China, IL: The Best Show You’re Not Watching

[Adult Swim] has a long history of shows that could never be broadcast anywhere else: Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Squidbillies, Metalocalypse, Super Jail. Simply put, they have the freedom to take risks that a network like FOX (the only network broadcaster to recently find any success with animation) can’t afford to take. Often you will find their lineup littered with 15 minute blocks of high concept art. Unfortunately, some of their best shows can slip through the cracks unnoticed.

“China, IL” is one such show. The basis for the show comes from work that creator Brad Neely did for the now defunct Super Deluxe website. Baby Cakes and The Professor Brothers all return as full fledged TV stars. While many internet videos seem to lose their special charm when moving to television, it seems these characters have only gotten better. Perhaps it’s a side-effect of working with television professionals, or perhaps Brad Neely is only getting better with age; either way, his work is better than ever.

The premise of the show isn’t really anything special: college professors have adventures with their teacher’s assistant and their big dumb friend. However, the outrageous scenarios they find themselves in are some of the most original ideas on television. An evil time travelling Ronald Reagan, deadly scavenger hunts, Kevin Costner stealing from the rich and giving to the poor… it’s always something absurd and amazing.

For example, in one episode they take on the ideas of abortion, capital punishment, and euthanasia… using a single character as their focus. And it’s not just your typical “If you think this way, you’re wrong and stupid.” Rather, they show where each side of the debates are coming from and how they both make valid points. They also show how bad people use all these positions for their own selfish reasons. Mind you, they tackle all this in a hilarious eleven minute cartoon. It is hands down some of the best writing you will find on television.

On top of the great characters and great writing, each episode features at least one awesome original song. Ranging from “I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Dead Kennedys” to straight up funk. Brad Neely, know for songs such as George Washington, is the master of coming up with entertaining little jingles that will burrow their way into your brain. Leaving you wishing that each of his little 30-60 second musical blurbs were full tracks on a soundtrack album.

So if you have nothing else going on next Sunday, check out China, IL on Cartoon Network’s [Adult Swim] at 11:30pm. Please. For my sake. I really want to watch a third season.

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