Robot Chicken: A sketch show happy to be silly
Andrew Jones | On 10, Mar 2019
You never really grow old. At your heart, you’re still just a kid picking up some toys and making them do very silly deeds. That’s the thesis of Robot Chicken, Seth Green and Matthew Senreich’s stop-motion sketch show that utilises action figures of many notable franchises and brings an irreverence to every frame of the 11 minutes an episode runs.
Through the eyes of a robotic chicken forced to watch television by a maniacal professor, the sketch show plays fast and loose with concepts – maybe a joke is two seconds and maybe it’s a three-minute epic. The show will give the requisite amount of time for every sketch, shoving upwards of 20 skits in any given episode, and almost always emphasizing the nature of nerd culture through its bizarre prism.
All 4 currently has Season 6 to 9 of the show, along with the ambitious, brand-specific, double-length episodes (or sometimes triple-length) involving DC characters, retelling Star Wars from its skewed perspective or offering a look into the world of The Walking Dead, with an impressive amount of the cast gamely sending themselves up. Dipping in deep into the show won’t be a problem, however, as there’s minimal storytelling going on – only the start and end of season set-ups of how the show itself is still not cancelled.
As with any sketch show, you’re going to get hits and misses; the aim of Robot Chicken’s speed is that there’s always a laugh to cover up a ho-hum. However, as the show has continued, its reliance on violence as the punchline seems to have grown; there are times when half the sketches of an episode end with a bloody massacre, because cutesy kids characters shouldn’t be covered in blood and swearing maniacally. That’s the gist. It’s a shame, as when the show reaches for clever puns or interesting perspectives of iconic characters, it hits gold very often, but it then settles for another stop-motion gorefest and it’s hard to laugh after the shock value fades (which is after the first time, if that).
Fortunately, the animation is continually spectacular, resulting in a high-calibre goofy show (unsurprisingly, one of the show’s original directors, Chris McKenna, went on to direct The LEGO Batman Movie). The voice work is also top-tier; Green uses his many years in the industry to get big names to join in the fun, from Mila Kunis and Macaulay Culkin to legends such as Stan Lee and Oscar Nominee Sam Elliott (look at the seemingly-endless list on the IMDb and just let your jaw drop). Everyone is happy to be silly, it seems, and the show embraces the freeing vibe.
Immature and sometimes missing the target, yet always inventive, Robot Chicken is Adult Swim at its most gleeful ‘we can do this on television?’ attitude. When it works, it is insanely funny. Take 11 minutes out to watch an episode to get a sense of the insanity that comes in such a small package, and you, too, will laugh like a silly, silly person.
Robot Chicken is available to watch and download on All 4, as part of over 300 episodes in its Adult Swim channel.