20 years ago last Tuesday, Sealab 2021 first aired on Cartoon Network. Months later, programs like Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Sealab and Aqua Teen Hunger Force moved to their own “adult swim” programming block.
Adam Reed and Matt Thompson made the original Sealab pilot out of footage they stole from Cartoon Network, on their way out from getting fired from producing “Haas & Lil Joe” commercial bumpers for Cartoon Network and Carrot Top (a story for another time).
Even though this one was unsolicited by Cartoon Network, according to their story at least, it was a perfect fit with the other Space Ghost spinoffs and crass, surreal cartoons of the block.
Supposedly, Alex Toth and Iwao Takamoto weren’t fans of the re-dubbing making dumb jokes out of their project.
Reed and Thompson, along with John J Miller in the first season (who we’ll be hearing in some later episodes) played with the zero-stakes zero-continuity opportunities of cartoons. These idiots blew themselves up at the end of almost every episode. And the voice cast is all great. Butler and Lobley haven’t done much VO work outside Sealab, and I don’t know how a TV pundit like Hencian ended up playing Stormy but it works. Erik Estrada is a lot of fun as Marco and of course Harry Goz’s Captain Murphy is one of the all-time great Adult Swim characters. When we get to him singing an off-melody “Drunken Sailor” and begging a Scorpion for his ‘medicine’ in Bebop Cola you’ll hear why.
I’m planning for this to be a regular retrospective Classic Coverage feature. If people have ideas for good days & times, let me know.
Marco tries to explain to Murphy that they’re still on Earth. Sealab doesn’t mount a rescue for the stranded Ice Station Zebra.
This is really more of a music video for Calamine. The episode is full of distracting Hanna Barberra sound effects. The Ice Station Zebra Cannibals will get repurposed into the Sealab 2021 episode “Frozen Dinner”.
This early on, Murphy’s personality is about the same, but the voices (all by Reed & Thompson) are all terrible. Marco is closer to what Sparks will be, sarcastically egging the idiotic Captain on for his own amusement. Sparks has a southern accent that the rest of them mock (I think Sparks is Matt Thompson, Reed’s Southern accent would sound like Ray on Archer).
Quinn is “Labeau” and only has a line in French, and Stormy is “Apollo” and I don’t think he has any lines. It’s not totally unrecognizable, though: Murphy still likes pudding.
There’s a bit with Murphy’s nephew “Howard the Hammer”. They used the piece of footage of someone Hammering a control panel a lot over the course of Sealab 2021.
Between the voices and the 2 separate scenes of characters watching spliced-in porn on the Sealab screens (it’s blacked out in the DVD extra), it’s pretty clear Reed, Thompson and the McLynn’s made this for their own amusement.
The ending credits use one of Sealab’s favorite gimmicks– fake “outtakes” where the cartoons are actors. Dolphin Boy is British.
Notes & Favorite Lines:
Marco: “He must not realize I’m the most powerful salad in the world.”
Ice Station Zebra Crew: “I’m sorry, Jim.” “But you like fish, Jim! Wait, I’m Jim…”
Reed-verse Running Gags: Convention Nerds, Murphy Likes Pudding
The crew ignore a catastrophic pod leak to argue about putting their brains in robot bodies.
There’s nice, comprehensive introductions to all of the crew in this one. Sparks tries to set out ‘rules’ for Robot Brains but ultimately doesn’t care about them, Murphy goes off the rails talking about Adrienne Barbeau and Mars, Marco tries to raise the stakes by asking for the strength of Five Gorillas, Debbie wants to know about Robot Sex and X-Ray vision, Stormy has no idea what’s going on and Quinn tries to actually fix the pod leaks and gets mad that none of the others care. We also meet ‘Old Gus’ and a bald crewmember. Both of them will make appearances in later episodes.
FAVORITE LINES & NOTES:
Looks like there’s a “Hurricane Meryl” coming in 2021.
Sparks: “What do you think about that robot monkey on the news?” Murphy: “that [anchor]’s a robotmonkey?”
Debbie: “Dogs will know. That’s how the humans will hunt us.”
“You’re not the boss of Tigerbot Hesh!”
Reed-verse Running Jokes: Sealab pods exploding. Adrienne Barbeau, Alarm, Chainsaw Hands, ripping open chest to reveal Cyborg parts, Newscaster “We’ll be right back”, Choppper Dave, Pod Six, Go Robot,
RADIO FREE SEALAB:
Bored Captain Murphy uses the emergency beacon to launch a pirate radio station.
Captian Murphy channels Wolfman Jack while making lame insults in between Knaves tracks (this episode goes out of its way to promote the band). And his stable of Annoying DJ sound effects eat up a lot of time. There’s a whole ‘hey sparkplug’ sequence that kills at least 30 seconds with almost no dialogue.
The joke about the foul-mouthed FCC officers is funny, and during the Magazine Cover montage they drop a hint that they’re father and son that we’ll find out in the end credits.
NOTES & FAvorite Lines:
Sealab is called a “Trillion-dollar research station”. In its Archer appearance, it costs $500 million.
“Well, it’s in The Red. I’m Ted from Accounting? Get it? The Red?” “… No.”
reed-verse Running gags: Mailboxhead, Griff the Orphan Unzipped Murphy, dolphin boy fat jokes
And the Uncensored version of the FCC conversation from the end credits:
“Wait a second, where was I?
“You were tattooing an orangutan.
“Oh yeah. Yeah, that’s legal in Tijuana. Anyway, then that broad cleaned out the cash drawer, while I held the patron off with his own tattoo needle, and then we stole his car!
“That’s one messed up hooker.
“You watch your fucking mouth! That’s my wife you’re talking about!
“Wait? Mom was a hooker?
“Aye. And I wouldn’t trade her for a king’s ransom. Or you either my boy. You may be the son of a [f/v?]ast piece of baggage Hank, but by God you’re my own flesh and blood.
“I love you, pops.