HBO's 'Animals' Was The Best Premiere Comedy Season Of The Decade
Having organized fun and making babies with the weirdest animated improv show imaginable.
Animals, despite its supreme quality, is a hard sell. Before the season began, Inverse ran an interview with the series creators Phil Matarese and Mike Luciano who set the show up as an improvised comedy mostly voiced by two former ad guys who used to do funny voices to keep each other from going insane at their day jobs. As someone who adores that dead style of improv animation show like Dr. Katz and Home Movies, I don’t know why I didn’t take that as a sign that this would be my new favorite show. It was all right there.
The structure of Animals features simply animated creatures in hyper-specific locales within New York City, but despite the new incarnations of animal types the same Phil-and-Mike interaction translates across most of the A storylines. B and C stories focus on more outlandish cut-aways but there is no standard approach to splitting time or attention here. The D story is a season-long arc involving The Mayor and his interaction with various humans — proving that he is the single worst person of all time. Jon Lovitz and Kurt Vile appear, in both live action and animated squirrel format. This should have your attention by now. If not, there’s an almost overwhelming dedication to referencing the band 311. There: now this is your favorite show.
It would be easy to take a bunch of animals and make them say naughty shit. It’s much harder to carry a purposeful and painful ideology from scene to scene. In summary, Animals thinks all interactions (between friends, lovers, enemies, and strangers) are fucked. Everything you can hope for between you and another soul, no matter the form, is fucked in the end. But it is also always worth pursuing.
The episode “Flies” makes this thesis most obvious, by eschewing the sketch format and instead following two best friend flies as they begin life as troublemaking kids fawning over a discarded piece of pornography. The grow up to overcome alcoholic parental abuse and PTSD, dividing their lives based on socioeconomic factors and dreams, burying their parents, and eventually growing old while watching their loved ones abandon them. Yet they still carve out a small niche — a pure vein of happiness in an entire lifetime of disappointment, only made livable through a connection that age and stupidity cause them to repeatedly shit upon and brokenly correct for — all in less than twenty minutes.
Not to give in entirely to breaking your heart, this episode cuts away only for two minutes. These are used to let A$AP ROCKY and A$AP FERG rap as bodega cats in an anime influenced Kayne wet-dream. Yeah, fuck you if you think you know where anything is going on this show.
The result is a series of honest and finely tuned storylines featuring some of the biggest names in comedy (everyone from The League, Reno 911, Silicon Valley etc is here) that transcends what seems, initially, like a silly setup. The Gotham-esque New York City is dripping with style and personality, reinforced by a soundtrack of equal parts sludge and shoe-gaze that I’m going to buy the fuck out of when it hits vinyl.
Between the multi-part Goonies style adolescent adventure and a Thanksgiving episode that ties the entire series together into a bloody, emotional climax, this is absolutely a series you should binge immediately, and learning that a second season is already written is now my biggest TV desire of 2017.
You can see all the production art from the show here. It is very entertaining.