TV Guilty Pleasures # 17: ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’
Have you ever wondered what your fast food would say if it could talk?
According to Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro, it probably wouldn't be appropriate for prime-time television. “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” is an animated series about anthropomorphic fast food featuring a milkshake named Master Shake, French fries named Frylock, and a ball of meat named Meatwad.
The characters aren't all food, though. The trio's next door neighbor, Carl, is human (technically) and the beginning of each episode has a short sequence starring varying alien characters like the Mooninites (moon aliens), Oglethorpe & Emory (aliens from Pluto), or Dr. Weird and his assistant, Steve (probably human).
Adult Swim is a vast pool of guilty pleasures- you can swim in varying degrees of raunchy adult content until your skin turns pale and wrinkles. “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” has been around since the very conception of Adult Swim in 2001! It's the only original Adult Swim series to survive this long, and the creators have said they see no end in the foreseeable future.
It's accomplished several milestones for Cartoon Network, as it's the first Adult Swim show to be adapted into a movie, and one of the top 10 longest-running American animated television series of all time. Mountains of guilty pleasure content await you!
When the show first started, Frylock, Master Shake, and Meatwad were supposed to be part of a crime fighting team to give the show a little direction and common theme throughout the seasons so that Cartoon Network could feel better about funding a show that's not just about food doing random things. That idea was quickly dropped after a few episodes and became a show about food doing random things… one of the many unique aspects of this wild-ass show. We can watch five million television shows that have a purpose or a goal- shows that have a running plotline, but there are only a handful of plotless, random shows out there, and even fewer about anthropomorphic food.
You absolutely can not guess where the next episode is going or what you'll see at any given moment because the creators are balls-out crazy! Not crazy like they need to be institutionalized, but crazy in that they'll do whatever the crap they want, so long as it's weird and it's funny. The characters die erratically (mostly Carl and Shake) and their house gets destroyed a lot, but when the next episode starts, everything's been reset to status quo, ready to be destroyed or killed again.
In one episode, Master Shake kills himself by way of piranhas just to harass Meatwad through his Ouiji board video game. Carl always has the best way of breaking the news too: “I mean Shake's in there too [the pool], you can't see him because he's in the piranhas.” So then Frylock calls in a witch doctor to bring Shake back from the dead, but the witch doctor thinks he's bringing back a chicken, and with a quick, “Arise chicken” from BillyWitchDoctorDotCom, a huge, evil chicken appears! And when the next episode starts everybody's alive and well like nothing happened.
In another episode, Frylock gets a shrink ray. Naturally, they then figure out how to reverse it so that it makes things gigantic, which leads to Carl using it on his purple-helmeted warrior of love… which leads to a flood of gigantic genital crabs… ewww! Another episodes begins with a confrontation of the best kind between the Mooninites and Emory & Oglethorpe. E & O try to flip off the Mooninites, but can't because of their lack of a middle finger, so they moon them, and the Mooninites try to return the favor, but they have square, flat buttocks and have to go full frontal by pressing their meat sticks against the spaceship window. Truly, “ATHF”s creators like to go balls-out crazy.
The quirkiness doesn't stop with just the content of each episode, it flows onto the DVDs and naming of each season as well. On some of the DVD sets, if you hit “Play All,” it will literally play every single episode simultaneously. And, starting with the eighth season, the name of the series changes with each new season making it a running gag: “Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1,” “Aqua Something You Know Whatever,” and “Aqua TV Show Show.” It seems like, as long as Willis and Maiellaro find something funny, they're not afraid to do it, which is how we get shows as awesome as “ATHF.”
Another running gag to look for when watching is that they use the same camp fire footage every time they need a fire. In an interview with CraveOnline, Maiellaro said, “You know, we actually shot that fire in 1998 for a 'Space Ghost' episode. We went in somebody's backyard and built a fire, it was like Betacam, and I think it's been in almost every show since then.” They even shrunk the fire down to the size of a candle flame in one episode. It's almost like playing Where's Waldo- spot the campfire in each episode!
When you watch “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” you don't run the risk of having to think hard about the complexities of life. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the silly, uncomplicated random happenings of three anthropomorphic fast food items and their human neighbor.
In true guilty pleasure style, it's funny, entertaining, crude, and occasionally disgusting. Willis and Maiellaro have mastered this kind of content and won't let you down. Now, I'll leave you with a deep thought on death by Carl: “Why? Why is it always the best people… that gotta take time out of their day… to see dumbasses get buried?”