There was never a point growing up when I watched late night shows. I never silently kept vigil waiting to sneak a Letterman monologue. I can’t say I’ve ever laughed at anything I’ve heard Leno say. The staid monologues and requisite celebrity interviews never did much to entertain me no matter who’s hosted the show. There was never anything I remember about late night TV that was attention grabbing, that is until [adult swim] started airing in 2001.
The line up of original programming for adult swim was amazing. Space Ghost, Coast to Coast, The Brak Show, Sealab 2021, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, and a little show called Aqua Teen Hunger Force. A truly bizarre show about a group of three anthropomorphic food item roommates; Frylock (a box of fries), Master Shake (a milkshake), and Meatwad (a wad of meat). They did stuff, sometimes. Other times, they didn’t do much at all. It was truly a show about nothing; the weird, violent, cartoon equivalent of Seinfeld.
I’m writing about Aqua Teen because after 15 years (15 years!!) it’s starting it’s final season. When Aqua Teen first started to air, I had to go watch it at Stith’s house because I didn’t have cable; now I have an app on my phone that streams it to me wherever I am. Aqua Teen has weathered a technological boom, a programming renaissance, and a thousand other developments. Unlike other long-tenured shows such as The Simpsons, ATHF has no plot and airs at midnight on cable. It’s the most absurd, hilarious, weird thing on TV. It’s amazing.
ATHF is everything that is best about TV. It’s topical when it wants to be, yet still nonsensical and low brow enough to be laugh out loud funny. It’s 100x more subtle in its humor than Family Guy, all without making much narrative sense. It even predicted the ‘limited series’ approach so popular in the age of American Horror Story and True Detective, naming each of the last seasons something different; Aqua Unit Patrol Squad, Aqua Something, You Know Whatever, Aqua TV Show Show, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force Forever.
What other TV show has spawned a movie whose marketing was so viral that it turned into the most ridiculous bomb threat story and shut down an entire city? Everything about ATHF is ridiculous, from the amazing cast of secondary characters to the experimentation in form to the fact that it is still as good as it was in 2001.
The first episode of the last season aired last Sunday, and another will air tonight at Midnight. This isn’t a review of that episode, after all a 12 minute show doesn’t call out for a recap (though, if I had one sentence: ATHF and a spicy sausage-link, cat version of Abe Lincoln attempt to rescue Meatwad’s mouth from a rogue claymation animator). Just know that if you ever loved adult swim, if you loved ATHF but have been away, or if you need something to do later while lounging off the vape sweats awash in a Jack in the Box Munchie Meal, ATHF is there for you, amigo. Let’s commence the jigglin’!