Regular Show: The Complete First & Second Seasons Review
One of the main pulls of Regular Show is its accurate contention of being anything but what its generic title might imply. The animated program is often blissful, and relatively innocent, craziness. Start with the twentysomething best friends Mordecai, a blue jay, and Rigby, a raccoon. There's no attempt at explaining or justifying how these two rather disparate creatures could possibly be pals. Or play video games. Or have jobs. Or talk. Similarly, their circle of co-workers includes Skips, a yeti, Muscleman, a Frankenstein lookalike prone to taking off his shirt, and High Five Ghost, who is indeed a ghost with an arm and hand extending from the top of his head (though the presence of only four ghost fingers adds a bit to the confusion). They work at a park with seemingly very few visitors. Their boss is a walking, frequently apoplectic gumball machine named Benson. The park manager and son of its owner is Pops, a gentlemanly figure with an enormous round head who tends to use lollipops as currency.
Mordecai and Rigby are classic slacker characters who are nonetheless good-natured and fairly easy to like. They have a habit of somehow being negligent or careless - Rigby more so than Mordecai - with such behavior then escalating to something much larger and invariably strange. The show embraces elements of fantasy and the supernatural to the point of shattering any connection to reality that possibly could have remained even considering who (or what) the main group of characters are. For example, the very first episode of Regular Show which aired revolves around our two heroes using a magical keyboard named "The Power" to, among other things, request and briefly receive raises, go to the moon, and both create and escape from a destructive monster. As the series progresses we see that large, threatening monsters almost become a recurring theme, causing Mordecai and Rigby to have to think up a solution that will save themselves and, frequently, others. This celebration of imagination, however immediately disconnected from reality, is refreshing.
The often extremely out-there scenarios we get to witness, in addition to being a huge part of the show's charm, are nothing if not creative. Mordecai and Rigby seem to battle the weirdest and most bizarre foes imaginable. One episode has them squaring off against an enormous bearded head for high score in an arcade game. Another pits them against threatening hot dogs with faces and very bad intentions. Skips kills Rigby. Pops defies expectations to compete in a major wrestling event. Each episode is a ride in itself. The unexpected absolutely dominates. There's very little in Regular Show which could be described as "normal" if using the accepted meaning of the word. The only thing we feel confident about going in is that Mordecai and Rigby will almost inevitably find some kind of trouble, Benson will threaten to fire them and the day will miraculously be saved in the end. That such a series of catastrophes and triumphs can occur in only eleven minutes and change stands as another of the show's rather epic victories. The relative brevity of the episodes seems to ensure the absence of any lull while also granting a certain freedom to do nearly anything as long as the circle comes around to protect everyone by the time Mark Mothersbaugh's theme plays with the credits hurriedly rolling.
The sense of essentially knowing that things will even out and be more or less fine is actually a comfort. Regular Show, for all of its myriad eccentricities and playfulness, thrives on happy endings. That may be a residual effect of the heavy inspiration the show takes from the eighties and early nineties. Both Beavis and Butt-head, with its slacker duo of friends, and Ren & Stimpy are clear influences. Another seeming inspiration would be the Bill & Ted movies, combining a pair of layabouts who go on unreal adventures. In all, the comparatively innocent time period from which shows and movies like these originate becomes instructive when considering Regular Show. Its creator J.G. Quintel is a still-young guy who was probably fed a healthy dose of that sort of pop culture in his youth. It's easy to note how frequently out of time Regular Show can seem to the modern age, accentuated by the music choices. . The video games Mordecai and Rigby love to play are decidedly of the Atari and Nintendo sort, 8-bit all the way. They value money differently and carry no cell phones. A few episodes depict the two using the internet but even that feels like a throwback to the web of ten or more years ago. In short, the decided unreality at play here seems to extend even to the time period, and that very distinctive touch makes for a far gentler atmosphere than if the show was anchored more in recognizable present day.
