It seems to be a pretty good time to be a CalArts grad. Or maybe it's a good time to be programming for Cartoon Network. At any rate, there's a boom in hip animation, doled out in bite-sized episodes. Take Regular Show, which debuted in 2010. Created by J.G. Quintel, Regular Show essays the adventures of a tall Blue Jay named Mordecai (Quintel) and a short raccoon named Rigby (William Salyers). They're a classic slacker duo, and while they never ingest anything more suspicious than a lollipop, you'd be forgiven for mistaking them for stoners.
Mordecai and Rigby work for minimum wage at a neighborhood park, exasperating their boss Benson (Sam Marin), a gumball machine. Manager Pops (Marin), an addled old man with a lollipop for a head, floats in and out while Mordecai and Rigby try not to co-work with their co-workers Muscle Man (Marin), Hi-Five Ghost (Quintel), and Skips (Mark Hamill), a yeti. Meanwhile, Mordecai pines for robin Margaret (Janie Haddad-Tompkins) at the local coffeehouse. The random assemblage of characters and the presence of the likes of Hamill and composer Mark Mothersbaugh identify Regular Show as a destination for the Comic-Con crowd of animation-loving hipsters.
While it's hard to imagine Regular Show being appointment TV for anyone over twelve, it's always a pleasant way to while away eleven minutes. Quintel and company cultivate an '80s nostalgia vibe on which kids must smell a certain kind of exotic authenticity (though Quintel is only thirty), and the proceedings are dutifully weird in keeping with the irony of the show's title. The pacing, while rarely rushed, never grinds to a halt: there's good momentum to the storytelling, usually predicated on disasters (often in the form of supernatural monsters) that Mordecai and Rigby create, then must vanquish. As for the humor, it is what it is, based mostly on the goofiness of the characters or whatever randomness pops into the writers' minds.
Fans of this new animation boom will find their mileage quite naturally varies from show to show, and those who choose Regular Show's poison will be those who respond to Mordecai and Rigby, who have the demeanors of freshman dormmates who are made for each other. There are sometimes twisted lessons to be learned from their misbehavior, but it's more about the silliness, punctuated regularly by frat-boy gesticulation and verbal high-fives. I prefer the more innocent spirit of Adventure Time, but Regular Show has its appeal, and looks to be in it for a long haul.
Warner Home Video giveth a lot and taketh away a little with Regular Show: The Complete First & Second Seasons on Blu-ray. After scattershot compilation releases, Warner committed to this season-set release, thrilling fans. The show looks great and comes with audio commentaries on every episode, among other bonus features. Here's the rub: the set preserves censorship changes made to the show since their original broadcasts. Pilot episode "The Power" replaces the line "How in the H are we gonna fix this S?" with "How in the heck are we gonna fix this stuff?" and "But he's gonna be pissed!" changed to "But he's gonna be ticked!" In "Free Cake," "Benson's gonna get pissed" was changed to "Benson's gonna get ticked." They're relatively minor, fleeting changes, yes, but isn't the audience for a Blu-ray release like this—which, by the way, includes commentaries with "F"-bombs—likely to be made up of adult animation aficionados? This seems like less a reasoned decision than, in the best case, an unfortunate oversight or, worst case, a cowardly avoidance of potential parental "watchdog" complaints.
So there you are. Now that we're past that—you'll have to make up your own mind whether that's a deal-breaker or not—on to A/V business: like most modern animation on Blu-ray, Regular Show looks terrific, save for occasional, mild banding and aliasing. Colors are bold and inviting, detail is razor-sharp, black level deep and contrast perfect. The audio's a different story. The packaging promises Dolby True HD 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 options, but neither are present. Instead, we get lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. They get the job done on a basic level, but if surround mixes exist, it's entirely puzzling that they wouldn't be included here, and it's hard to understand why there's no lossless audio, at minimum.
Season One's twelve episodes get thirteen audio commentaries: "The Power" with show creator JG Quintel; "Just Set Up the Chairs" with Quintel and writer & storyboard artist Sean Szeles; "Caffeinated Concert Tickets" with Quintel and creative director Mike Roth; "Death Punchies" with Quintel and Roth; "Free Cake" with Quintel and Roth; "Meet Your Maker" with Quintel and Roth; "Grilled Cheese Deluxe" with Quintel and Szeles and a second commentary with background painters Alex Dilts and Craig Simmons; "The Unicorns Have Got to Go" with Quintel and Roth; "Prank Callers" with Quintel, Roth and writer Matt Price; "Don" with Quintel, Roth and Price; "Rigby's Body" with Quintel and Roth; and "Mordecai and the Rigbys" with Quintel and Szeles.
Season Two likewise gives its twenty-eight episodes twenty-nine commentaries: "It's Time" with Quintel and writers/storyboard artists Calvin Wong and Benton Connor; "Appreciation Day" with Quintel, Roth, Price and supervising director John Infantino; "Ello Gov'nor" with Quintel and Szeles and, in a second commentary, Dilts and Simmons; "Peeps" with Quintel, Wong and Connor; "Dizzy" with Quintel and voice actors Sam Martin and Bill Salyers; "My Mom" with Quintel, Martin and Salyers; "High Score" with Quintel, Martin and Salyers; "Rage Against the TV" with Quintel, Roth, Infantino and Price; "Party Pete" with Quintel, Wong and Connor; "Brain Eater" with Quintel, Martin and Salyers; "Benson Be Gone" with Quintel, Roth, Infantino, Szeles and Price; "But I Have a Receipt" with Dilts and Simmons; "This Is My Jam" with Quintel and Szeles; "Muscle Woman" with Simmons, art director Paula Spence and character designer Ben Adams; "Temp Check" with Quintel, Wong and Connor; "Jinx" with Spence, Adams and Simmons; "See You There" with Quintel; "Do Me a Solid" with Quintel, Roth, Infantino, Szeles and Price; "Grave Sights" with Quintel, Wong and Connor; "Really Real Wrestling" with Quintel, Roth, Infantino, Szeles and Price; "Over the Top" with Quintel, Wong and Connor; "The Night Owl" with Quintel, Roth, Infantino, Szeles and Price; "A Bunch of Baby Ducks" with Quintel, Roth, Infantino, Szeles and Price; "More Smarter" with Quintel, Wong and Connor; "First Day" with Quintel; "Go Viral" with Spence, Adams and Simmons; "Skunked" with Quintel and Szeles; and "Karaoke Video" with Quintel and Szeles.
The rest of the bonus selection ranges from essential to bizarre: "The Unaired Regular Show Pilot" (8:00, HD), "Interview with JG Quintel" (5:06, HD), "Animated Student Short" "The Naive Man from Lolliland" (4:08, SD), "Animatics" (18:48, SD) for "The Unaired Pilot" and "The Power," the reenactment "JG Pitches 'The Power'" (16:32, HD), "Original Pencil Tests" (:38, HD) by Saerom, a super-quick "CG Test" (:04, HD), "Sam Sings Mystery Karaoke" (2:00, HD), the live-action "Music Video" for "Party Tonight" (2:06, HD), a 2010 "Teaser Trailer" (2:35, HD) from Comic-Con, and two "Original Regular Show Commercials" (:48 each, HD).
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