“The Amazing World Of Gumball.”
Yeah, that’s right, I’m endorsing a kids cartoon show. Why? Because it’s fricken’ awesome, that’s why.
Most episodes are just absurdist goofballery. But even then it’s well-produced absurdist goofballery. But sometimes, every now and then, the show steps up to tackle some seriously messed-up cosmic horror.
The short form of the show is: Gumball Waterson is a blue cat going to grade school. His mother, also a blue cat, is intelligent, caring and equipped with a nightmarish temper. Gumballs father is a well-worn stereotype… fat, lazy, stupid. And he’s a pink rabbit. Gumball’s smaller sister Anais is very intelligent, and a pink bunny. Gumballs brother Darwin started out life as the families pet goldfish, but he sprouted legs, the ability to talk, and the family just… accepted him. The rest of the town is populated by a whole range of characters animated by different means… puppets, computer generated characters, conventionally animated, etc. Many of the characters were formerly-rejected characters the creator of the show had tried to use on commercials and the like. One, Tina, is another grade school girl… and a CG Tyrannosaurus Rex. Another is a walking, talking donut… and the town cop.
While most of the episodes are really quite good humor, some of the episodes go off the rails in the best way possible. The episode “The Job,” for instance, was one of the first I saw and had me instantly hooked. The schtick is that Richard Waterson (Gumballs rabbit father) is so lazy that he cannot possibly hold down a job. So when he actually gets a job (as a pizza delivery man), it actually fractures the nature of reality. That’s cool, I suppose… but what grabbed me was that they used as the basis for many elements of the episode the well-known beloved children’s classic “The Omen.” Photos showing phantom lightning strikes was a hint, but a chorus singing a slightly modified version of “Omen’s” “Ave Satani” had me laughing my guts out once I recognized it. The boys realize that their father won’t be able to do the job, so they set about helping him delivery pizzas. Sadly, at one delivery they accidentally drop the pizza face down on the porch stairs, where it slides down leaving a trail of grease and toppings. What makes it extra-sad – and thus hilarious – is that the couple they were delivery the pizza to are themselves animated pizzas, and that pizza they were expecting was to be their child. Neat! The episode only gets more bizarre from there.
In another episode, “The Safety,” Darwin becomes a literal Safety Fascist, military uniform and all, as he imposes a terrifying Orwellian reign of control over the town in order to make sure everyone is safe.
In “The Void,” they discover that there are some people, ideas and things that are simply too boring to exist, and they’ve been shunted off into another dimension. The rest of the universe has forgotten them, erasing them from existence.
In “The Signal,” Darwin and Gumball discover at the end of the episode that they are simply fictional TV characters… and this discovery shatters their minds.
In “The Joy,” it turns out that sufficiently powerful “joy” can become a communicable disease that turns you into a mindless zombie. This sets up an effectively creepy zombie epidemic, with the hero of the piece being a character who has always been an antagonist.
The episode “The Pizza” is very much in the mode of “Atlas Shrugged.” The character Larry, who basically holds down *every* job in the town, finally gets overwhelmed with being used and abused… and he quits. in very short order the economic structure of the place collapses, Mad Maxian chaos and violence ensues – after threats of cannibalism, Gumballs mom goes bugnuts and slaughters the threatening gang. Eventually a nuclear explosion is seen going off in the background.
In the most recent episode “The Scam,” Gumball works with fellow student Carrie (an actual ghost) to convince the rest of the students that there is a Monster From Beyond, Gargaroth, who is wreaking havoc and that only Gumball and Darwin can ghostbust it (using backpack vacuum cleaners). They do this in exchange for payment in the form of the other students Halloween candy. So far, so normal. But then it turns out that Gargaroth is real… and is one of the more accurate depictions of a Shoggoth I’ve seen. Really quite nasty. Further, the only way for Carrie the ghost to enjoy eating candy is for her to possess someone else and make *them* eat; this was explored in some horrifying depth in the episode “The Ghost.”
There are other little bits of horror scattered throughout… a childs talking doll suddenly *really* talking; the same doll behaving normally but bursting into flames; characters exploding for no good reason; psychic powers manifesting and having pretty much the madness-inducing effects you’d expect such events actually would.
And the events and message of “The Lie” are best left to be watched rather than explained.
Oddly, this series, now in season 6, has never had a proper DVD/Blu Ray release. There have been a few mishmash DVDs with some random episodes, but never a single full season release.