The Aquabats! Super Show!
|The Aquabats! Super Show!|
|Created by||Christian Jacobs
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||21 (+ pilot) (List of episodes)|
|Running time||approx. 22 minutes (per episode)|
|Production company(s)||The Magic Store Productions|
|Original channel||Hub Network|
|Original run||March 3, 2012 – present|
The Aquabats! Super Show! is an American action-comedy television series which premiered on March 3, 2012 on the United States cable network Hub Network. The series was created by Christian Jacobs and Scott Schultz, both the creators of the Nick Jr. series Yo Gabba Gabba!, and Jason deVilliers.
Based on the superhero mythology of The Aquabats, a real-life comedy rock band which series co-creator and lead singer Jacobs formed in 1994, The Aquabats! Super Show! follows the comic adventures of a fictionalized version of the band, a musical group of amateur superheroes, as they haphazardly defend the world from a variety of villains and monsters. Styled similarly to the campy aesthetics of 1960s and 1970s children's television and Japanese tokusatsu, Super Show! utilizes various mediums of visual styles and special effects, mixing live-action storylines with cartoon shorts, parody advertisements and musical interludes.
The series' first season concluded on June 16, 2012 following a run of 13 episodes, having met with a largely positive critical reception, consistently high ratings for the channel and a Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Children's Series. The series' second season consisted of an initial five episodes which aired through June 2013, with three additional episodes airing in late December and January 2014, receiving similar acclaim and a further five Daytime Emmy nominations, ultimately winning one for Best Stunt Coordination.
- 1 Series overview
- 2 Production history
- 3 Music
- 4 Cast and characters
- 5 Episodes
- 6 Distribution
- 7 Critical reception
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Followed in both live-action and animated segments, The Aquabats! Super Show! is based around the adventures of The Aquabats, a group of superhero rock musicians who travel the countryside on a self-appointed mission to fight evil and "destroy boredom", protecting the world from the villains and creatures who threaten to destroy it while aiming to become a famous rock and roll band in their own right.
The Aquabats consist of singer The MC Bat Commander (Christian Jacobs), the swaggering leader of the group; bassist Crash McLarson (Chad Larson), who can grow up to 100 feet in size; drummer Ricky Fitness (Richard Falomir), who has the power of super speed; guitarist EagleBones Falconhawk (Ian Fowles), who's armed with a laser-shooting electric guitar; and keyboardist Jimmy the Robot (James R. Briggs, Jr.), an android. Despite their superhuman strengths and abilities, The Aquabats are quite bumbling, disorganized, and sometimes cowardly when faced with danger; this has in fact led them to be labeled "the world's most inept superheroes". The band lives and travels by way of their "Battletram", a modified recreational vehicle which, despite its small exterior, has an implausibly massive interior (similar to the TARDIS from Doctor Who or The Big Bologna from The Kids From C.A.P.E.R.), which contains, among many things, a science lab, a command center, and a living room.
The Aquabats' origin story has been left intentionally vague, a choice Jacobs explains was done for the sake of the viewer's imagination, as kids are more accepting of the inherent absurdity of the premise than adults tend to be: "'There's five guys. This is what each of the five guys does. There are monsters. They're gonna try to fight them'. It's so simple. And I think that's why it's so awesome with kids—they just take it and run with it". In the first five episodes of season two, each member of The Aquabats shares their memory of how they joined the band via animated flashback sequences; however, all of these flashbacks directly and intentionally contradict each other, leaving it unknown which—if any—could be considered officially canonical.
Format and influences
Super Show! juxtaposes both live-action and animated segments starring The Aquabats, interwoven with various tangential skits and cartoon interstitials. The live-action storylines are the primary focus of each episode, following a self-contained villain of the week formula. In the first season, each episode featured brief Anime-styled cartoon shorts which one of the characters would introduce at a random point of the show, often by finding "A Cartoon" (represented by a miniature television set) in an absurd location. Unlike the live-action segments, these cartoons followed a serialized story arc, with each installment ending in a cliffhanger to be resolved in the next episode. In season two, this format was replaced with a series of animated flashbacks recounting the origins of The Aquabats, each by a different animation studio and in a different animation style. Between these segments are pantomime cartoon shorts starring "Lil' Bat", The Aquabats' anthropomorphic bat mascot, and live-action parody commercials for outlandish fictional products, the latter of which has long been a staple of The Aquabats' multi-media stage shows.
