Was That Real: Sam and Max: Freelance Police


June 16, 2015
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Nostalgia Critic: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. And welcome to another edition of WTR, a.k.a. Was That Real?

(cuts to the title card of WTR)

(Cuts to clips from shows like  "Small Wonder", "The Cowboys of Moo Mesa", "Count Duckula", "Dumb and Dumber, "Dog City", "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" and "Star Wars: Ewoks")

NC (vo): This is where we look at TV shows that may be forgotten by some but remembered by others for just how strange they were.

NC: With that said, let's talk about a couple of characters called Sam and Max.

NC (vo): Though technically getting their start as a comic, Sam and Max became big names at the height of LucasArts Game's success in 1993 with Sam and Max Hit the Road. It was funny, quirky, and many would argue ahead of it's time. But despite it's friendly looks, Sam and Max was mostly meant for adults. So it was kind of hard to figure out where exactly to place them for future projects or even how. It was hard for adult audiences back then to get into a fluffy rabbit and a cute dog, but it was also hard for kids to get into those cuddly characters swearing up a storm. Well, ok, the parents, the kids were probably fine with that.

NC: And the crowning achievement of that... ayeeayh... came out on Fox Kids with Sam and Max: Freelance Police.

(Clip from the openning)

Theme Song: Sam and Max! (Trumpets play)

NC (vo): Kinda like Small Wonder, this was a very bizarre show to get a handle on. Not to say that the game didn't have it's weird moments, but it still had a mostly flowing narrative with our heroes trying to solve the problem. With Freelance Police, it always started out with an idea for a flowing narrative but then derailed into something more similar to say, Monty Python's Complete Waste of Time.

NC: Does anyone remember that? Does anyone remem- You should remember that!

NC (vo): Most of the episodes start off with the mission from either their faceless commissioner on the phone...

Sam: Yes! Uh-huh! Tenfold! Affirmative! Roger! Miller! Gotcha! Check! Ha ha!

NC (vo): Or their maker of gadgets simply known as "The Geek".

Geek: Secretary General, I'll look into that ozone thing right away.

Max: Over and out! (smashes controls with a hammer)

NC (vo): Granted the problems were usually resolved by the end but it clearly wasn't the focus. The focus was to partake in a lot of fast-paced surrealism. And honestly, it's so fast and so surreal that it's hard to even know if you're supposed to laugh at it half the time.

Sam: You have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Max: And that big cranky alien cranium heading straight for us.

Galactose: I am Galactose, the Intolerant!

NC: So does that make it a bad show or a good show?... I really don't know.

NC (vo): It's so strange and hard to get a grasp on that even years later you can't tell whether it was behind it's time or ahead of it's time. Just listen to how they talk.

Teacher: Surely there's more to your occupation than just pummeling vaporous anomalies insensible.

Sam (puppet): No, that's pretty much it.

Teacher: I'm not sure the school board would approve of this field trip...

Sam: Based on my limited knowledge of school board officials being dull, colorless mama's boys, I'd have to agree.

NC (vo) That kind of dialogue goes on throughout the entire series. That vocabulary is way too advanced for a lazy kid's show. There's clearly intelligent people behind this. But then some jokes will be built up so much and, seemingly, go nowhere that's especially funny.

Max: Was it the commissioner?

Sam: Not exactly. It was someone not unlike the commissioner with all the intolerant intones of the commissioner who sounded remarkably like the geek and therefore could very well have been the geek.

Max: You have a long black hair growing right out of your nose.

NC: (Looks around unsurely) How am I supposed to react to that?

NC (vo): Are we supposed to laugh because it's so funny, or laugh because it's so not funny? Is that the whole idea of the show, that some jokes work but others are just kind of trolling us? The speed of the dialogue goes by so fast that it's legitimately hard to tell. And don't get me wrong, some jokes are definitely trying to get away with more than most kids shows do.

Sam: The prison showers? Gee, if these walls could talk!

Max: I think it's best if they keep their mouths shut...

NC (vo): But what exactly does that prove? We know it has smart writers, so, why is it so tough to figure out if it's good or bad? Part of it is that the world it creates is odd, but not a total decent into surrealism either. For example, the Geek is a teenage girl living on her own. But they don't ignore that; they bring up that it's a weird thing that she doesn't have any parents around.

Repair Man: Is your mommy home?

The Geek: This isn't my home- Its my lab. And my mommy didn't ​call you- I did.

Repair Man: We-he-hel aren't we all grown up.

NC (vo): But then, they don't do anything really crazy or funny with it either, so its still kind of a strange mix to comprehend. What kind of feel or enviornment is this trying to make?

NC: I try to figure out if this is the work of genius, madness or both.

(Clip from Pirates of the Carribean: The Black Pearl is played)

Jack Sparrow: Its remarkable how often those two traits coincide.

