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Brak first appeared on the Hanna Barbara Space Ghost cartoon in the 1960s as a villain. Fast forward thirty years and Brak found himself once again on a show with Space Ghost, but this time it was a comedic talk show entitled Space Ghost Coast to Coast. His character found a new voice and a new role, this time playing an Andy Richter type role to Space Ghost’s Conan O’Brien. In the year 2000 Brak finally got his own show on Cartoon Network during the late-night comedy block known as Adult Swim. The Brak Show became a cult hit amongst teens and college students through its off the wall style of humour. Now with the show cancelled and after the success of other Adult Swim shows on the format, Warner Bros. has granted The Brak Show a DVD release.

Brak Show: Volume 1, The
Series
The Brak Show is as unique a television program as any other out there. The show itself is deliberately given a 1950s, Leave it to Beaver feel to add to the absurd level of comedy that is being achieved: each episode begins with your typical family sitcom music and ends with a blatantly poor attempt at finding a moral to the story. The cast is very simple starting with our star Brak (Andy Merrill), a lion/cat type creature, who has the innocence of a child and loves to express his emotions through song and dance. Brak’s best and only friend Zorak ( C.Martin Croker) is the perfect foil to Brak’s ‘aw shucks’ mentality; Zorak, a praying mantis,  is crass and provides the edgier material to this comedy. Mom and Dad (voiced by Marsha Crenshaw and George Lowe) are Brak’s parents. The mother looks similar to Brak, while the father is the only human in the show albeit a midget and Spanish. Thundercleese is their neighbour who is a giant robot which frequently is engaged in some sort of battle, while always finding time to entertain Brak’s quibbles and shoot Zorak.

Brak Show: Volume 1, The
Each episode stands alone, meaning that there is no main storyline which is followed and events in one show have no effect on how another show is approached. While each show contains laugh out loud, tear jerking comedy, there are several episodes which stand out starting with Time Machine. The basic story here is that Brak and Zorak had spent their weekend playing video games instead of doing schoolwork and because of this, Brak’s mom won’t take them out to dinner. The solution to our duo’s dilemma is naturally to travel back in time to tell their counterparts to do their homework. To give an idea of the type of brainless, corn-ball humour that is to be expected, when Zorak beings to explain his plan to Brak, Brak responds with something to the tune of “Then we can make a kite out of squirrels and fly it to the moon!” When Zorak calls Brak stupid he responds with “I dare you to say that again, except this time say ‘Brak, I love you!’”. Get the idea? Silly humour that makes you shake your head in approval.  

Poppy is an episode which revolves around Brak’s struggle in landing a female companion. Not only does this episode feature some of the show’s trademark musical numbers, but we also are treated to seeing Brak try and pick up women. One final episode worth mentioning is The Eye, which revolves around the notion that Brak’s dad is a world class competitor in eye starring contests. These simplistic shows work because their length is short enough at ten minutes, so that the humour doesn’t get stale. The universe in which The Brak Show resides in is weird, and sometimes the less time you spend in it in one sitting, the better.

The quality of this show starts and stops with Andy Merrill. Ninety percent of what makes The Brak Show so funny is because of Brak, whose voice is more important to the character than what he’s actually saying. I could listen to Andy Merrill read from a menu in Brak’s voice, and I’d still be laughing hysterically (it’s on the disc, look for it). It is of extreme importance to note that The Brak Show is not for everybody; while I’m sure there are some exceptions, I would guess that those who don’t like The Simpsons, Family Guy, or Futureama will not find a place in their heart for The Brak Show. If you are already well versed in Adult Swim and are new to Brak, the laughs will not stop in watching volume one of The Brak Show.

