- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Will Harris
rying to pin down the strangest series amongst Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim line-up is a fool’s errand. This, after all, is where a show about a crime-fighting Happy Meal can thrive for seven seasons, so it’s clear that anything goes, and then some. But absurdist comedy about talking food and drink is one thing. “Superjail!” is quite another.
The title of the series is apropos: it is indeed about a superjail, one which has been built inside a volcano that, if I’ve got this straight, is actually inside an even larger volcano. The place is run by a strange little man known simply as the Warden, voiced by David Wain (“The State,” “Stella”). He looks like Willy Wonka and sounds a bit like him, too, but when he gets frantic, his voice begins to sound a bit like Jello Biafra circa the Dead Kennedys’ heyday. He’s a sadistic little shit – the Warden, not Jello Biafra – who isn’t above torturing his prisoners to get what he wants, whether it’s a date with one of the overtly masculine female guards (we speak specifically of Alice) or a victory in the Superjail science fair.
Of the other Superjail employees, the most notable is Jared, the Warden’s high-foreheaded assistant who also serves as the establishment’s accountant – which explains to a certain extent why he’s forever stressed out and sweating. We also see various prisoners held within the confines of Superjail, including the blond-haired Twins, who wear “Logan’s Run”-inspired uniforms and try to thwart the Warden at every turn, and Jackknife, a scroungy character who regularly escapes at the end of each episode, only to be recaptured at the beginning of the next.
When watching “Superjail!,” one should not expect it to necessarily follow the laws of nature as we have come to know them or, indeed, even make complete sense. They should, however, prepare for a visual spectacle that will almost certainly involve a huge amount of blood. The art direction on this series is staggering at times, but it’s hard to imagine that Emmy voters would ever be able to stomach enough of the show to be willing to give it any sort of award. The laughs are there, as are some pretty intriguing plots (the two-part season finale, “Time Police,” finds the Warden on trial for crimes which he considered doing but hasn’t actually done yet), but they’re often surrounded by such disconcerting imagery that only those with strong stamina will be able to appreciate them.
When the pilot for “Superjail!” first aired, it was clear it wasn’t a show for the faint of heart, and the subsequent ten episodes did nothing to dissuade anyone from that initial perception. Executive producers Christy Karacas, Stephen Warbrick, Ben Gruber, and Aaron Augenblick have built a strange, surreal place, but while it looks pretty awesome, it’s likely too far out for most viewers to watch on a regular basis.
Special Features: Disappointingly, the only bonus material is the original pilot for the series (“Bunny Love”), a collection of animatics from the show, and a music video by Cheeseburger – co-creator Christy Karacas’s band – for “Comin’ Home,” a.k.a. the show’s theme song.