Jacobs says the concept behind Super Show! was something he had always dreamed of doing, making a "campy, live-action, funky kid's show" in the vein of the 1960s and 1970s television that he and the rest of the series' producers had grown up with. While the show pays homage to many facets of pop culture, Jacobs has named the 1960s Batman television series as the primary influence on Super Show!'s "obviously silly" tone and visual style, ranging from set design to the trademark use of dutch angles for villain scenes. Other notable influences Jacobs has repeatedly mentioned include the works of Sid and Marty Krofft and Hanna-Barbera, Japanese tokusatsu series such as Ultraman and Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot, the Shaw Brothers and Hong Kong cinema, and shows including Danger Island, Star Trek, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, and Pee-Wee's Playhouse, noting "there’s a good 30 years worth of television culture packed into these 22-minute episodes".
The Hub's key demographic are children aged 6 to 12, and while Super Show! is ostensibly targeted towards said age group, Jacobs has stated that the series primarily aims to appeal to an all-ages crowd, with the intent of creating entertainment that both kids and parents can watch and enjoy together or separately. In interviews prior to the series' premiere, he explained that this was merely an extension of The Aquabats' own family-friendly ethos: "There's just obviously something about the costumes and being superheroes that really appeals to younger kids, and I think we always knew that as a band...I think we'll want to put things in [the show] for an older audience, because we realize we have an older audience, but then also we want the young kids, to not have it go over their heads". Due to its scenes of action and slapstick, Super Show! is one of only three original Hub series to be rated TV-PG, alongside the animated sitcom Dan Vs. and the horror anthology series R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour.
History and previous attempts at a series
In 1994, musicians Christian Jacobs, Chad Larson and former member Boyd Terry formed The Aquabats in Brea, California. Influenced as much by cartoons and camp television as theatrical bands like Devo and Oingo Boingo, The Aquabats gained instant notoriety in the Orange County music scene for their eccentric persona—in which they claimed to be a band of superheroes on a quest to save the world—and their elaborate stage shows, which regularly featured scripted fights with costumed villains alongside similar stunts and comedy sketches.
The Aquabats' second studio album, 1997's The Fury of The Aquabats!, proved to be a minor commercial breakthrough for the group, charting on the Billboard 200 and bringing them exposure through such venues as MTV, leading Jacobs – a former child actor with ties in the industry – to develop the concept of adapting the band's mythology for television. In 1998, Buena Vista Television helped produce a live-action mini-pilot directed by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait titled simply The Aquabats!, following the comic misadventures of the then-eight member band in an over-the-top camp style similar to Saturday morning cartoon shows. The pilot, which has yet to be made available for public viewing, failed to generate any network interest and was ultimately even disowned by the band themselves.
Undeterred, The Aquabats made an attempt at a second pilot the following year, using a music video budget granted by their record label Goldenvoice Records for their 1999 album The Aquabats vs. the Floating Eye of Death!. Independently directed and produced by Jacobs and his creative partner Scott Schultz, the result was a five-minute promo video entitled The Aquabats in Color!. In contrast to the wackier tone of the previous pilot, The Aquabats in Color! was a more action-oriented superhero series modeled after Japanese tokusatsu shows such as Kamen Rider. According to Jacobs, the Fox Family Channel reportedly expressed interest in the series and ordered production on a proper pilot episode, though following the channel's acquisition by Disney in 2001, the project was cancelled.