Brak Show: Volume 1, The
Video
Showcased in a standard 1:33:1 full frame aspect ratio, there is little to complain about for the video quality on this release. The picture quality is very clear with no signs of animation production artefacts. On other animated television releases it is common to find smudges and scratches appearing regularly throughout an episode; this is an issue that is never even hinted at here. Another common transfer flaw in animated titles referred to as jaggies are also not present in this video transfer. The colours are rich and vivid but not to the point of saturation, preventing bleeding. Black levels are consistently stable as well. Despite the lavish praise being thrown about here a couple of slight issues remain, the first with the image going soft every now and again. This is due to the creative team from The Brak Show using stock-footage for certain shots, such as Zorak getting blown up. The animation here is clearly from a cartoon for the 70s or 80s era, and it shows. Secondly there seems to be a hint of haloing on the outlines of certain characters, such as the goldfish. This may be an animation artefact, but it comes off looking as haloing. Other than the aforementioned minor issues, the video quality represents a superb effort.

Audio
Dolby Digital Stereo is the only audio option given for The Brak Show, and it essentially gets the job done. Sound cracking or popping isn’t a problem, and all the sound elements are transmitted with a great deal of clarity. Both channels are used well to give the stereo feeling, but it is exaggerated at times to the point where it becomes annoying. There isn’t a whole lot to say for the audio portion of a ten minute comedy cartoon, especially one where there isn’t a lot of action going on. The quality is certainly above average, but nothing close to reference material.

Brak Show: Volume 1, The
Extras
From top to bottom the supplemental material on The Brak Show Volume One is exceptional. The two disc set is full of entertaining extra features starting with my personal favourites, the menu system. Each menu takes place at Brak’s house, either outside or inside. Though they aren’t animated, each portion features musical accompaniment by Brak himself. For example on disc one you will hear “Welcome to The Brak Show on DVDDDD...Disc one!” Those who are in love with this character as much as I am will find this as funny as anything in the show, others will want to make their selections as soon as possible. Easter Eggs are easy to find in the menus as well, as they are depicted by none other than: pictures of Easter Eggs.

Animated segments are a staple of the extras on this set, starting with Cartoon Planet segments (another program which can be found on Adult Swim). These segments include Brak giving Space Ghost a hard time, Brak offering anecdotes about his days at school, and plenty of musical numbers. As the norm for the rest of the content in this set, if the show itself is entertaining to you, then you will love the extras here. The material in the Cartoon Planet segments is essentially an extension of what can be found in the show itself. Brak reminiscing about school is particularly entertaining. The next set of animated segments is Adult Swim News, hosted of course by our friend Brak. The brainless yes highly entertainment continues in the same fashion here, with Brak delivering meaningless breaking news breaks in a wacky manner only he knows how to pull off. Finally Brak Presents The Brak Show Starring Brak is yet another series of animated highlights including more musical segments, parodies, and even a celebrity cameo. The animated segments are as entertaining as the episodes themselves and Brak enthusiasts will not be disappointed.

A series of audio commentaries round out volume one of The Brak Show. Much credit needs to be given to the creative team here, as we are treated to a variety of different commentaries on several episodes. On Goldfish there are two commentary options, one which Brak does commentary in character and another which Brak answers questions from a woman named Kim who runs a fan site. Both are entertaining, but Brak’s solo track gets bland after about five minutes. On Bawkbagawk we are given a completely different audio track to the episode, with a new storyline, some new voices, and even new music cues. This is a very bold creative decision that pays off in barrels of laughter. Finally there is a traditional commentary on War Next Door in which the creative team gives insights to the show.

Brak Show: Volume 1, The
Overall
If there is one thing that must be iterated in regards to The Brak Show, it is the notion that this should not be a blind buy for those that are not familiar with the Adult Swim universe. The show has me in stitches every time an episode is on, but I can clearly understand that this brand of humour is not for everyone. Fans of Brak and his wacky associates should feel very satisfied by the release given by Warner Bros. Everything from the paint by-numbers packaging, to the hysterical menus, to the array of extras wreaks of quality in this set. Those familiar with Family Guy and The Simpsons should consider giving The Brak Show a rental, and loyal viewers should show no hesitation in picking up volume one of this highly entertaining cartoon.


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