The Brak Show was a real turning point in TV history. A move away from old media ideas of what cartoons could be. A twilight area between kids and adult entertainment. The show was able to land in this great but uneasy place where it didn’t really fit in either world.
The menu greets us first, Brak singing a song about how we can play all the episodes or pick just one. It’s a cute little song that reminds us of Brak’s indomitable spirit in the face of menus. However things began to take a turn for the worse around this point. The song’s not much longer than about 20 seconds and is on repeat. A title card staring back at you as if to suggest the objective/subjective dissonance of art. Also I lost my remote for the DVD player.
Simple enough, I thought, there’s a button on this machine. But much like the surreal quality of The Brak Show I found myself in a surreal world where the play button on the Blu Ray player didn’t do anything. Brak, cheerful as ever, continued to welcome me to the show and supported the idea of me watching an episode or all of them in a row. Funny, I realized, I couldn’t do any of these things. Like some Samuel Beckett play it was me and Brak waiting for the show to begin. Wondering, when would we get past this aformentioned menu?
Brak, now he has a good attitude about the menu screen. Singing, probably dancing, playing along is a slide guitar, probably played by some animal. I wasn’t so lucky. An intense and prolonged dread began to pull over me. The pacing started. I mean the remote could only be in so many places, how many times do I have to check the same spots to be completely certain the remote isn’t there. Luckily I had some ice cream to calm me downin the firdge. In the past I might of used a smoke to relax and get my head on straight, but I’m in the process of quitting, so I needed something else to do.
The ice cream though gave me a really bad stomach ache. I mean painful. Almost instantaneously I was transported to the bathroom and found myself in a veritable “world of hurt” as it were. Normally the restroom was a place for quiet contemplation, but the ringing of Brak’s song about the menu screen was breaking through the door. Alone, suffering from diarrhea, and haunted by this song. I was in a bad place and I’m not too high and mighty to admit I thought about ending it all right there. Obviously this was all proof my life was some sort of terrible cosmic sneeze. A miscommuication of some higher power. I was going to spend all my days plagued by that annoying Brak, his joy a comic irony juxtapozing my interminable dread slaving away as a peon striving for greatness by constantly being thrown back down by the gods. I was Sisyphus returning to Corinth. Also it smelled terrible.
Then I found the remote was in the little drawer with the cutips. Huh, funny how stuff ends up in weird places. Much unlike the DVD menu music the actual show’s opening music is instrumental and positively bumping. Just as I remembered the show was full of flash quality animation and non sequiturs, my favorite sequiturs. King of the non sequiturs is Dad, an accented and tiny man dressed in the suburban garb of June and Wared Cleaver with his wife, Mom.
Their neighbor, Mr. Thunderclese is an advanced autonomous robot-thing and helps set up the larger suburban world of our characters. Finally rounding out the cat was Cartoon Network and Adult Swim fan favorite Zorak. While some might be young enough not to remember Cartoon Network as a 24 hour a day Hanna-Barbara recycling device, and I pity those who don’t, the reapropriation of these characters was a powerful and early example of remix culture and a clear indication of how Adult Swim would develop.
In the end the entire series was both emblematic of many of the problems Adult Swim had at the time as well as all of the intense adolescent joy it represented. While the show really didn’t have the sort of legs necessary to keep writing interesting episodes set in it’s universe a lot of Adult Swim’s programs were similarly inept. But there was a real joy in that. Unlike decades of TV where everything was so designed to go on forever that everything ended up looking the same when it reached air.
And now that we truly live in the internet age we see the other side of the show’s legacy. All media is hyper centered on a certain group, a very key audience. As TV splintered into more and more channels we, the audience, got used to shows designed just for us. Who under 30 was watching the old guard of TV shows, programs like The Big Bang Theory might of seemed like they were designed for my group to watch but we were watching some weird show on the internet made for a fraction of a fraction of the cost of that major network show. The Angry Video Game Nerd now takes up a similar amount of cultural cache as a network show used to in my world and it’s never going back.
The Brak show was irreverent and goofy, and it exists now in a continuum with that goofy gif you can’t help but laugh at. A space that old media just hates because they don’t really know how to capitalize off of it. God I’m getting wistful now, nostalgic even. There’s a part of me that longs for this time before media split apart completely, before I had a panic attack and locked myself in my poopy bathroom. I think we’ve all learned something today.