The Aquabats! Super Show! pilot (2008)
In 2005, Jacobs and Schultz formed the Orange County-based production company The Magic Store, focusing on creating family-oriented television entertainment. One of the company's independently produced pilots, the children's television series Yo Gabba Gabba!, was eventually picked up as a series by Viacom's Nick Jr. channel, premiering in August 2007 and ultimately becoming an award-winning and critically acclaimed international success. In the wake of the series' popularity, Jacobs and Schultz persuaded Yo Gabba Gabba!'s joint production company Wild Brain to help produce a new pilot based around The Aquabats in conjuncture with The Magic Store.
Again creatively spearheaded by Jacobs and Schultz, The Aquabats' third pilot, titled The Aquabats! Super Show!, was shot on location throughout southern California in late 2007 and early 2008. Part of this filming took place at a free invitation-only concert for members of the band's official fan club at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on January 12, 2008. While The Aquabats' previous pilots were short, live-action promotional videos, The Aquabats! Super Show! was a fully realized 22-minute episode featuring two separate storylines based on the adventures of The Aquabats, one live-action and one animated, and interspersed with parody commercials and live footage of the band. Speaking on the decision to structure the show in such a varied format, Jacobs said "[w]e did that for a strategic reason – some networks like cartoons more than other networks. We wanted to say, 'this could be both shows'."
Following a period of post-production, The Aquabats began widely self-promoting Super Show! in June 2008, redesigning their website to promote the pilot and releasing a teaser trailer and several exclusive clips through an official Super Show! YouTube channel. On July 25, 2008, the band screened the full pilot at a concert in San Diego held during the weekend of the San Diego Comic-Con, while a segment of the episode was hosted on Boing Boing the same day. In 2009, Cartoon Network allegedly picked the series up for a run of 22 episodes, though following major staff changes within the company—which, according to Jacobs, included the termination of the executives who had green-lighted Super Show!—the project was again cancelled.
The Hub and season one
After several more unsuccessful network pitches into the 2010s, The Aquabats! Super Show! was finally picked up as a series by family cable channel The Hub, a joint venture between Hasbro and Discovery which launched in 2010 as a replacement for Discovery Kids. The Hub formally announced the series in a press release on March 23, 2011, revealing Super Show! would be given a first season run of 13 episodes, produced in conjuncture with FremantleMedia. In promotion of the series, The Aquabats appeared as part of a panel at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con where they discussed their initial plans for the show, while The Hub sponsored an Aquabats concert held at the nearby House of Blues during the same weekend.
Production on season one of Super Show! officially began in May 2011. The entirety of the first season was shot within and around The Aquabats' hometown of Orange County, California; according to the first season DVD audio commentary, episodes were shot on location in the cities of Irvine, Silverado, Yorba Linda, Huntington Beach and Fullerton, while a private sound stage in Santa Ana was used for interior shots of the Battletram. A public Aquabats concert held at The Glass House club in Pomona on November 5, 2011 was also filmed to provide live footage of the band which is featured in the series' opening credits montage and several individual episodes.
Much of Super Show!'s staff consist of friends and colleagues of The Aquabats who've previously worked with the band on various projects, ranging from members of Yo Gabba Gabba!'s production team to fellow musicians within the southern California music scene. Among the more notable examples include Dallas McLaughlin and Matthew Gorney, both members of the San Diego hip hop band Bad Credit, who prominently served as writers, composers and performers; Warren Fitzgerald, guitarist for The Vandals, who was hired as a writer and music director; internet sketch comedy group Mega64 were commissioned to produce original material, primarily the series' parody commercials; and Japanese artist Eriko "Pey" Uruma, who had designed many of The Aquabats' t-shirts and posters, helped design the season's animated segments. Additionally, several industry professionals were brought in to help work on the show: Dani Michaeli, a staff writer on SpongeBob SquarePants, was hired as the series' story editor, while Matt Chapman, co-creator of the internet Flash cartoon Homestar Runner, acted as a writer, director and actor on several episodes. As none of the members besides Jacobs had any previous acting experience, comedian Matt Walsh of the Upright Citizens Brigade was brought in to help teach The Aquabats comedic acting and timing.
