In a market dominated by rousing adventures, snappy action sequences, and colorful worlds, one children’s cartoon dares to go where no others have before: groundskeeping. Cartoon Network’s newest original series Regular Show is one of the most irregular shows to premiere this year, mostly due to its… regularity. I guess it’s a testament to the sheer creative forces currently working in Burbank that wild outlandishness has become old hat, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Regular Show is a quieter change of pace, a breather from the Adventure Times and Fanboys on television.
Regular Show focuses on Mordecai and Rigby (a blue jay and raccoon voiced by series creator J.G. Quintel and William Salyers, respectively), two best buds who work as groundskeepers at the city park. Due to the inherent dullness of maintaining a park, middle-manager and gumball machine Benson (and his Yeti co-worker Skips, voiced by the legendary Mark Hamill) has to keep the two on task, along with appeasing his wealthy yet childishly naive boss Pops, whose admiration of Mordecai and Rigby’s playful demeanor is the only reason Benson hasn’t fired them yet. Together the two make the best of a droll job, with ordinary situations snowballing into extraordinary adventures.
The show’s visuals are just as vivid and zany as its premise, in that it isn’t. The character designs are simplistic, and the background art consists of rather pleasant yet generic watercolors. It’s certainly not bad art; it’s clean, looks appealing and gets the job done. But anyone expecting Regular Show to continue Cartoon Network Studios’ recent trend of visual anarchy will be disappointed. Where this series truly shines is the writing and dialogue.
The voice-acting in this series is top-notch, in that it doesn’t really try too hard to do anything. There are no really memorable voices on the show, and that works to its advantage. The characters in Regular Show (well, except for maybe Pops) don’t sound like cartoon characters, but rather average people you could find on the street. These characters seem like real people you can relate to with dialogue that flows naturally and realistically, and when you can make slaying a demonic entity using arcade games and a golf cart sound “natural”, that’s a sign of true acting and writing talent.
The incidental music also takes a sedated approach, with ambient sounds, background chatter or pure silence taking the place of any real score. The few songs in the show are usually used when reality slowly starts to slip away from the plot (like manic chiptunes or a montage set to Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend”).
That’s one of the few gripes I have with the show. Every episode seems to get hijacked by some supernatural force that cranks whatever mundane task the characters were originally doing to eleven, resulting in pure insanity by episode’s end. In the pilot, it was rock-paper-scissors and an otherworldly Lovecraftian abomination. In “Just Set Up Chairs”, it’s setting up chairs and an 8-bit destroyer of worlds. In “Caffeinated Concert Tickets”, it’s working overtime to pay for concert tickets and a car chase with a giant coffee bean. While it’s still entertaining (and probably necessary to keep childrens’ interests), I do hope not every episode succumbs to this formula.
And in the end, that seems to be Regular Show‘s biggest hurdle to overcome. It’s an absurdist dialogue-based comedy in the vein of [adult swim]’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force, yet it’s being marketed as an action-packed kid’s show like SpongeBob SquarePants. This show seems to be an adult comedy stuck in a children’s series’ trappings, and it shows. Regular Show works hard to earn that TV-PG rating, with mild swears used on a constant basis, and situations more familiar to adults and college students than children.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While Regular Show is offbeat, simple and drab, it feels that way for a reason, and it adds up to a hilarious and original show. What I like the most about it is how genuine it feels. It doesn’t try too hard, patronize the audience, or attempt to copy competitors. Instead, it paints a very authentic and relatable picture of the everyday workplace, with a surreal Cartoon Network twist. In a way, the series’ most regular aspects are perhaps the most irregular things about it.
Watch the premiere of Regular Show, Monday, September 6 at 8:15 p.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network.