The forty installments found here are pretty much completely self-contained. Previous episodes or events are never really referenced. There are memorable one-off characters like Rigby's brother Don and consummate entertainer Party Pete who make perfectly lasting impressions within their given spotlights but get no further mention. Moreover, by the end of these two seasons' worth of episodes there's been no significant change to any of the characters or existing dynamics. Mordecai and Rigby are the same guys in the beginning as they are when we leave them. Their position is similarly identical. So look elsewhere for growth. Still, it's rather tough to complain when the spectrum of crazy and unexpected situations is explored this lovingly. The process of getting to know these characters quickly gives way to letting them run wild within their unique set-ups. The magic of Regular Show comes partly from its fondness for an era a decade and a half or more past but maybe even more so as a result of its contrast between maintaining a very defined starting point and then shattering all boundaries of possibility within it. Anything can happen, and with the group of characters the show has, the viewer is anxious to see what eleven-minute diversion plays out next.
All forty episodes from the first and second seasons of Regular Show are contained on a pair of Blu-ray discs. The release, including a slipcover on my copy, comes in a standard BD case and is region-free.
A separate DVD edition is also being issued plus there are a handful of previous standard definition releases which contained only a selection of episodes rather than full seasons. A nagging concern of some is the apparent editing of a few installments here. For example, both "The Power" and "Meat Your Maker" have slightly milder language at times than what can be found elsewhere. The reason for the changes is not quite clear, especially since the included commentaries play minus any apparent censoring.
Presented in 1.78:1, the high definition image quality of this wonderfully hand-drawn show looks really very good. It displays a richness in detail and overall look that I enjoyed. The VC-1 encoded transfer seems without any significant or discernible flaw. Colors are not overly bright but this is most likely intentional. The general feeling here is that the image retains the intended look of the show minus any worthwhile concern. It's a definite improvement over the television presentation.
Audio is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 track. (This despite the back of the case indicating the presence of a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 option.) There are ample song choices contained in the various episodes and all come through without incident. The listening experience is still a fairly good one, with all dialogue and musical portions sounding clear, but the lack of it being lossless will surely be discouraging for many potential purchasers. Optional subtitles in English for the hearing impaired have been included. I couldn't locate either the French dubs or subtitle tracks listed among the back cover specs.
There's a nice collection of bonus features spread across the two discs. Every single episode has a commentary track (and I think creator J. G. Quintel is actually included on each), with "Ello Gov'nor" actually getting two. These are quick, painless listens that provide additional information on the episodes - certainly worth the listen. Often the person responsible for storyboarding the episode is featured on the commentary and sometimes voice talent is there as well.
Beyond the audio commentaries, disc one includes the original pilot (7:58) Quintel made for the Cartoon Network's Cartoonstitute. An Animatic (7:33) for the pilot, consisting of black and white storyboarded images, can also be watched. Next are the Original Pencil Tests from Saerom (0:38). There's also an Animatic (11:15) for "The Power" here. A CG Test for Hodgepodge Monster (0:04) is super short. A 2010 Comic-Con Teaser Trailer (2:35) is made up of clips from various episodes.
Quintel's student short "The Naive Man from Lolliland" (4:08) shows some of the origins of Regular Show including a character who looks and sounds very much like Pops. The "Party Tonight" music video (2:06) has live-action versions of some of the show's characters rocking out to Mordecai and Rigby's song. The crazy thing is that the song isn't half bad. There's also a storyboard pitch (16:32) by Quintel for the first episode "The Power" done especially for this set. A couple of short commercial advertisements (0:48) for the show finish of the first disc's special features.
Disc two contains an Interview with J.G. Quintel (5:06) from 2012 in which he discusses the show and also takes us on a mini-tour of the Cartoon Network offices where they make it. And, lastly, is "Sam Sings Mystery Karaoke" (2:00), a silent segment in which voice actor Sam Marin sings into a microphone in the recording studio with his mouth blurred.
A bonus insert in the case includes a table of contents with listings of which episodes are on each disc. Plus there's a second paper with a code for UltraViolet redemption on Flixster. Not a bad bunch of supplements at all.