Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Robot Chicken

Or so says Professor Fritz Huhnmorder, who resurrects a chicken corpse, fits it with robotic components in a mock Frankenstein style, and then forces it to watch a giant wall of televisions in a rather Clockwork Orange-esque manner all the while Les Claypool of Primus yells "Its alive!" in the background. 

Still with me? Good, here's the strange part.

The audience sees what the chicken sees, roughly twelve minutes of random and bizarre comedy skewering subjects from Napoleon Dynamite to the Thundercats and everything in between.

Did I mention it was done entirely in stop motion animation? With dolls, actions figures, and clay sculptures? It's sort of like if animation pioneer Harryhausen were really smashed and let loose upon the airwaves. But that's not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, the distinct animation is part of what gives Robot Chicken its charm.

And who could possibly be responsible for such an insane conglomeration of eclectic comedy? Why, none other than co creators Seth Green and Matt Senreich. Green, who is well known as the voice of Chris Griffin of Family Guy, uses his connections with the popular show and the influences can be seen clearly. Not only have numerous members of the Family Guy cast lent their voice talents to Robot Chicken, but some of the more integral aspects of the Family Guy formula have carried over to Robot Chicken as well.

Family Guy is known for its tendency to go off on a tangent with non sequitur jokes and obscure references that are somehow perfectly entwined together with the loose plot. Robot Chicken can be seen as the bastard child of that over-the-top concept; it is made up entirely of non sequitur jokes, a rapid volley of skit after skit which works surprisingly well.
It is this short and quick nature where both the show's greatest strengths and weaknesses lay. Since the skits are so short-some are as quick as a few seconds- it is comedy served in bite sized packaging. Don't think a certain bit is funny or don't understand a specific reference? That's okay, there's bound to be a skit coming up you will enjoy. As they say on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, the late night block of comedy that hosts Robot Chicken, "whatever your alley is, we're up it."

In the same regard, since the episode is so short, it always leaves you wanting more. And Adult Swim had this frustrating habit of showing only one episode of the show each week which leaves a viewer forced to buy the season box set to satiate the cheated feeling from only half of a 30 minute block. Thankfully they've updated their schedule to squeeze in multiple reruns, but Robot Chicken is the kind of show that gets funnier with multiple viewings as you catch some of the jokes and references you may have missed in previous viewings.

Much like when the creators of South Park first stunned the nation by poking fun at pop culture with their scandalous antics and crude bearing, Robot Chicken does likewise; both with simple shock and sharp satirical barbs.

In one skit we find our president readying himself for a trip only to find that Bill Clinton has stolen Air Force One for a funky party flight to a Burning Man concert led who else than Snoop Dogg.

Another bit features the Olsen twins as those lovable yet useless members of the Justice League, the Wonder Twins. (And yes, one of them does take the form of a bucket of water.)

The show features many big name celebrities in the various bits such as 'N Sync, Mark Hamill, Ryan Seacrest, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Burt Reynolds, Scarlett Johansson, among others who usually play themselves.

While Robot Chicken offers a multilayered medium of comedy not seen since the golden years of the Simpsons, it is certainly not for the light of heart or faint of mind; and by no means is it for minors. The violence, profanity, and explicit content, while all animated, can be pretty intense at times. Scenes of brutal mutilations, decapitations, and gore abound.

The final verdict?

If you're old enough and can handle it, by all means watch it at 11:30 pm eastern time on Cartoon Network on Sundays and enjoy two episodes back to back at midnight on Wednesdays, but you're probably better off buying the box set for extra features and commentary.

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Steaks and MarinaTION!

Here are 5 versatile marinades that will tempt your taste buds and make everyone think you are a master griller!

Marinade #1 Orange Teriyaki Marinade

1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
1 cup orange juice
1 tbsp of oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp dill weed
1/3 cup lemon juice
4 cloves of garlic pressed

In a zipper bag, put in 4 pieces of steak or chicken breast and all ingredients above. Make sure all sides are covered in marinade. Put into refrigerator at least 1 to 2 hrs (best results are overnight).
Take out meat from bag and grill both sides until cooked through. This will be a sweeter marinade, and the acid from the juice will break up the toughness of the meat. You may serve with a side of teriyaki sauce and some rice.

Marinade #2 Citrus pepper for steak and chicken

In this marinade, the Citrus pepper gives zing to the meat, with no salt!

In a zipper bag combine 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup lime juice and 2 tbsp pepper and 1 tbsp of sugar. Make sure it is mixed well.

Put in steak or chicken into bag and make sure mixture covers meat. Chill for 4 hrs (if in hurry) or overnight so meat takes in all the flavor and tenderizes. Grill meat until done to your specifications.

Marinade #3 Dry rub

In a bowl combine these ingredients 2 tsp black peppercorn (ran through grinder), 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tbsp paprika, 1/2 tbsp chili powder, 1 tbsp lemon zest, 1/2 tbsp coriander (ground), 1 tsp mustard powder 1/2 tbsp ground garlic powder (or crushed fresh garlic)

Cover both sides of meat with mixture and grill to desired doneness.

Marinade #4 Sweet and Savory Onion marinade with red or white wine

In a zipper bag, combine 1 package of golden onion or onion soup mix, 1/2 cup of honey, 1/2 cup water, 1 cup of red or white wine (my favorite is burgendy for steak and a sweet white wine, even white zinfandel for chicken.) Salt and Pepper 1/4 tsp of each, 2 tbsp dijon mustard and some lemon and lime zest.

Put meat in bag and set overnight. Grill until done to your specifications!

Marinade #5 Spicy and smokey chipotle marinade (not for the faint of heart). This will add a punch to your dish!
1/2 package ancho chilies (dried) 1 oz (take out seeds)
1/2 package green jalapeno (dried) 1 oz (take out seeds depending on how spicy you'd like it!)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 package of onion soup mix
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 chicken breasts or small steaks (6 ounces each)
liquid smoke

Instructions: Soak dry chilies overnight in water, until soft. Add all ingredients except meat in food processor. Puree until smooth. Spread mixture over chicken, or other meats and refrigerate at least 5 hours, up to 24 hours. After marinading, heat grill til hot, approximately 375 degrees, or if cooking inside, heat small amount of oil in skillet or grill pan over high heat. Grill lightly, turning only once, until done. 4 minutes per side for chicken, 8-10 minutes per side for 3/4" thick steak. Before completed, sprinkle with liquid smoke to add smokey flavor.

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