Creatures of the great black-and-white comic book boom of the 1980's, heroes in a trio of comic adventure videogames, Steve Purcell's Sam & Max: Freelance Police perhaps had their greatest mainstream mass moment in 1997 as a Fox Kids' animated TV series. Though only lasting one season, the series sits with other classic short-lived samples of kid-vid wackiness like The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley as a stellar example of great boneheaded programming decisions. A loud and frenetic absurdist funny animal series crammed with jokes aimed miles above the heads of its prime target audience? Why didn't this do as well as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles again?
But Sam & Max's status as best-selling videogame heroes has happily helped both the comics from whence they came (recently reprinted in a spiffy new paperback collection) and their too-soon-snuffed animated teleseries. Those merry pop culture obsessives at Shout Factory (also responsible for the release of the collected SCTV - as well as such lesser lights as The Super Mario Bros. Super Show) have released a three-DVD set collection of the complete animated series. All fourteen shows are featured on the set's first two discs, with an "Exclusive Hyperkinetic Bonus Disc" featuring all the extraneous bonus disc brouhaha (including a Comic-Con set monologue with series creator Steve Purcell). I slept through the cartoon series during its original Fox Kids broadcast - though I was aware of the b-&-w comics - so I'm happy to have the chance to experience this inspired silliness for the first time.
For those unfamiliar with the characters, Sam and Max are a funny animal duo comprised of a trench coat wearing dog who delivers his patently ridiculous dialog with deadpan earnestness ("A world of roach-like leviathans lumbering through a gargantuan city-state!") and a willfully childlike hyperactive "rabbit-thing" with a love of pointless destruction. The twosome works in the vermin-infested big city as "freelance police," answering to the beck and call of an unseen Commissioner whenever big danger threatens the city. Abetting them is a redheaded girl genius named Geek (created for the show as a sop to the kiddies), who mainly serves to provide our heroes with elaborate Q-styled gadgets.