If it’s Monday night at 8 Eastern/Pacific, it’s time for a healthy dose of surrealism, on one of my new obsessions, Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. Although the network’s “Adult Swim” block has long marked the CN as a Nickelodeon for stoners and slackers, this new series brings the bizarre—and the funny—to their mainstream schedule.
The show follows Jake the Dog and Finn the Human as they adventure through the Land of Ooo, meeting and fighting folks like the Ice King, Marceline the Vampire Queen, and hordes of pastry zombies, while enjoying the company of friends like Princess Bubblegum and an assortment of brawling vikings. In short, it’s a fantasy, and it’s filled with Ritalin-free energy and frequent non sequiturs. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun, with jokes for kids, jokes for adults, and jokes for everyone.
In some ways, it’s reminiscent of Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, if Nemo himself did the strip. Characters are simply drawn, with limbs that flex like rubber hoses, and facial expressions that range from smiley-face simple to Munchean screams. Settings, meanwhile are as gaudy and elaborate as a kid’s imagination, the perfect backdrops for Finn and Jake’s adventures, whether they’re purifying a city of thieves or trying to overcome Finn’s fear of the ocean—a fear which lives in his navel. (I told you it was surreal.)
There’s a strong dose of ten-year-old boy running through the show, from flatulence jokes to the joy of pranks, and for those of us who are semi-retired ten-year-old boys, that’s welcome. Because Finn wants to be a Heroic Adventurer (and you can hear the capitalizations in his voice) there’s a dose of ten-year-old boy-honor in the show as well—keep your promises, take care of your friends, and don’t let the Ice King kidnap potential brides. Building a pie-throwing robot is fine, though.
It has become appointment television for your humble narrator and his own brood of contemporary Vikings. Depending on your tolerance for goofiness, it could become appointment TV for you too. Or to use Finn’s favorite expression of coolness, “Mathematical!” Check it out.
W.S. Moore III is Associate Professor of English at Newberry College in Newberry, SC, and he blogs at http://profmondo.wordpress.com/.