Adult Swim’s live-action shows get a lot of flack from old-school viewers. The network’s live-action programming typically doesn’t hit their audience as much as their animated shows, like “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and “Sealab 2021.” Most viewers of the network today can be seen commenting over various social media outlets, spewing hate toward Adult Swim’s live-action block and begging the network to bring back shows like “Metalocalypse” or “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.” The public’s consensus on live-action shows: they’re all awful.
Those “die-hard” fans of Adult Swim couldn’t be more wrong, though. Adult Swim’s live-action options offer absurdist ideas that rival their animated programs head-on. Shows like “Delocated” and “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” give the network an intense offering that the network’s cartoons can’t seem to capture. Here are 15 Adult Swim live-action shows you absolutely need to check out, at least once, to prove the network’s comedy worth.
15. Black Jesus
Written by Aaron McGruder after “The Boondocks” was canceled, “Black Jesus” revolves around a modern day Jesus living in Compton, California. Naturally, he’s on a mission to spread love and kindness through the community, but many don’t believe the man claiming to be Jesus is actually their savior. Instead, they tease him, threaten him and put Jesus through the same antics they do each other.
The jokes really play on the fact that Jesus is alive and well, except he’s living in Dr. Dre’s old neighborhood of Compton. He’s constantly coming up with new ways to spread happiness while simultaneously thinking up new ways to survive in Compton by hustling to get by. Jesus is played by Gerald ‘Slink’ Johnson, best known for voicing Lamar Davis from “Grand Theft Auto V.” The cast also includes Charlie Murphy from “Chappelle’s Show” and John Witherspoon from “Friday.” “Black Jesus” isn’t as sharp and clever as “The Boondocks,” but those who love black humor may still find this series worth a shot.
14. The Heart, She Holler
Produced by the same weirdos who came up with MTV’s weird faux kids show “Wonder Showzen,” “The Heart, She Holler” is an oddball soap opera PFFR describes as a “Southern Gothic drama.” The series is a strange one, to say to least, and never gathered as much momentum on Adult Swim as other PFFR productions. The show tells the tale of Hurlan Heartshe, the idiot son of “Boss” Hoss Heartshe, who was just given possession of the town Heartshe Holler. Hurlan must introduce himself to society after years of being secluded from civilization and learn how to cater to the town of Heartshe Holler through a series of pre-recorded VHS tapes given to him by his now dead father.
Confusing, we know. The series stars Patton Oswalt as Hurlan, Kristen Schaal as his overly sexual sister Hurshe and Heather Lawless as the super-religious, mind-reading Hambrosia. Hurlan’s two sisters want him to either fail or die so they can possess the town of Heartshe Holler for themselves. The show was written by Vernon Chatman, John Lee and Alyson Levy, blending horror, surrealism and Southern Gothic into an absurdist soap opera.
13. Hot Package
Abso Lutely Productions, the studios behind “Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!,” gave life to a variety-show parody called “Hot Package.” Created by Derrick Beckles, the series is a spoof on shows like “Entertainment Tonight” and “Extra,” giving Beckles hosting duties as he gives focus on the realm of Hollywood no one cares about. From B-grade movie spotlights to blooper reels, “Hot Package” is TMZ for the mindless masses.
Explicit outtake reels, nonsensical countdowns, “HP Exclusive” clips from films taken out-of-context reign as the show’s humor. Most of the ideas spun on the show take aim at the people who actually watch “Entertainment Tonight” and enjoy celebrity gossip. What if the celebrities interviewed in Hollywood were actually low-grade actors from movies you’ve never heard of? “Hot Package” answers that question and gives it to you in with absurdist overtones. Sugar Ray lead singer and “Extra” co-host Mark McGrath also stars in this anti-variety show, further bringing a self-awareness aspect to its sharp, anti-humor scripting.
12. Decker: Unclassified
“Decker: Unclassified” is a spinoff of an Internet-only series Adult Swim produces called “On Cinema.” In “On Cinema,” Tim Heidecker plays the role of an arrogant movie reviewer and bully modelled after Donald Drumpf who constantly heckles his co-host, Gregg Turkington (Neil Hamburger), and gives nearly all movies he’s seen a perfect “five bags of popcorn” score. “Decker” is a continuation of this rude, blatantly idiotic actor living in Hollywood as he acts in a low-budget action flick show.
“Decker” is Tim Heidecker playing the role of Donald Drumpf playing Tom Cruise in an action show. His only mission is to kill or stop terrorists… and that’s really it. The show’s acting is awful, as every actor sometimes fumbles their own lines and it’s left untouched for the show’s final cut. Heidecker has perfected the art of shooting parodies of bad action films and spread it through a television series continuity that begs for only the biggest Tim & Eric fans to watch.
