The Brak Show: Volume 1 (review)

This exercise in stream-of-geeky-consciousness insanity and slightly disreputable animation manipulation defies explanation — you’re either in the cult, or you’re not — but here goes nothing anyway. Once upon a time, in the 1960s, there was a Hanna Barbera cartoon called Space Ghost and Dino Boy, which was quite bad and which hardly anyone remembers with love or affection. Once upon a more recent time, in the 1990s, the goofballs at the cable channel Cartoon Network, lumbered with the entire Hanna Barbera archives including the really dumb stuff like Space Ghost and Dino Boy, had a stroke of genius: they would lift the characters out of the original toon and grant them new lives as a talk-show gang. Yes, a badly drawn superhero — that would be Space Ghost — interviewed real live minor celebrities, like Weird Al Yankovic and Kevin Meaney, while Zorak, an evil giant praying mantis villain turned bandleader, and Brak, an evil and stupid sorta feline villain turned talk-show sidekick, cheered him on and/or tried to thwart him. And so it was the beginning of Cartoon Network’s late-night madness Adult Swim, a domain of cheesy old cartoons repurposed in all sorts of ways that only media philosophers and animation nerds could love, which went on to become all sorts of phenomenal. Now, Brak has his own show, a hilariously bizarre parody of a suburban sitcom in which the former space pirate/talk-show sidekick plays a high-school student who finds himself competing in staring contests, kills a neighbors pet fish by feeding it too much ham, and gets involved in other improbable events. (That neighbor, by the way, is a giant robotic warrior. Brak’s sitcom mom is an alien with June Cleaver hair; his dad is a very small human with a Latin accent, like Ricky Ricardo shrunk in the dryer. Zorak’s along for the ride, too, as Brak’s best pal.) The fourteen short episodes are accompanied by even more boundless weirdness, all of which continue to subject the Space Ghost team to a series of infinite regressions: segments from Cartoon Planet, Adult Swim “news breaks,” and Brak Presents The Brak Show Starring Brak. Most viewers will find this inscrutable, but for the already initiated, enjoy.

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