Clerks: The Animated Series Review

Colin Polonowski has reviewed the Region 1 DVD release of Clerks: The Animated Series

Studios are funny things – they can fund some of the worst television series ever produced, yet when something which has a lot of potential comes along they don’t give it a chance. Riding high on the success of his debut film, Clerks and the subsequent installments in the ‘New Jersey’ series of films (which includes Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Dogma along with another in the pipeline), Kevin Smith decided to bring the film that started him off to the small screen in the form of an animated series.

After struggling to find a home for the series, Smith and Co. finally convinced the ABC network to buy and broadcast the series. But while they were commited on the outside, internal wranglings resulted in the series being cancelled after only two episodes had been broadcast. Their reasoning was that the series did not bring in the punters – not exactly fair considering other than a very early Superbowl advertising spot, the only other promotion ABC threw at it was a single page advert in TV Guide! Another contributing factor was the scheduling which placed the series up against two huge television events – the NBA finals and the TV series Survivor.

It’s a great shame that the series was cut short before it had a chance to shine. The first six episodes, all of which are spread over the two discs in this DVD release, really do show just how much promise the show had. It’s recognisably Clerks, but the TV environment has let the producers run riot and what we end up with is really an animated comic book.

Smith’s trademark observational dialogue is of course present in huge quantities. We also get the obligatory film references ranging from Star Wars, through Planet of the Apes, Outbreak and all the way to Jaws. There are very few big-name films which haven’t been referenced in some way – and that was in just one episode!

Fans of the film will have plenty to enjoy too – all of the major cast return to voice their animated characters. There are also a number of guest voices including Gwyneth Paltrow, James Woods and regular appearances by Alec Baldwin. If the series had continued, I expect it would have rivalled The Simpsons in terms of the famous names trying make an appearance on the credits! Smith obviously commands a lot of respect within the American acting community.

One thing to be warned of is that although this is an animated series, it hasn’t really been toned down in any way and there’s plenty here that kids shouldn’t be seeing! The ‘introductions’ by Jay and Silent Bob are even more risque with frequent swearing. This isn’t a disc for the easily offended.

The DVD is quite impressive. As mentioned above, all six episodes are included here – both in their final animated form and also as animatics (with the final soundtrack). There are two dual-layer discs in the package – most likely required due to their being three thirty minute episodes on each disc along with aforementioned animatic versions.

The picture is presented in the original 4:3 aspect ratio. As such it’s non-anamorphic but in terms of picture detail this doesn’t have any drawback. Being an animated series (with a comic book style) does’t require huge amounts of detail and while scan-lines are obviously present this isn’t a problem. The actual transfer is as perfect as possible as far as the episodes are concerned. There is pretty much no print or transfer artifacting present. The on-screen images are razor sharp and the colours are perfect.

The only real problem in terms of picture quality is on the Jay and Silent Bob introductions which appear to have been taken from some sort of video source and suffer accordingly with blurring, grain and some colour bleed. As these aren’t what you’ve bought the disc for, there’s no point in complaining and the picture issues are down to the original source as opposed to the transfer to DVD.

We have a pro-logic soundtrack which is very centre oriented. I didn’t really pick up any major stereo or surround effects while watching but this really isn’t a drawback. This is a case where simplicity is more of a benefit than a huge dynamic soundstage, and complements the reserved style of animation well. There’s not really a lot else to comment on soundwise – dialogue is perfectly clear, and a special mention should go out to the score which manages to parody many, many different films with apparent ease.

The extras add even more value to what is almost certainly a must-buy for View Askew fans. The most notable extra has to be the commentary tracks which accompany each episode – and if you have listened to the tracks on Clerks or Mallrats, you’ll want to listen in here as well. Theres a hell of a lot to be picked up – including things like the cast and crews views on the shows cancellation (some bitterness there methinks), in-jokes, bits and bobs of trivia along with the usual back-slapping and banter.

There are also two featurettes – one on character development and the ways they managed to bring the film characters across to the small screen, and also “The Clerks Style” which looks at the look and feel of the series itself. Both feature a raft of pre-production drawings which are compared to the final production drawings.

There are a couple of publicity spots – although all they manage to do is highlight how little time and effort went into this side of things.

Finally to round off the extras, there are a couple of bits of DVD-ROM material including a Script/Storyboard Synchronised Viewer and character profiles. Unfortunately, as with most releases the disc uses the PC Friendly software and my PC really doesn’t like that – instead of actually working it tends to choke and die requiring a reboot!

Despite the poor reception the show received, it’s great to see so much effort has been put into the DVD release by Miramax. If you’re a Smith fan then the episodes alone will enough to have already convinced you to get out your credit card, but the added attraction of the commentary tracks makes this a purchase which should be seriously considered by those who buy DVDs for the extras – and there are a lot of them out there. This release certainly gets the thumbs up from me!

Colin Polonowski

Updated: Feb 27, 1999

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