In further homage to the original Batman series, Super Show! features a variety of celebrity cameo appearances. The series' first season included appearances from actors Jon Heder, Lou Diamond Phillips and Samm Levine, comedians Rip Taylor, Paul Scheer and Paul Rust, and comedy musician "Weird Al" Yankovic, who appeared in two episodes as different characters. The first season also included several "Easter egg" cameos from original Aquabats members Corey "Chainsaw" Pollock and Boyd "Catboy" Terry, as well as from fellow musicians Warren Fitzgerald and Art Mitchell of the band Supernova.
Despite having been originally announced as part of The Hub's 2011 Fall line-up, production delays postponed Super Show!'s premiere to early 2012. The series' marketing campaign began in December 2011, with a later announcement of an official premiere date confirmed for March 3, 2012. Following a non-consecutive run of 13 episodes, the first season finale aired on June 16, 2012.
On October 16, 2012, The Aquabats and The Hub confirmed production on new episodes of Super Show! through the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, announcing a tentative debut date of Spring 2013. Principal photography on season two began on October 22 and wrapped on December 1. Unlike the first season, the majority of season two was shot in and around Salt Lake City, Utah, which Jacobs explained was considerably less expensive than shooting in California.
While no changes were made to Super Show's creative team, in December 2012 it was announced that season two would introduce the series' first guest director, musician and comic book writer Gerard Way, who co-directed and co-wrote the season finale "The AntiBats!" with Jacobs and deVilliers. Way's involvement with the series was heavily covered by the music press in the wake of the March 2013 break-up of his popular alternative rock band My Chemical Romance. Among the guest stars featured in season two were professional skateboarders Tony Hawk and Eric Koston, Devo frontman and Yo Gabba Gabba! cast member Mark Mothersbaugh, internet celebrity Leslie Hall, actor Martin Starr and My Chemical Romance bassist Mikey Way.
On December 2, 2012, deVilliers revealed on his Twitter account that the upcoming season would consist of only five new episodes, in what he called more "season 1.5" than a "season 2", though mentioned the possibility of more being made in the future. On May 1, 2013, it was announced through Entertainment Weekly that the series' second season would begin airing on June 1. After a run of only five episodes, the season concluded on June 29, 2013.
On August 22, 2013, Chad Larson confirmed via Twitter that three additional episodes of Super Show! were being filmed near the end of the year, "and maybe more next". Principal photography on these episodes eventually began in Utah in early October. Throughout the month, The Aquabats posted numerous pictures of production on the new episodes on their Twitter and Instagram accounts, some of which revealed production code numbers of 301, 302 and 303, ostensibly indicating what would be a third season. Though these numbers were later verified by the Internet Movie Database, a November press release from The Hub explicitly referred to these three episodes as "specials".
The first of these specials, "Christmas with The Aquabats!", aired on December 21, featuring comedians Robert Smigel and Matt Walsh in guest roles. The second of these episodes, "The Shark Fighter!", featuring comedian Rhys Darby, aired the following week on December 28, while the final special "Kitty Litter!" aired on January 18, 2014. "Kitty Litter!" was helmed by another guest director, Munn Powell, best known for his work as cinematographer on the Jared and Jerusha Hess films Napoleon Dynamite and Gentlemen Broncos.
Following this short run of episodes, there has been no confirmation by either The Hub or The Aquabats as to the future of the series. In a December 2013 interview, Christian Jacobs acknowledged the network's small order of episodes but didn't elaborate on the possible reason. In the same interview, he stated that the band had initially prepared for another order of 13 episodes, having written as many scripts for potential future episodes.
On May 1, 2014, the nominees for the 2014 Daytime Emmy Awards were announced, revealing that Super Show! had been nominated for five awards in four categories, including the award for Best Writing in a Children's Series for the episode "The AntiBats!". The awards ceremony was held on June 22, 2014, where the series ultimately won the award for Best Stunt Coordination for stuntman Skip Carlson.