(Clip from Sam and Max is played)

NC (vo): And I started to realize that it reminded me a little about Animaniacs, which also had plots more focused around telling jokes.

(Clips from Animaniacs are played)

Note: Grammatical errors from the video are included.

NC: So then I asked "What did Animaniacs have ​that made it more relatable than Sam and Max had?" The answer- SUFFERING!

NC (vo): I still stand by "All comedy is based on some form of misery". And even though the Warners are happy and zany character, they're still confronting someone who's going to suffer for their antics​.

(Clips from Sam and Max is played)

NC (vo): Sam and Max rarely has those characters. Its usually just them working off of themselves, and enjoying it. There's never really a smart one or a dumb one or a mean one or a nice one; they usually seem kinda on the same page. Once in a while, they come across a foil that gets smashed or verbally assulted, but, for the most part, its just these two acting like nothing really hurts them.

Sam: Such a beatiful swamp. I almost hate to leave.

Max: Me too, Sam, but lets do before we start blubbering like newlyweds over a scranger.

Sam: You crack me up, little buddy.

(Still from Earthworm Jim fills the screen, preceeding clipart with The Tick saying NEAT!!! in Comic Sans and a picture of the main characters of The Tick, this time diminishing into the center)

NC (vo): Even other surreal shows like Earthworm Jim or The Tick still acted like they had something to lose. Either they, or the people around were invested in things not going wrong.

Clips from Sam and Max play)

NC (vo): Sam and Max couldn't care if they're place went up in smoke or if they won the lottery. They'd be happy and strange no matter what.

Max: We return victorious! Out with the scars of battle! Ha ha! Looks like I'm wearing polka dot 'jammies.

NC (vo): So, with most of the time nobody reacting to the insanity that's going on, does it still work as a comedy? Because that seems like a big part of the equation to leave out.

NC: Well, while clearly not for everyone, I think you can still make the arguement, "Yeah, it can kinda work".

(Still from anime Cowboy Bebop and Gravity Falls appear on the screen and diminish into the center)

NC (vo): Even famous characters that do work off misery or confusion of others still have a certain charm to 'em about how much they're in their own world.

(Clips from Sam and Max play)

NC (vo): They're so removed from what your used to that it can actually put you, the viewer, in kind of an awkward state. And a lot of times, that can be funny.

(Image of "Why Do We Love Stupid?" video appears on screen and diminishes into the center)

NC (vo): I did a whole editorial on this called "Why Do We Love Stupid," so you can watch that if you want more of an idea of what I'm talking about.

(Clips from Sam and Max play)

NC (vo): Nevertheless, you can have a funny setup even if there's nobody's misery to work off of or to show, even if it means your expectations of it is what they're working off of.

NC: But with that said, that might be why the show only lasted one season.

(Clips from Sam and Max play)

NC (vo): I'm not saying at all that there isn't an audience or even an especially intelligent one that you have to be to follow all this, but for the average kid at the time, this does look like a little too much to take in. The humor was so fast, so confusing and so strange that it didn't seem to find a big enough crowd for enough seasons.

(Still from Ren and Stimpy appears on the screen [diminishes into the center, I should say?])

NC (vo): Its kinda like if you gave Ren and Stimpy really intelligent dialouge- it's just not what audiences were looking for at the time.

(A clip from Animaniacs [then a clip from Sam and Max] play)

NC (vo): Dont get me wrong, the Animaniacs talked intelligent a lot of the time, but nothing compared to this line.

(Clip from Sam and Max play)

Sam: These free-floating immense-headed space deities are real tired.

(Clips from Animaniacs play)

NC (vo): And on top of that, 90% of the time someone was getting hurt or getting what was coming to them.

(Clips from Sam and Max play)

NC (vo): Most younger audiences wanted silly without much thinking, or thinking without much silly. And I'd be lying if I said that a lot of older audiences aren't like that too; so this is another one thats hard to clarify by who exactly would like it and who wouldn't. Because its so odd and quick but doesn't focus that much on the suffereing angle, its hard to gage the fanbase who would enjoy it.

NC: But, thats part of what makes it one of a kind.

(Clips from Sam and Max play)

NC (vo): its different than any other show that's tried something like this. It has more anarchy than Animaniacs, but, more vocabulary than Ren and Stimpy. It's complex, but simple. Quick, yet sluggish. Stupid, and smart, all at the same time. Its not the game, its not the comic; it seems to just be its own unique thing. There's definefly people out there who like comedy that can't be categorized; and Sam and Max: Freelance Police is definetly too strange not to be included.

Student: Its Sam and Max, Freelance Police!

Sam and Max: Hi, kids!

NC: (Doing signature exit) I'm the Nostalgia Critic, I remember it so you don't have to!

(End credits)

Note: The transcript is not complete yet. Please fill in as many gaps as possible.

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