“WARNING: CONTAINS MATURE THEMES AND VULGAR AND SEXUALLY EXPLICIT LANGUAGE THAT MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR VIEWING BY CHILDREN UNDER 17. VIEWER AND PARENTAL DISCRETION ARE STRONGLY ADVISED,”
cautions the sticker affixed to the front of the case for Season Two of Superjail! That sticker seems to say it all, but yet it doesn’t even begin to wade into the ultra-violent and terrifyingly-psychedelic cesspool that is the 11-minute animated series currently airing on Adult Swim. If you’ve never seen the show: resist. Just read this review and chuckle to yourself, pronouncing how preposterous this program about an infinitely-large futuristic prison seems. “Oh my!” you’ll exclaim (or whatever you say), “that sounds a bit too weird for me.” Well, if you’re saying this, then you’re fucking right it’s too weird for you! The show is weird, you are not. Go your separate ways. And if, by chance, you think you’re ready to just go buy it and begin watching episodes, then you’re as mad as a hatter. Like webcam-diary Charlie Sheen mad. You can’t just dive in blindly like that. You’re not ready. It’s the same situation as the words of the immortal Dr. Hunter S. Thompson whilst referring to LSD: “Jesus man! You don’t look for Superjail! Superjail! finds you when *it* thinks you’re ready.” Proceed at your own risk. You’ve been warned.
The first episode of the season continues where the previous left off: with gratuitous violence, in the first 10 seconds. (In this case it was someone getting their face scrambled off.) Jacknife, the usual criminal offender (who always does something horrific and in obvious violation of the law), is hauled away in classic Superjail! opening fashion by the prison’s Jailbot. Except this time Jailbot suddenly crashes mid-route, kind of like that one Family Guy episode where Peter falls and crushes a background dancer during the opening theme. Anyway, the episode features the usual cast: The Warden, a character who looks and acts like Willy Wonka’s even-more-twisted-and-sadistic brother. He lusts after hulking “female” head guard, Alice, who appears and sounds like a red-headed Miss Mann (from Scary Movie). There’s also Jared, the large-headed, small bodied accountant; a gay inmate couple; an imprisoned Cobra Commander-like supervillain; and identical, European-sounding, alien twins who appear and disappear at random times to mess with The Warden’s plans. Scores of other inmates also round out an eclectic bunch, to say the least.
The first episode continues to showcase typical plot elements as it unfolds. The Warden tries to fill in for Jailbot by doing his usual duties (which in addition to odd jobs and maintenance, also include performing basic hygiene tasks for The Warden) and all of his attempts usually end up with some act of violence being inflicted upon himself, frequently fatal ones. This is a foreign concept in a lot of cartoons today – the idea of a character having immortality – unless of course some bastards are killing Kenny on South Park. But throughout cartoon history it is not, in fact, that rare. One need only look to Looney Tunes to have learned such valuable lessons as Wile E. Coyote can not be permanently slayed by anything; be it giant slingshot, giant catapult, collision with a wall painted like a tunnel, or even a fall from a cliff. Or other lessons, like no matter the scale of the explosion, you will only be turned ashy-black because of it. If you happen to be in a piano at the time, you may experience: your teeth being replaced by piano keys, the ability to play said tooth-keys in a scale or tune, and lightheadedness/fainting. Superjail! keeps this immortality concept alive.
The rest of the season’s plot lines are generally simple enough: fighting off invasions, dealing with alien visitors, getting a new Jailbot, discovering the prison is haunted, and so on. Really, how intricate can you get in 11 minutes anyway? And viewers on their freaky drugs-of-choice most-likely have short attention spans to boot. Speaking of drugs, episode 8 even features a full-fledged drug trip sequence, as if the whole show isn’t this very thing already. It is even followed by a violent act (in this case the eating of an alien baby) after which the characters remark on having their buzzes killed. And that scene was nothing compared to the usual violence, begging the question: does this show generally kill drug buzzes? Strangely, the scene is capped off with a “high on life” message that actually seems semi-sincere.
Throughout each and every episode (and almost every scene) one thing is very clear: the animators seem to find infinite opportunities for over-the-top, close-up, and gratuitous violence in a way that always slows down just enough – and zooms in every so subtly – to accentuate the spurting, squirting, spraying, splaying, splatting, and sputtering. No one is spared, main cast to nameless prison inmates. People are chopped, sliced, diced, skinned, scalped, and crushed without discrimination, and more frequently than not. I ran a stop watch on an episode, continuing the clock while any violence, implication of violence, blood, gore, or anything else of the like was present in any way and the damn thing just kept running through until the end the of the DVD. Even when that shut off the evening news came on and I think I got another good thirteen minutes in before the weather report began and I had to click the stopwatch again.
Sexuality is rampant as well, with TV-MA dialogue, oodles of animated boobies, and even some male genitalia sprinkled generously about. Cultural references occur regularly and crude offenses fly with aplomb. A good example of both is a rag-tag military team that appears in the third episode with code names like G.I. Joe characters. Except there are less names like Snow Job, Duke, and Snake-eyes, and more like Blow Job, Cook Out, and Black Face (the black one).
The DVD also has a bunch of special features, but for most of them you’d have to be a psycho serial killer to have any interest. Animatics? Basically like watching sketchy pencil versions of every episode. That’s right: every episode. And there’s even a “play all” button too. If you hit that, it sure as hell better be by accident. (…nickel for every time I’ve said that, right?) How about watching a “Script to Picture Comparison”? Which is basically the script.. wait for it… next to the picture. You know, for comparison. Pencil tests? I can’t even describe this one it’s so mind-meltingly psychotic and creepy to have viewed. There’s also a montage of Jailbot’s flyover intros. Anyone still watching at this point should be hauled off to Superjail themselves. Included interviews with the creators will make viewers wonder if they should be hauled off as well.
Finally, there’s some live concert material from Cheeseburger, the band who plays the opening theme, “Comin’ Home.” Any fan of the band will be pleased with this bonus, as will fans of weird costumes, partial male nudity, and impersonators of The Warden that are too fat and disappointing for said role.
I didn’t have much use for any of these special features, but die-hard fans of the show and/or band will enjoy them. And fans of both will be delighted at the animated Cheeseburger music video in Superjail! style, with some cartoon cameo’s as well.
When all is said and done, the show actually isn’t that bad, and is in fact quite entertaining. Sure it’s revolting, obscene, offensive, and downright cringe-worthy at times, but it’s quick, lighthearted, and well-written. I definitely laughed out loud plenty of times and I generally appreciated how the show kept me guessing what would happen next. And it really is that kind of show. The plot, characters, and even space and time themselves are bent at the whims of the writers in ways cartoons never have been before. It’s sick, it’s twisted, and sometimes by the end everything has descended into utter madness and destruction. Occasionally there’s a resolution, but oftentimes the episode simply ends at its most chaotic point. But never fear, dear reader, for everything is back to normal in time for the next installment.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have the urge to grab the season two Superjail! DVD off my shelf again and pop it in. I don’t know if after a rough day at the office, or amidst a substance-induced stupor, I’ll crave the campy cartoon carnage or be down for the bad trip gone good that is the Superjail! experience. All I know for sure is that sometimes, well, life ain’t what it used to be.
You know the world’s gone crazy and it ain’t safe on the street.
Oh it’s a drag, I know. There’s only one place to go.
I’m coming home, oh yeah, I’m coming home.
Season three will begin airing later this year.