Plot: What’s it about?
The ocean is one of the only few places on this planet that mankind hasn’t explored in full, which means that beneath the waves, all kinds of secret worlds could exist. In the year 2021, the depths of the ocean hold a base known as Sealab, where scientists and others conduct experiments and research projects. Sealab was started to explore the possibilities of colonization on the ocean’s floor, a place that represents an untapped resource that could be a boon. So trillions of dollars are put into the creation and execution of Sealab, including a crack squad to man this undersea base. With no real contact with the world above, save for radio communication, this crew would be able to focus and carry out this crucial work. The crew began the project with moderate success, but the cramped quarters, boring nights, and personal conflicts soon became too much and before long, the entire crew pretty much went insane. The man in charge, Captain Murphy is the worst of the lot, with delusions that never seem to stop, only grow stranger. A few experiments and research projects are started, but one catastrophe after another botches the entire process each time. Can this crew ever return to the surface, or will Murphy drag his crew to hell with him first?
The Cartoon Network has been a miracle for fans of animation, with a constant flow of classic shows and not just the most famous ones. As cool as that is, I am most thankful to the network for its late night Adult Swim line, a collection of both old and new shows, all aimed at a more mature audience. The lineup is pure gold from top to bottom, with hilarious, offbeat material. As much as I love almost all the Adult Swim shows, Sealab 2021 stands out as my selection as the best of the lot. The show is as unusual and random as possible, with chains of unrelated events that explode into riotous situations. This is good to someone like me, who loves off the wall material, but if you like more structure, then you’ll hate Sealab 2021. The cult hit Space Ghost: Coast to Coast took an old show and made an all new, strange as hell version. In that case, they took a superhero and made him a talk show host, but the alterations this time are more vocal. The characters of the abysmal Sealab 2020 are still under the sea, but now, they’re insane. The dialogue is unpredictable, but has more brains than you might think, though you’ll also hear ample lowbrow remarks. If you like surreal, one of a kind shows, then Sealab 2021 is the ultimate and earns a most high recommendation.
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in full frame, as intended. The core animation here is recycled from an old animated series, so you get what you pay for, right? Not in this case, as the visuals come off as clean and bright, with minimal flaws to mention. I saw little grain or debris, so the image remains clean and sharp, just as Mother Nature intended. The colors look bright and never overly rich, just bold enough to bring out the hues, while black levels never falter in the least. This is a simple show in terms of visual design, but a solid treatment was still needed, so kudos to Warner on this one.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is an animated series based on an old cult television show, so audio dynamite isn’t what this release is all about. The sound effects are hilarious, but don’t need much juice, just enough to be effective. Even so, I do think a full on surround sound option would have opened up the elements, which could have been presented in a gimmicky, but fun soundtrack. The material is still well handed though, as no real flaws surface. The music has adequate kick, with a nice amount of bass and a strong overall presence. No worries on the dialogue side either, as the vocals sound clean and clear, with no problems to mention. This release also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
You can listen to audio commentary on four of the episodes, each of which is hilarious and provides no real insight whatsoever. But that works for me, as Sealab 2021 is the kind of show that needs no explanation, so a laid back session was the correct choice. The Gert Pilot is the show used to pitch the series and while decent, it only scratches the surface of the genius that would be on showcase. Two unfinished episodes are next and while rough, both are well worth a look. Stormy Waters: Pundit rounds out the extras and is just the voice actor spouting off some liberal diatribes.