Original music for The Aquabats! Super Show! is primarily composed and performed by The Aquabats themselves, with additional scoring on most episodes provided by Matthew Gorney, Warren Fitzgerald or individual credits for Aquabats members James R. Briggs, Jr., Richard Falomir and Ian Fowles. Fitzgerald, the guitarist for punk rock band The Vandals and formerly of New Wave group Oingo Boingo, serves as the series' music supervisor. The Super Show! theme song was co-written by The Aquabats and Fitzgerald.
Whereas most musically oriented shows like The Monkees typically break the narrative of an episode for a music video performance of a standalone song, each episode of Super Show! usually features one or two unique songs that tie directly into the plot, usually about and performed during the events of a particular scene. Most of these songs are rather brief, averaging a running time of just under a minute; Jacobs has stated that many of the show's original songs are recorded as full-length pieces but trimmed down for inclusion in an episode, simply due to the show "trying to pack so much into 22 minutes".
Jacobs has expressed a desire to eventually compile the series' original full-length songs with the goal of releasing a new Aquabats album and/or a soundtrack accompaniment to Super Show!. Little news has come of this idea since 2012, though in a May 2013 interview, Jacobs confirmed the release of a new Aquabats album in 2014 to coincide with the band's twentieth anniversary. Several songs from the series have already become staples of the band's live shows, in particular the Super Show! theme song and the song "Burger Rain!", both of which have been performed at almost every Aquabats show since the series' premiere.
Cast and characters
The Aquabats! Super Show! stars and is based upon fictionalized versions of the current (since 2006) line-up of the California comedy rock band The Aquabats. Adapting the backstory the band has used for the entirety of their professional career, Super Show! depicts The Aquabats as a group of bumbling, out-of-shape superheroes on a self-appointed mission to fight the forces of evil, presented in both live-action and animated segments. The five members of The Aquabats are:
- The MC Bat Commander (played and voiced by Christian Jacobs) – The Aquabats' singer and de facto leader of the team. Though he doesn't have any superpowers of his own and is often quite stubborn and naive, the Commander is shown to be an effective strategist whose sharp leadership skills, bravery and determination regularly drive the band towards victory.
- Crash McLarson (played and voiced by Chad Larson) – The band's bass guitarist, who has the frequently uncontrollable ability to grow upwards of 100 feet in size when under emotional stress. Despite being the largest and strongest of The Aquabats, Crash has a gentle, childlike demeanor bordering on slight dim-wittedness, and as such is usually the most cowardly member of the team.
- Jimmy the Robot (played and voiced by James R. Briggs, Jr.) – The Aquabats' keyboardist. As his name implies, Jimmy is an android whose mechanical body houses a variety of built-in gadgets and weaponry, plus a comprehensive knowledge database which earns him the position of the group's resident scientist. Being a robot, Jimmy is generally perplexed by human emotions and behavior.
- Ricky Fitness (played and voiced by Richard Falomir) – the band's drummer, Ricky possesses the power of super speed. Being the most physically fit and health-conscious member of The Aquabats, some of the series' running gags revolve around Ricky's status as a handsome ladies' man and his fondness for "fresh, healthy veggies" in contrast to the rest of the team's voracious affinity for junk food.
- EagleBones Falconhawk (played and voiced by Ian Fowles) – The Aquabats' guitarist. The cocky and boyish maverick of the team, EagleBones is highly proficient on his custom weaponized electric guitar which shoots lasers from its headstock. Following a spiritual encounter early in season one, EagleBones also has the gift of second sight and is accompanied by "The Dude", an invisible spirit eagle whom he summons to aide The Aquabats in battle.
Though each episode of the series introduces a new villain, ally and/or celebrity cameo, Super Show! has yet to feature any major recurring characters as of the end of the second season. Voice actor Mr. Lawrence provides the minimal narration for the series' live-action segments, while staff writer Kyle McCulloch provided narration for the first season's animated segments.
