The Aqua Teen Hunger Force franchise has progressed to another level of late-night madcap surrealism by changing its title with every new season. Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis keep Aqua for some sense of continuity, but last year the show went under the moniker Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1. The name still had nothing to do with the show, but the current iteration, titled Aqua Something You Know Whatever, rolls out with a sense of knowing cool, a casual confidence. To paraphrase what Willis recently told Noel Murray when talking about his time on Space Ghost Coast To Coast, this is still something that late-night channel flippers will stop on.
Aside from the name change adding that extra framing on each season, the material remains bread-and-butter Aqua Teen, spitballing goofy situations on the fly. In the ninth-season première, Frylock joins a Big Brother program to help out Gerald, a kid with a single, neglectful mother. When Carl notices that Frylock had Gerald copy the name of his precious Dodge Stealth (2 Wycked) onto the side of his soapbox derby car, Carl throws a copyright fit and kicks the car over. But then Gerald’s mom shows up and Carl is smitten by the size of her bosom, so he paints the situation as teaching Gerald about intellectual property law. Frylock and Carl compete for Darlene’s affection, but Carl’s display of beating up a claw machine at an all-you-can-eat pizza place earns him a date to an Eddie Money concert. Soon enough, Darlene is pregnant, but Carl wants out, so Frylock helps him fake his death, opening up the chance to swoop in on Darlene for himself.
The whole Carl-Darlene-Frylock triangle isn’t even a new plot for Aqua Something You Know Whatever. In one episode late last season, Carl and Master Shake dated the same woman. Unlike that pairing, which matched the show’s two craziest characters most prone to violence, Frylock loses out rather quickly, leaving him bummed out with a kid he only took on as a means to an end with Darlene. The more disappointing part of the première is that focusing on an unofficial competition between Frylock and Carl pushes Shake and Meatwad to the fringes. Gerald’s Chutes And Ladders game with Shake is a highlight, as well as Meatwad’s obsession with the all-you-can-eat pizza place during Carl’s fake funeral—and that’s what this kind of show can achieve. Nobody watches it for the plot or for any kind of real progression; what matters are the little comedic moments. It’s animated, scatterbrained buckshot, aiming all over the map at all times to go for any kind of joke: Frylock overhears Carl and Darlene having sex; Carl asks Frylock if his laser vision can somehow abort his child with Darlene; Carl gets way too involved in a youth soccer game; Shake shoots himself in the mouth when trying to prove he’s holding a real gun. All of those individual short sequences elicit a laugh, but this is a show destined to live on in short YouTube clips of its greatest bits and memorable recurring characters, not for any kind of coherent plot.
“Stoner” entertainment—films, television, music—can be generally defined in two ways. It can be entertainment where the consumption of marijuana is a prominent part of the action—Weeds, Bored To Death, Workaholics, Dazed And Confused, Half Baked—or it can be the kind of comedic hodgepodge theoretically enhanced by watching while under the influence—think Cabin Boy (and Chris Elliott’s current role on Eagleheart), the Wayans’ Brothers Don’t Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood, Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!. That first definition is problematic, if only because it retroactively makes a decidedly uncontroversial sitcom like That 70s Show into stoner television. The second definition is far more experimental and rewarding (as well as being wide enough to encompass that first definition), and that’s where Aqua Something You Know Whatever still comfortably resides, a fine option for late-night channel surfing and as the background noise for other pursuits.
- Carl hates and doesn’t understand soccer, and jokes that the red card a ref shows him during the game is a valentine—just in time for the Euro 2012 semifinals.