The overly violent “Eagleheart” was created by Conan O’Brien’s production company Conaco, with Michael Koman and Andrew Weinberg. The show follows US Marshal Chris Monsanto and his two partners, the idiotic Brett and the by-the-book cop Susie, as they fight crime together. Its premise was written with a parody in mind for ’90s cop shows like “Walker, Texas Ranger,” stuffing cliches and gross-out fighting tactics for bigger laugh measures.
Most of “Eagleheart’s” writing reminds us of jokes from “Conan.” Each line is delivered in dry form by a cast who tends to overact. That’s not a bad thing at all, giving “Eagleheart” its own silly signature style. Over the show’s three impressive seasons, the writers found new ways to play into cliches from multiple police-oriented shows and repackaged them as hyper-violent punchlines. The over-the-top violence in “Eagleheart” also built its own reputation in Adult Swim programming as being one of the bloodiest live-action shows the network has to offer.
While “Eagleheart” poked fun at early cop television shows, “National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle,” or better known as “NTSF:SD:SUV::,” parodies both police procedural shows and spy movies. Shows like “NCIS” and “CSI” are the inspirations for this Adult Swim live-action gem. Starring and created by Paul Scheer, the show ran for three seasons and recreated themes present in most crime investigative shows, from its suspenseful music to its cliched action crime-drama lines.
“NTSF:SD:SUV::” sees Paul Scheer as Trent Hauser, an agent of NTSF:SD:SUV who will stop at nothing to prevent terrorism near San Diego. Surprisingly and thankfully for this show, terrorism is always around San Diego and it’s up to Hauser, with the help of the rest of his NTSF:SD:SUV team to stop it. The show runs on this team dynamic, employing archetypes such as the nerdy tech guy who gives each agent guidance via earpieces and the hot kick-ass babe who knows kung-fu while remaining a majorly sexual subject.
9. Children’s Hospital
“Children’s Hospital” ran for seven seasons on Adult Swim, evolving its show from a parody of “E.R.” and “Grey’s Anatomy” into its own insanely strange television satire. Rob Corddry wrote, starred and helped develop this long running series, crafting it away from its beginnings as simple Internet show airing on TheWB.com to an Emmy-winning, thoughtful program airing Adult Swim. The show is a hybrid, presenting drama one moment and instantly switching to a comedic hospital satire the next.
Most of its humor is stupid, which is like most of Adult Swim’s live-action shows. While taking stabs and satirically breaking down cliches of typical hospital drama TV shows, “Children’s Hospital” also manages to create its own voice. Like, to the point where a woman dying during childbirth is hilarious. “Children’s Hospital” takes no shame and has no boundaries for its offensive, clever and often dryly stupid humor, but it’s what makes this 11-minute series a bonafide Adult Swim hit.
8. Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell
“Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell” is a workplace comedy set in the fiery inferno known as Hades. The series is a weird situational comedy based around office-like issues, except, well, in Hell. The show revolves around a man named Gary who tries to impress his boss, Satan, and work his way up the corporate ladder in Hell.
Gary is an idiot, and while he tries to one-up everyone else in his office, he’s often showed up by a character named Claude Vernon. The folks who work in Hell have to perform tasks such as convincing the living to praise or worship Satan in some way or simply torture Hell’s victims in innovative ways. Satan acts as a stern office boss, punishing those who work under him and hurting them in ways that border between slapstick and crude, violent humor. “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell” is an odd blend of “The Office” with violence, crude humor, sex and loads of offensive sinning.
7. Neon Joe Werewolf Hunter
“Delocated” star John Glaser wrote this five-part mini-series for Adult Swim, creating a character named Neon Joe who hunts werewolves. The show aired over five consecutive nights on Adult Swim, from December 7, 2015 through December 11, 2015. It depicts the fictional town of Garrity, Vermont in need of someone to kill a werewolf who preys on its inhabitants.
Like most of Glaser’s characters, Neon Joe is an arrogant jerk who makes obnoxiously rude comments to the people around him. His character appearance alone is hilarious. Neon Joe wears a neon sweatsuit and an eyepatch, an earring made from a bullet and wields two guns with knives attached to them. The entire show is built around Neon Joe’s legendary status as a werewolf killer and a strange alien-presence tying it all together. If you can get behind nonsensical humor often taken seriously, you might find a certain brilliance with “Neon Joe Werewolf Hunter.”
6. Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories
Comedic duo Tim and Eric saw this clever series debut on Adult Swim in 2013. Taking inspiration from “The Twilight Zone,” “Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories” is a spoof on horror anthology shows found on television between the ’60s and through the ’90s. Initially starting as just a horror show, the series went on to parody other genres, tropes and concepts from other forms of media, like ’80s horror films and ’90s-styled television dramas.
This show takes the cake for being one of the best homages ever made. Rather than grotesque humor and fart jokes, the duo decides to settle on more subtle, uncomfortable comedy. Think of an incredibly tame Tim and Eric here. The two also get ’90s writing, directorial style and editing absolutely dead-on, literally perfecting their source material and repackaging each anthology bit for viewers to feel déjà vu.
5. Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule
A spinoff of “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!,” “Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule” is an odd exploration into a naive, awkward character named Steve Brule. Steve Brule, played by John C. Reilly, hosts a poorly put together public access television show in which he interviews real people to find out more about different aspects of life and decides to “Check It Out.” From topics as simple as “brothers” or “food,” Steve Brule explores each subject through a series of embarrassing interviews, while John C. Reilly explores Steve Brule’s clumsy character through insane improv.
“Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule” finds the good through the bad. Its annoyingly low video quality is intentional, as writers John C. Reilly, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim purposely film each episode and tamper with its video in post-production, piping it through a VCR and hitting the machine as it rerecords onto itself. Reilly’s character of Steve Brule is awkward, uncomfortable and unaware, to the point that he usually bombs the interviews he conducts and doesn’t seem to mind the repercussions. The camera just rolls on Reilly exploring this character he made up, making us all love Brule as a gullible, dim-witted child-like man.
4. The Eric Andre Show
“The Eric Andre Show” is a hybrid live-action mix of “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” and “Jackass.” An anti-talk show, “The Eric Andre Show” often makes its guests truly uncomfortable, as they sweat on a sofa and watch comedian Eric Andre perform grotesque, lewd and shocking acts at his hosting desk. Eric Andre will ask absurd, rude questions to anyone who comes on his show, while simultaneously performing gross-out feats such as puking on his desk and slurping it up.
Hannibal Buress co-stars on the show, usually standing behind guests and performing his own subtle and nonsensical tasks, like eating a head of cabbage. The show is split up in different segments of on-the-street pranks and interviews, in which Eric Andre puts his anti-talk show out in public and performs “Jackass”-style goofs. He’s broken into a jewelry case while acting as an unaware man using a metal detector. He’s pretended to be a large man in an overcoat as he walks on stilts and attempts to buy a car for his 8-foot-tall height. Essentially, “The Eric Andre Show” was made for anyone looking for an escape from the typical talk show format and a yearn to watch grotesque and offensive shock humor.
Written by and starring Jon Glaser, “Delocated” follows a man named Jon who is in the Witness Protection Program, yet has his own reality television show with his family. For the sake of the reality show and to protect his identity, Jon’s voice has been permanently modified deeper in pitch. He also wears a ski mask the entirety of the series and never reveals his actual name or the name of his hidden family. Off premise alone, this show is absolutely hilarious.
In “Delocated,” Jon has to balance an entertaining reality show while also hiding from the Russian mob family he testified as a witness against. Part of the reality show films the Russian mob attempting to find and kill Jon, while the other half depicts Jon’s life as a terrible, arrogant and idiotic father. PFFR produced this incredible show, so naturally, things are weird from the very beginning. Jon Glaser manages to write absurd, stupid humor like no other show on Adult Swim’s live-action programming. Jon finds a girlfriend who makes clothing out of tortillas, he opens a business called the “Rage Cage” in which people can beat up items in exchange for money — these ideas are stupid, yet they’re elaborated on and expanded in such a way that is just “Delocated”.
2. Off the Air
A blend of animated footage and live-action video, “Off the Air” is one of Adult Swim’s most creative programs. Originally airing totally unannounced at a 4:00 AM timeslot, “Off the Air” is an artist showcase presenting animation, skits, compelling videos and digital art into one 11-minute presentation. The show has spread through word-of-mouth, Adult Swim’s streaming service via app/website, and YouTube video uploads.
Each episode of the show has its own theme, such as “Space” or “Nightmares.” Creator Dave Hughes then finds all the experimental Internet art and videos, as well as archival footage, and blends them all into a sort of video mixtape set to great music. Using a blend of Final Cut Pro, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects, Hughes then warps all art and footage found into one collective video piece, incorporating techniques such as data-moshing to help transition its segments together. Every episode offers a plethora of weird, exciting and astonishing video footage, unlike the last, always crafting a unique visual experience.
1. Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!
Quite possibly the most influential live-action show Adult Swim has to offer, “Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!” paved the way for awkward and uncomfortable humor for years to come. Aside from Adult Swim’s weirdo cartoons and HBO’s “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” there aren’t many shows that precede this legendary sketch comedy series. With a blend of awkward, elaborative expansions on stupid situations, uncomfortable and downright terrible costuming, and spoofing on ’80s and ’90s-era straight-to-television infomercials and PSAs, “Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!” is a mix of everything wrong and uncomfortable with our older generations.
Guest appearances came from all aspects of entertainment, with actors such as Danny Trejo, Fred Armisen, Rainn Wilson, Jeff Goldblum and Zach Galifianakis making their appearances to perform sketch comedy, and musicians “Weird Al” Yankovic, Flight of the Conchords and The Bird and the Bee having their hand in as well. This series helped further launch the careers of both Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, while also proving to be a heavy influence on modern dry, awkward humor.
Are there any other live-action Adult Swim shows that you feel should have made this list? Be sure to tell us in the comments!
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