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired (U.S. dates)|
|Season premiere||Season finale|
|1||13||March 3, 2012||June 16, 2012|
|2||5||June 1, 2013||June 29, 2013|
|Specials||3||December 21, 2013||January 18, 2014|
Coinciding with the run of the first season, each new episode of The Aquabats! Super Show! was released through the iTunes Store for digital download. Prior to the series debut, a season pass was made available for purchase to enable viewers to automatically receive a download of each new episode on its airdate. The first season of Super Show! was added to the video streaming service Netflix on December 1, 2012, later being added to Hulu on December 21.
Unlike the first season, the series' second season was not made available for iTunes pre-order, nor were episodes released for purchase. Though each episode was briefly streamed on The Hub's official website, none of the seasons' episodes have been made available on Hulu, Netflix or similar streaming services as of December 2013.
Shout! Factory currently has the DVD publishing rights for The Aquabats! Super Show! within Region 1. The company first announced their acquisition of the series and plans for a future DVD in a press release dated August 6, 2012, though did not initially confirm a set release date until several months later. On May 21, 2013, the first season of Super Show! was released on a two-disc DVD set.
|DVD Name||Episodes||Release Date||Special features|
|The Aquabats! Super Show! Season One!||13||May 21, 2013 (NTSC)||
Critical response to The Aquabats! Super Show! has been overwhelmingly positive, with most reviewers praising the series' intentionally campy tone and offbeat humor. The Onion's The A.V. Club gave the series premiere an A− rating, describing it as "a loving homage to basically everything ever done by the brothers Krofft": "the show adeptly flips from humor to melodrama to action, providing some awesomely cheap special effects, goofy songs, and gags that range from slapstick to sublime", summarizing "there’s so much here that both kids and parents will be able to enjoy the proceedings on their own respective levels and rarely find themselves bored".
Brian Lowry of Variety wrote "you don't have to laugh at everything to admire the effort and sheer silliness", calling the show a "goofy and nostalgic" throwback to the "children's TV of baby boomers' youth, down to crappy production values and awful-looking 'monsters' that work to its advantage". He summarized "Although this Hub series at times feels like an SNL skit stretched to a half-hour, its sly mix of music, live-action crime-fighting, cartoons and mock ads ought to develop a cult following—and might be more popular with parents, at least those with the geek gene, than their kids".
Technology magazine Wired has been consistently positive towards the series, calling it both "wonderfully strange" and "delightfully deranged", writing "[f]illed with self-deprecating music videos, toon interludes and ludicrous villains, The Aquabats! Super Show! has become one of television's strangely comforting finds".
Common Sense Media, who review shows based on age-appropriate content, gave Super Show! a rating of 4 out of 5 stars, calling it "demented and manic...fun by sheer dint of how many jokes, visual and otherwise, are thrown at the screen, both those calculated to appeal to kids and adults". The site praised the series for its lighter and sillier tone in comparison to more violent live-action superhero fare, and considered the "kind-hearted" Aquabats to be relatively positive role models. However, the reviewer suggested the show's violence and creatures may be too intense for very young children, and pointed out a distinct lack of central female characters.
Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times offered a more indifferent opinion, calling The Aquabats "indescribably odd" and the series "frenetic, semicoherent and generally harmless. Also somewhat hallucinogenic", noting Super Show!'s writing "may be over the heads of the 2-to-12 set", suggesting its most receptive audience might be "the college drinking-game crowd".
Awards and nominations
The Aquabats! Super Show! has been nominated for the following awards:
|2013||Outstanding Children's Series||Nominated|
|2014||Writing for a Children's Series (Episode: "The AntiBats!" – Jason deVilliers, Christian Jacobs and Gerard Way)||Nominated|
|Achievement in Lighting Direction||Nominated|
|Achievement in Sound Mixing – Live Action||Nominated|
|Stunt Coordination (Skip Carlson)||Won|
|Stunt Coordination (Braxton McAllister)||Nominated|
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- Official website at Hub Network
- The Aquabats! Super Show at the Internet Movie Database
- Official website of The Aquabats