those not looking over my shoulder.
I’ve been observing an Adult Swim fast since 2005, but this kind of breathless office fluttering was the perfect reason to fall off the wagon. Metalocalypse is obviously big doin’s. To educate myself, I did all the requisite wikipedia-ing and downloaded all the episodes I could find, planning a fiveish-hour marathon broken up into 11-minute segments (the length of a Metalocalypse episode and most other Adult Swim shows). I made it through roughly 33 minutes.
Before my head exploded.
Adult Swim shows aren’t made to be consumed back-to-back-to-back. It’s bad for you. Metalocalypse — like Sealab 2021, like Saul of the Molemen, like Assy McGee, like the still ultra-popular Aqua Teen Hunger Force — is based on a funny, but incredibly sparse concept. A metal band (50-percent American and 50-percent Scandinavian) is so popular they’ve become the world’s 12th largest economy. The band is pre-occupied with stereotypically metal things — murder, death, murder, blood, beatings, ritualized murder, etc. — and each character has certain idiosyncratic traits that the creators pound into the ground constantly. Each episode takes this conceit and lays it over the thinnest of plot devices. In the case of “DethWedding,” for example, it’s the band attending a wedding. Relatives leech off the band because they’re rich; the Scandinavians talk funny because they’re Scandinavian. It’s really funny and light and you feel like it’s over too soon.
Then you watch another episode and it’s precipitously less funny as it becomes obvious just how threadbare a conceit we’re working with here. By episode three it’s just unbearable.
Watching Metalocalypse, I remembered why I’d started my Adult Swim fast in the first place. I’d had the same experience with marathons of Aqua Teen and Harvey Birdman. Those shows, being much better than Metalocalypse, took five and four episodes, respectively, to get me clawing at the walls.
More spring premieres:
This American Life Though it’s marginally less riveting than its radio counterpart, TAL is still the best slice-of-life magazine on TV. (Showtime, Sundays, 10 pm)
Fear Itself Contemporary horror directors pull a Twilight Zone, each telling a discrete hour-long tale of terror. (NBC, Thursdays, 10 pm)
In Plain Sight Mary McCormack and some horse-faced dude pull back the veil on the federal witness-protection program. (USA, June 1, 10 pm)
Man vs Wild Despite being marginally more fake than its cousin, Survivorman, we’d still take MvW host Bear Grylls over Les Stroud’s annoying ass any day. (Discovery, Fridays, 9 pm)