Imagine that some mad genius decided to cross the Adam West Batman series with the Monkees. That pretty much describes The Aquabats! Supershow! (And as much as my grammar checker hates it, those exclamation points are a required part of the title.)
Before looking at the show itself, we need to explore the Aquabats history.
The Aquabats are a band that formed in 1994 in Orange County. Originally an eight member ska band, they evolved due to band changes to a rock band with punk, new wave, and ska influences. What really makes the band stand out is their stage act. Their concept is that they are a team of superheroes who formed a band. Each band member adopts a superhero persona, and they wear matching superhero costumes. An Aquabats show will include bits where a supervillian will appear on stage for the team to banter with, and then fight, sometimes while they are playing a song. Musically they are influenced by Oingo Boingo and Devo.
The band has had ups and downs, and a couple of hiatuses, but they have a cult following and keep finding ways to keep on rocking.
At their height, the band had eight members. Currently that are at five. In total, 15 people have been members of the band at one time or another.
With their superhero theme and theatrical nature, a television spin off seems natural. However, it took three tries for them to make it happen.
The first attempt was in 1998, with a mini-pilot directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. Apparently it wasn’t very good, and even the Aquabats don’t want anyone to see it.
They tried again a year later with a music video for their album Vs. the Floating Eye of Death that also acted as a set up for a series plot. Fox Family Channel expressed interest, and were in the process of ordering a pilot when they were bought by Disney, and the project fell by the wayside.
While the band was on hiatus during 2004, band leader Glenn Jacobs became involved with television production. While the band was revving up again, one of his company’s pilots was picked up. The name of that show is Yo Gabba Gabba! You might have heard of it. With the success of that show, Jacobs was able to get some added exposure for the Aquabats by having them appear at times as musical guests. A new pilot was produced. Even then it took a few years to get the green light.
Eventually, Kids’ Network “The Hub” picked up the show.
The premise is not far from what I said at the beginning. The Aquabats are a team of superheroes who also work as a rock band. They travel around in their mobile command center/ tour bus, the Battletram. The show is campy, but not in the old Batman show style; feeling more like the Sid and Marty Kroft live action kids shows from the 70s.
The five current members of the band star in the show with each fleshing out his character more than in their stage show. All are presented as nice guys who want to help people, but have a bit of an underdog status.
The lineup consists of the following:
The MC Bat Commander (Glenn Jacobs): The team’s leader and lead singer. He is brave, but impulsive. He is also has complete confidence in everything he does, even when wading in without a plan. Although he is the only member who does not have superpowers, he is often the first to charge into battle.
Crash McLarson (Chad Larson): The team’s muscle and bass player. Crash is an endearing man-child, who has the power to grow to 50 feet tall. Unfortunately he cannot control this power, only growing when becoming emotional. And it’s not just anger, any strong emotion will do. Once the Bat Commander got him to grow by pointing out how sad the situation they were in was.
Eaglebones Falconhawk (Ian Fowler): The band’s guitarist. He is cockier than the rest of the team, and will at times strike out on his own. At first he had no powers, but uses a laser powered guitar as a weapon. After losing a battle with his archenemy and older brother Eagleclaw Falconhawk (Jon Heder), Eaglebones was visted by the spirit of the Sun (Lou Diamond Phillips), who gave him the power to summon a spirit animal (a female eagle named “The Dude”) and the power to see the unseen. After this, Eaglebones often acted as the voice of wisdom on the team.
Ricky Fitness (Richard Falomir): The band’s drummer. As his name implies, he is in the best shape of the team, and tries to get the team to be healthier, being the only one to not indulge in junk food. He is also portrayed as a lady’s man, often flirting with female characters, even villains. He also has a phobia about getting dirty. His power is superspeed.
Jimmy the Robot (James R Briggs Jr.): The band’s keyboardist. His name says it all – he is a very human-looking robot, with built in weapons, sensors, and detachable hands. He acts as the team’s scientist. He often feels lonely and worries that the team does not truly accept him because he is a robot.
Each episode has four elements. First is the live action story that runs throughout the episode, which features the Aquabats facing some enemy with the conflict being resolved by the end of the episode. At some point during the episode, someone will come across a TV screen in an odd location and exclaim, “Look, it’s a cartoon.” At this point a short Aquabats cartoon will be shown. Unlike the main plot, the cartoon has a serialized plot that runs through the course of the season. There will be a second very short cartoon featuring the Aquabats mascot Lil’ Bat. Finally each episode will have a parody commercial for a useless product from a company called Gloopy.
The guest stars are also often a treat. Besides Lou Diamond Phillips and Jon Heder, the show has included appearances by “Weird” Al Yankovic, and Samm Levine. Former Aquabats members Courtney Pollock and Boyd Terry appear as their superhero personas of Chainsaw and Catboy, but in non-Aquabat costumes. One very notable guest is Matt Chapman, who is one of series regular writers and directors. In one episode, he plays a ghost tormenting the team for disturbing his grave. More importantly he plays an evil carnival showman named Carl who looks and talks like Chapman’s character Strong Bad, from his site Homestar Runner. In the next season, the show will have appearances by Tony Hawk, as well as Mikey Way of “My Chemical Romance”. Mikey’s brother, Gerard Way, will direct this episode.
So overall how is the show?
Actually, it is really good. It knows what it is: a show aimed at kids, but with enough going on to entertain any adults willing to buy into its premise. The five leads are totally committed to their roles, and at no point seem embarrassed to be there. The guests also seem to enjoy themselves.
The production is naturally cheap, befitting the show’s budget, but this is the kind of show that turns that into an advantage. If you are able to get past the show’s cheesiness, it is very enjoyable.
Season 1 is currently available on Netflix. Season 2 will debut on The Hub on June 1st.
I give The Aquabats! Supershow! a grade of B+.