A bizarre mix of droll inaction and anarchic stream-of-consciousness, Aqua Teen Hunger Force (later Aqua Unit Patrol Squad One, Aqua Something You Know Whatever, Aqua Teen Show Show, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force Forever) is the most insane, regularly scheduled thing ever put on TV, and ends its improbable 15 year, 13 season run this Sunday (a run that also included a Christmas album and a solid feature-film with an attendant viral advertising bomb scare). A show built around an anthropomorphic fast-food combo meal and their loathably endearing creep of a neighbor, it was, for the first episode, ostensibly a detective parody and then, for the next 13 years, jettisoned any real premise and unifying logic. The successor to Space Ghost Coast to Coast, it helped build Adult Swim into a viable and adventurous pseudo-network and in many ways created the template for the network’s brand of humor. This isn’t to oversell the show’s ambitions; part of its appeal was that it felt like it was adlibbed (and it often was; Schooly D wrote the long-running first theme song on the way to the recording studio not having seen the show) or put together in a couple of (drug &/or alcohol fueled) days, and often the grotesque levels of violence felt like reactions against trying to complete any coherent narratives. And in a way, that was the importance of the show: it was the anti-show; a brightly colored Dada cartoon. The adorably child-like Meatwad often being the instrument of chaos or violence, Carl’s nihilism, Master Shake’s sociopathic personality and his inability to figure out his body (or its frequent destruction), and the Mooninites terrible grasp of the connection between language and reality would easily fit into that artistic tradition/movement/non-movement. It wasn’t a parody, or a “show about nothing,” but an assemblage trash (fitting that its characters lived in a desolate, Troma-like version of New Jersey) from pop culture and commercialism not for any real purpose other than play. If anything that explains how this show stayed on the air for so long; that kind of play, with wildly varying results, felt far more intimate to its audience when compared to far more structured and reliable television fare. One of the celebrated lines of the show came from Carl, who said that “It don’t matter. None of this matters.” It could serve as a fitting epitaph for the series, not to dismiss its existence, but having existed alongside an increasingly complicated and sophisticated TV landscape, even among cartoons, it was a freeing experience; it means something because it didn’t want to mean anything.
The 13 Best Episodes in alphabetical order:
Last one Forever and Ever (My personal favorite)