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October 10, 2008

Chicken DVD amuses, but fails to take flight

The third season of Adult Swim’s Emmy Award–winning, stop-motion animation series Robot Chicken isn’t much different from the past two. The main idea is putting well known figures from past and present popular culture in unfamiliar, often crude or violent situations. The outcome is at best a clever bit of satire and at worst a bunch of tasteless jokes.

The two-disk DVD contains all 20 episodes of ridiculously fast-paced lampooning of pop culture and childhood-ruining goodness, in addition to the standard behind-the-scenes extras. However, on the Adult Swim website, one can find the same goodness, minus the extras, for free. Plus, it’s legal! Unless one feels the need to know everything about the show or is interested in stop-motion animation, the behind-the-scenes segments can be bypassed in lieu of the more practical, much cheaper alternative.

For a show as capricious as Robot Chicken, the DVD extras are surprisingly bland. After watching the deleted scenes, one can see why most of them did not make it to television. Filled with the staff’s inside jokes and overly obscure references, the majority of the scenes fail to bring the laughs.

However, the deleted animatics, the stories that didn’t even make it to animation, are much funnier. The “Cast Away” storyboard, in which Santa’s sleigh crashes on a deserted island and forces him to buff up and use children’s presents as tools, would have been a hilarious addition to “Robot Chicken’s Half-Assed Christmas Special.”

The audio commentary with Seth Green and the head writers isn’t nearly as compelling. As if listening to a group of guys talk over the show wasn’t annoying enough, what they have to say is completely irrelevant and focuses mainly on themselves. Another commentary called “Chicken Nuggets,” however, is chock-full of fun trivia and gives both the writers’ and producers’ insight on a select few episodes. Fortunately, there’s the option to choose whether to play the commentary throughout the episode, which means you don’t have to listen to the rambling unless you choose.

The DVD also includes a few informative segments for those interested in how the show gets on air. The “Studio Tour” gives an overview of all the departments, from the writer’s room to the set-design studio. The “Visual Effects Comparison” shows the extent to which green screen and special effects are used in the show, and the “Video Blogs” give a general idea of what is going on at the studio on a normal day.

Although some of the DVD extras are an enjoyable waste of a few minutes, they aren’t anything a casual fan needs to experience. As far as watching the actual episodes sans commentary, one quickly realizes why Adult Swim only shows two 15-minute-long episodes per night. Without a plot to hang on to and with the scenes changing so frequently, it gets exhausting to watch any more than a few minutes at a time. The skits are often hit-or-miss, and it can get frustrating to watch a lot of content that isn’t particularly funny.

Frankly, the show isn’t meant to be viewed in DVD form, where one sits down and watches it for a long period of time. It’s best just to go online and watch the individual skits and in essence create a customized episode of Robot Chicken that’s guaranteed to entertain.