Sunday, January 22, 2012

Adult Swim Historama: Sealab 2021 (2001)

In November 2000, Cartoon Network used the overnight hours to sneak-preview, unannounced, 4 new series. Over the next few days, we're reviewing all 4 of those series, and we'll start with Sealab 2021.

To be honest, I was actually looking forward to this show when it was announced. I had watched the original Sealab 2020 as a youth, and was a tad disappointed when NBC pulled the plug, leaving 3 episodes unaired, running 13 out of a order of 16. Since I wasn't watching Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast with any semblance of regularity, maybe I should've been better prepared. What we got was a Mad Movies-style reboot, using the original animation, with new voices dubbed over and some characters being renamed or completely replaced. The animation style was worse than the original, if that was even possible. Perhaps the only other selling point was the fact that 70's icon Erik Estrada (ex-CHiPS) was in the show's cast, but he really wasn't a major player.

Somehow, they managed to recycle the material often enough to produce 52 15 minute episodes over the course of 4 seasons (2001-05). The closest thing to actual continuity they might have had was in casting Harry Goz as Captain Murphy, a role originated by John Stephenson in the original series. Goz, who passed away in 2003, was enough of a soundalike, such that when they remade an episode of the original series in season 2, where Murphy was a primary player, that Goz could've pulled off a perfect mimic.

Here, in fact, is that remake, "7211", uploaded by KokosMinions1stborn:

It turns out that was an aberration compared to the rest of the series, which was loaded with parodies and, borrowing a plot device from South Park, frequent killings of crew members, who usually returned in the next episode. It was enough to give animation purists heartburn.

Rating: C-.

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