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2014/06/15

Regular Show

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless


Before I get too far, let me just admit up front that the first time my son introduced me to the animated TV series Regular Show, it was much like my first experience seeing The Teletubbies: there were a few moments where I took it all in, probably exclaimed “What the…?” out loud, which was then followed by flashes of confusion as I tried to sort things out. But when the latter involves talking animals, a character whose body is a gumball machine, hot dog eating contests with Death, and a giant coffee bean who sounds like he just stepped out of a kung fu movie (see above, with the white headband on), I think it’s only natural to take a minute to get your bearings.

As it turns out, it was hard not to watch the show along with my son and get sucked in. I tend to like wacky, quirky things, and Regular Show has them in spades. Currently airing on Cartoon Network in the US, the series began in 2010, and revolves around best friends: Mordecai, a blue jay, and Rigby, a raccoon. Like many of the other animal (or part animal) characters, Mordecai and Rigby talk, and act mostly human. (Series creator J.G. Quintel is the voice talent behind Mordecai, and William Salyers is Rigby.) In their 20s, they work as groundskeepers for a park overseen by Benson, the gumball machine-bodied character that I mentioned above (brought to life by the voice talent of Sam Marin). While Mordecai and Rigby slack off and avoid their work as much as possible, Benson is stern and tries to keep them in line; an episode rarely goes by where he doesn’t threaten to fire them. They aren’t alone as they toil away in the park though.

(L to R) Benson, Rigby, and Mordecai
Muscle Man (also voiced by Sam Marin) and High Five Ghost (J.G. Quintel again) are best friends and a rival groundskeeping team. Muscle Man is loud, obnoxious, kind of a jerk, and slightly resembles the Frankenstein monster.  Remember the "Yo mama" jokes/insults that used to be popular? Muscle Man seems to misunderstand how those work, so when he throws out his catch phrase ending in “My mom!” he doesn't realize that he's actually part of the joke. As annoying as it is for the characters on the show, it can be fun when you (sparingly) quote him in real life. Not long ago, a family friend--and fellow Regular Show fan--had a birthday. So my son and I made her a sign that read: “Happy birthday! ‘Know who else wishes you a happy birthday? My mom!’” High Five Ghost, or Fives, is exactly what his name describes; a small ghost (shaped a lot like the ghosts from the Pac-Man games) with a hand extending from his head, used to high-five people. Fives is much more reserved than Muscle Man, but with a best friend like him, who could get a word in edgewise?



Adding a sense of serenity and wisdom to the whole scene is Skips, an immortal Yeti whose eternal life status comes in handy when he often knows the way to handle almost any crazy jam that the group gets themselves into. Whether it’s a scenario where not respecting the rules of owing someone a "solid" (favor) causes chaos, or dealing with jerky punk rock unicorns, Skips will often casually say, “I‘ve seen this before“. Oh, and I might mention that none other than Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, lends his voice talent for Skips. This was one of those facts that made me pause and say, “What? Wait. That can’t be right…” the first time that I heard it, but it is indeed true. I never would’ve guessed it on my own, but it’s just another layer that adds to the fun.

The park where all of these characters (in every sense of the word) work is owned by Mr. Maellard, and while he appears in some episodes, it’s his son, Pops, who’s hands down my favorite in the series. Pops’ head is a giant lollipop, hence the name, and as a friend of Mordecai and Rigby, he often gets caught up in their misadventures. For me, one of Pops’ most endearing qualities is his naiveté. It can’t be a mistake that where he’s from, “Lolliland”, rhymes with La-La Land. With his old-timey gentleman personality, he’s not always considered “cool”, and realizes that he doesn't exactly fit in with the rest of the group. In more than one episode though, the other guys let him know that they regard him as a true friend, and they should, since sometimes it's Pops and his actions that have saved the day.

Pops: "I'm waiting to talk to Joe Mama."
And the day has to be saved time and time again. An episode might start out simply enough, say with Mordecai and Rigby finding baby ducks while they clean out the park fountain, but by the time the credits roll, the ducklings might have learned to karate chop, there may have been a car chase, and there could have been a magical transformation into a giant, fighting superhero of sorts. But this kind of thing is “normal” in the world of Regular Show.

There’s a whole cast of other oddball characters in these out-there escapades, but I have to at least give a mention to leading ladies Margaret and Eileen. Another best friend duo, they work at a coffee shop that Mordecai and Rigby hang out at--for good reason. Margaret is a robin who Mordecai has a huge crush on, and Eileen is a mole who pines after Rigby, even though he doesn’t really pick up on it. Just like everyone else around them, Margaret and Eileen often get sucked into all of the hijinks and insanity surrounding Mordecai and Rigby.

Eileen and Margaret
The animation in Regular Show isn’t overly complicated, and I see that as another strength of the series. Instead of being bogged down by too many details or too much going on visually, it allows the other elements that make it so good to shine through.

Regular Show is weird, it’s unpredictable, and it’s anything but highbrow entertainment. Those are some of the things that make it so fun though. In 2010, the series won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program. A distinction like that doesn’t come just from animated slapstick comedy, although there’s plenty of that. It’s the show’s witty writing that make it versatile enough for a kid to laugh along with, while adults get in on the more subtle jokes and the nods to 80s and 90s-era pop culture. From Prince, to The Neverending Story, “hair metal” bands, Transformers, Rocky, and so many more that it would be impossible to name them all, the references are not only funny, but add a sweet hint of nostalgia for any viewer that grew up in or lived during those decades.

It would be easy to keep going on about why Regular Show is a series worth watching, but I’d rather you just check it out for yourself. In the words of Pops, "Good show! Jolly good show!" To get more information about the characters, watch video clips, play games, and more, visit the show’s page over at the Cartoon Network website: www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/regularshow.

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