DVD: Sealab 2021 season 3
Through no fault of this release, I’ve had a really hard time getting into SEALAB 2021. Various real world (and online) distractions have kept me from really taking a chunk of time out and dedicating it to examining these DVDs from top to bottom… which is how I like to roll. Of course there’d be no reason to doubt that I’d love this — the latest Williams Street offering to come across my desk — as I’m a huge fan of just about everything I’ve seen from this division of Cartoon Network. However there are two questions that need answering: Just how awesome is Sealab 2021 season 3? And, as with all Adult Swim series, What the hell??
For the unfamiliar, Sealab 2021 is another offering from the team that bought us the brilliant cartoons Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law, The Brak Show — all of which began airing in 2000 along with Sealab 2021 — and Space Ghost Coast to Coast, just to name a few. As with their Harvey Birdman and Space Ghost titles, for Sealab 2021 the studio reused original footage from an old Hanna-Barbera series. In this case the source was the ill-fated 1971 eco-friendly series Sealab 2020, which was canceled after only thirteen episodes. The Adult Swim series, as the name suggests, is set one year after that original series.
There is a long list of Williams Street shows that I’m still yet to clap eyes on, despite the badgering of certain friends. I’m happy to wade through the list and discover them for myself, or as the awesome relationship that this site has with the team at Madman allows me to. One of the great things about just about all of the Williams Street shows is that they rarely adhere to any form of continuity, so the idea that you’ve missed something by picking up a series ‘out of order’ or by jumping in at a random point is completely dismissed. Sealab 2021 is no stranger to this kind of strangeness: Characters die, or mutate, or have their brains transfered into giant robots, even the base itself is destroyed from time to time, and yet things return as they were in the very next episode.
It goes without saying that Sealab 2021 checks all the right boxes for anyone who is already a fan of Adult Swim, it’s just insane. However I do think that it is probably one of the poorer character pools of all the shows I’ve seen so far. It could just be because there are a few more core characters than in other Williams Street shows (particularly from the 2000ish seasons), but I found them difficult to connect with, or differentiate from each other. That’s not to say that it detracts from the hilarity of the series, just that I’ve become fonder of characters from other shows a lot quicker than I have with the cast of Sealab.
Having said that, there’s a definite point at which the tone of this season changes. Only after watching the series and pondering why the character of Captain Murphy, who was voiced by actor Harry Goz, disappeared did I discover that Goz had died during the making of this season. The impact of this change may have had more obvious repercussions to someone already familiar with the show, and perhaps it even played some part in my inability to ‘bond’ with these characters (Murphy was really starting to grow on me).
Typically, the DVD is stacked with extra stuff, despite the fact that there aren’t any *real* commentary tracks to speak of. Oh sure, there are extra audio tracks for a few episodes, but I’m not even going to try to explain why these don’t really count as ‘commentaries’. There are however a stack of unaired, unfinished, and unfunny (their description) episodes included.
I wont say that this 2 DVD set has put Sealab 2021 at the top of my Adult Swim favorites list, but I can safely say that it’s up there with some of the best. While the consensus seems to be that the series takes something of a nose dive during this season — People seem to consider Goz’s death the ‘jump the shark’ event for Sealab — but I can’t say I agree… yet! Maybe I’ll change my tune once I see the rest of the seasons (there were four made), but for now the season three DVD release of Sealab 2021 is a pretty sold find and welcome in my Adult Swim DVD collection. [source]