Reviews

Squidbillies: Vol. 2

David Camak Pratt

Anyone willing to sit through the sight of a few tumors and genetically modified chickens will find this worthwhile.


Squidbillies

Distributor: Turner
Cast: Unknown Hinson, Daniel McDevitt, Dana Snyder, Todd Hanson
Network: Adult Swim
US release date: 21 April 2009
Amazon

Like many of the programs on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, Squidbillies is easy to dismiss as stupid stoner entertainment. The episodes are short -- about 11-minutes long -- and the quality of the humor varies even within that timeframe. The show is full of non-sequiturs to the point that episodes often end with something only vaguely related to the storyline. Worst of all, built upon stereotypes of southern rural Americans as it is, Squidbillies is the most overtly offensive show on Adult Swim.

However, Squidbillies has enough admirable qualities to make some of its shortcomings forgivable. Even though the quality of the show is inconsistent from minute to minute, the show’s humor is occasionally brilliant. Some of the jokes may not follow logically from the storyline or dialogue, but then again, the entire show takes place in a world where squids coexist with humans and a host of other creatures, including a blue reverend shaped like a teardrop. Not everything has to make sense here.

The show’s overt prejudice against the rural South is harder to justify than its lack of consistency, but Squidbillies is not simply a collection of redneck jokes. In fact, after a few short episodes it becomes clear that the southern squid hillbilly stars of the show are not totally to blame for their lack of education, sensitivity, and morals. Dan Halen, the corporate overlord of impoverished Dougal County, Georgia, controls the destiny of the squids and everything around them.

Whenever one of the squids has a job, he or she is working for Dan Halen. Every job the squids get involves some form of mental and/or physical damage and little or no pay. Any major project Dan Halen undertakes directly impedes on the well-being of Early Cuyler, the squid patriarch, and his kin. If the sheriff doesn’t like what Halen is doing, Dan simply removes the sheriff from his seat of power and replaces him with another sheriff from his sheriff farm.

Though it begins from stereotypes, the portrayal of the rural South in Squidbillies is actually more balanced than the picture offered by much American popular culture. These squids aren’t merely the irresponsible simpletons of Jeff Foxworthy’s redneck jokes. The Cuylers do nothing to change their lot in life, but then they never really have a chance to change anything.

So, perhaps Squidbillies should not immediately be dismissed as simple and vulgar. If not, then the next logical question is whether it is funny enough to bother watching. To this question, the answer is a simple yes.

Anyone willing to sit through the sight of a few tumors and genetically modified chickens will find enough clever jokes to make Squidbillies worthwhile. Most of the show’s humor resides not in one-liners but in character personalities and the situations in which the show’s writers put them. Granny is probably the most entertaining presence in the cast though Dan Halen, Sheriff, and the Reverend are all nearly as hilarious.

Granny is a lusty old squid frustrated by her lack of involvement in the excitement all around her. In itself, this characterization is not necessarily funny. However, the manner in which Granny physically represents her personality is very funny. Less than half the size of the other squids, Granny uses her walker to get everywhere even though she is far too short for it and therefore only dangles from its handles.

Early and his son Rusty are not as wildly funny as Granny and the other supporting characters, but they are usually at the center of the show’s sublimely ridiculous plots. Early often tries to teach Rusty how to be a man, but never lets Rusty completely succeed.

If Rusty becomes a guitar virtuoso by selling his soul to the Devil, Early will do everything in his power to exorcize the demon that makes his son a better musician than he. Even if Rusty passes all of Early’s “inquisitations” to achieve manhood, Early will steal away Rusty’s hard-earned sexual rite of passage for his own pleasure. In fact, the only time Early lets his son enjoy success is when Dan Halen grooms Rusty to be jailbait for his To Catch a Predator-esque television show. Rusty becomes a celebrity, but only as prey for child predators and certainly not as a man.

In addition to its unique characters and sometimes inspired storylines, Squidbillies features some great satirical music. The show’s theme song has one melody, but the words change every few episodes, hilariously covering the range of country music topics from love to drugs to property law. And whether an episode calls for a mockery of country line-dance numbers or metal power ballads, the show’s musical supervisors are spot-on in their harmonic, lyrical, and production choices.

Between the copious commentary tracks, interviews with the show’s creators, and various other special features, the bonus material for Squidbillies Volume Two gets a little repetitive. However, the commentary tracks and interview segments offer some interesting insights into the creative process behind Squidbillies at the same time that they are often very funny themselves.

The primary insight the commentaries and interviews provide is that the show’s creators love their jobs but don’t take their work too seriously. According to the writers, there is little sense to the creative process behind Squidbillies and no reason to try to make sense of the show as a viewer. This creative mindset might not foster timeless art, but it could have spawned something far worse than this little show

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.