Should this be put down?
Usually, when an animated series gets a third season on HBO, it means, that would most likely be the show’s last. For some reason, despite the fact that HBO has some of the most stalwart franchises on the planet in terms of television, film, and even sports, the network has either not cared to or has trouble keeping on an animated series for its original offerings after a couple of seasons. Whether it was Spawn, The Life and Times of Tim, or even working alongside Ralph Bakshi, I’m thinking the network leaves the likes of sister networks Adult Swim and TBS with the animated load unlike say a Netflix which has an impressive rank of both original live-action series and a burgeoning stable of animated programming as well.
Knowing this, if I’m Animals creators Phil Matarese and/or Mike Luciano, I’m thinking about this in the back of my head and I’m going to use this opportunity to the best of my ability so that even if this were to be the final sendoff for the show that put them on the map, they advertise themselves enough for potential future projects that could get picked up elsewhere. If not, the best case scenario is a season four renewal that would officially have the record of longest running animated series in HBO history. That has a nice ring to it, does it not?
That said, I think the name of the game for any future with Animals would have to be a bit more “focus”. Focus in that, when Mike and Phil are on point, they are on point when it comes to animated production. By far, the third season of Animals is showcasing a different “bent” to Mike and Phil’s animated stylings shown most prominently in the episode “Stuff” that saw the introduction of characters with fully animated features unlike the grittier tone was taken by the animated humans and animals of show’s past. The result, despite the premise of the show which is supposed to be about animals thereby questioning the use of inanimate objects coming to life in the first place, was actually quite good and a highlight of the show’s season. In fact, the first half of the season was very, very strong, and was even threatening to be a series gunning for “Best of the Year”, but the back half of the third season ended up fumbling the ball at the goal line.
This time around, all the fault is not on the lone live-action episode, though me thinks that the development of a live-action episode is a bit more stressful in it’s undertaking than producing animation and as such, I question if the growth of live-action for the franchise might be giving the animated series a back-hand. While the finale does it’s best to jam these two art forms together like a little kid with two Tonka trucks, I couldn’t help but wonder if the direction of the series would’ve been better off minus the whole doomsday premise and instead focus on more animals in and around NYC. I would’ve thought with the show’s third season being about a city-wiping catastrophe leaving only animals that we would’ve seen some real mutated and fucked up shit but, alas, not really.
“GrabbagVille” was a fun idea, a continuation of Animals’ focus on domesticated pets that turned an eye to the lovable rodents we love to see frolick about. And the litany of 90’s gags, and there were a lot of them this season, it a figurative head when rats Mike and Phil duked it out in a televised trial with Jim Carrey vs. Adam Sandler on opposing sides. A sprinkling of focus on this episode with maybe the actors themselves having cameos would’ve sent this season into the stratosphere in terms of notoriety. “Wallet” was almost that, the show’s first shot at being none too realistic with any particular species and instead creating a “cartoon character” that fits like a glove perfectly in the series. In fact, “Wallet” and even “Stuff”, would both be serviceable backdoor pilots for future original programming if the need was there.
With highlights come lowlights and pretty much every live-action scene was more of a strain than anything that really needed to be there. I will say, Mike and Phil make a cute on-screen couple, but they are just as adorable as an animated couple, and wouldn’t have minded having seen more of that. In terms of animal variety, this was by far the most lacking season of the three. For example, not ONE insect-based episode was seen this year which stinks because past episodes about “Worms” and “Roaches” were super fun. And really, every aerial-based creature, aside from the lone “Wallet” episode that also featured the “Pigeons”, were ignored in favor of land-based creatures. And how come we didn’t get to investigate the Hudson River and see how aquatic life reacted to “Green Day”? These are all ideas I would’ve happily been in favor of versus the growing use of live-action. Another thing, a lot of the “Mike” and “Phil” characters that would interact over the course of the season, started to run together quite annoyingly, and sometimes, was difficult to discern who the hell was talking at any one time because you had numerous characters on screen being voiced by the same guys and there was no way to differentiate unlike say a South Park where Matt and Trey use computers and effects to alter their voices so you know which character is the focal point.
In terms of ranking, season three is actually going to finish with the exact same score as the show’s second season, which makes Animals Season One the best, so far. If a fourth season comes about, and we hope it does, a little more focus on the stuff that got them here and a little less focus on the stuff that didn’t could see this franchise get to places akin to Rick and Morty and Family Guy. In the meantime, it’s on HBO as to whether or not they want to make history or make this show part of it.