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Underrated Adult Swim Shows You Need To Watch

Since its debut in 2001, Adult Swim has established itself as one of television's most unique and experimental programming blocks. Experimental is the key word here, as the block was developed by Mike Lazzo to appease Cartoon Network's desire to capture older demographics. In the 20 years since its arrival, the block has been the home for several of animation's most surreal and mind-bending content. Beyond that, Adult Swim has also been shown to be a home for a slew of unique live-action content as well.

From original programs like "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" to syndicated heavy hitters like "Family Guy," Adult Swim has aired plenty of well-known shows. However, not every series produced by the programming block has seen widespread acclaim — or notoriety — meaning that many have been relegated to short runs and niche cult status. These are the Adult Swim shows that, for one reason or another, deserve a bit more attention.

The Brak Show

Adult Swim's modus operandi has always been broadcasting content that straddles the line between creativity and rampant insanity. This has been the case since its inaugural programming, including the beloved "Space Ghost Coast to Coast" and its many spin-offs.

One of these spin-offs was "The Brak Show," which was named after Brak, a recurring character from "Space Ghost" voiced by Andy Merrill. Much like its predecessor, "Space Ghost Coast to Coast," the series was a late-night dive into surreal humor presented using Hanna-Barbera style visuals. Whereas "Space Ghost Coast to Coast" was a surreal talk show, this show presented itself as a surreal variant of a suburbia-based sitcom. Much like "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," this premise would quickly fall by the wayside in favor of more freeform stories. 

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, "The Brak Show" would find itself slotted as one of Adult Swim's first shows released during its premiere in 2001. It would serve as a taste of what was to come and still stands out as a true oddity of the early 2000s.

12 oz. Mouse

Adult Swim has always had an infinity for animated shows with often surreal and minimalist animation. Nowhere is this represented better than "12 oz. Mouse," a series with an animation style that can best be described as childlike and half-cooked. That isn't us trying to be hyperbolic, either, as the series literally looks like someone scribbled it on a bathroom wall. This seems international, however, as creator Matt Maiellaro described the series in an interview as something that would cost very little and would require very little in terms of resources.

The series follows Mouse Fitzgerald, a mouse with a penchant for binge drinking and rampant shenanigans. Mouse tends to find himself involved in various surreal situations, often related to the world of espionage. Along the way a more cogent plot develops that sees Mouse discovering the truth about himself and the truth of his existence. From the minute the show begins to a high octane track composed by Nine Pound Hammer, viewers are thrust into an unrelentingly bizarre experience. "12 oz. Mouse" is a series that, despite a mixed critical reaction, is still recognized for its unfiltered late-night strangeness.

Frisky Dingo

Well before "Archer" hit the airwaves, Adam Reed was at the helm for some of television's most bizarre series. Not only was he behind "Sealab 2021," one of the first Adult Swim shows, he was also behind "Frisky Dingo." This short-lived oddity concerned Killface, a supervillain, and Awesome X, a superhero, both of which are voiced by Reed himself. Killface is a seven-foot-tall albino humanoid who is constantly looking to destroy the world with his absurd Annihilatrix device. Equally absurd is Awesome X, aka billionaire Xander Crews, Killface's nemesis with a penchant for ridiculous gadgetry and over-the-top antics.

"Frisky Dingo" is a series heavily predicated upon absurd scenarios that are often punctuated with very human reactions. This style would carry over to Reed's next major project, "Archer," which would make a few select references to its bizarre predecessor. The main difference between the two is that, unlike "Archer," this show wasn't grounded in any sense of reality –- allowing it to run completely buck wild. An interview with Reed on the Adult Swim Podcast revealed a third season was on the table but ultimately not pursued.

Mission Hill

Adult Swim has often had a habit of giving shows new life after cancellation, most famously in the case of "Family Guy." However, another series whose cult status was firmly solidified after airing on the late-night block was the short-lived "Mission Hill." This show will feel immediately relatable for many as it depicts the often tumultuous period following college that many young people endure. Created by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, the series follows 24-year-old Andy French in his day-to-day life. Andy's post-graduate life is knocked for a loop when his parents tell him his little brother Kevin wants to move in with him. There's also Andy's loft mate Jim Kuback (Brian Posehn), a lanky ginger with an affinity for all things electronic.

The Brag described the series as the hipster version of "The Simpsons" –- a fair assessment considering that Oakley and Weinstein were both former writers on "The Simpsons." It would also gain major praise for being one of the first network shows to showcase a gay middle-aged couple's kiss on-screen. The series would sadly fizzle out during its original run on The WB but found new fans on Adult Swim.

Home Movies

Some animated shows utilize the medium to showcase otherworldly visuals and ideas, while others opt for a more grounded direction. One show that would embrace the latter was the late '90s/early '00s animated series "Home Movies" created by Brendon Small and Loren Bouchard. The series is unique in that it follows Brendan, named after the co-creator, a latchkey kid with divorced parents. Brendon has dreams of one day being a filmmaker, a dream he pursues with a resilient passion alongside his friends Melissa and Jason. Along the way, Brendan receives guidance from his overworked single mother, Paula, and his alcoholic soccer coach, John McGuirk.

The show stands out from other animated shows for its subdued tone and its very natural-sounding dialogue. During its four-season run, with a single season on UPN, the series would develop a cult following due to its DVD sales. If you were the kind of kid who'd frequently be left on their own, then "Home Movies" will immediately feel familiar.

Stroker & Hoop

"Stroker & Hoop" is a unique show, even amongst the various oddities presented by Adult Swim, which is saying a lot. The show is an unabashed parody of various 1970s television shows, most notably buddy cop shows like "Starsky & Hutch." Stroker and Hoop live in modern-day Los Angeles and make their living as a pair of passionate yet inept private investigators. Despite their contemporary setting, the duo act and dress like they are ripped right from a 70s buddy cop show. Along for the ride (quite literally) is C.A.R.R, a neurotic sentient talking car inspired by K.I.T.T. from "Knight Rider."

The show is an eclectic blend of pop culture references and homages mixed with various over-the-top concepts. This includes the likes of Colombian drug lords, ninjas, the evil of voodoo, and (for some reason) David Copperfield. Sadly the series would not reach its planned conclusion, as the show ended on a cliffhanger in 2005. It's an oddity, for sure, but an undeniably entertaining one that is definitely worth a second look.

Moral Orel

"Moral Orel" is the brainchild of Dino Stamatopoulos, who'd previously lent his writing and acting talents to a wide array of televised content and would later appear as Starburns on "Community." "Moral Orel" is Stamatopoulos' ode to '50s sitcoms that would often preach absurdly idyllic, wholesome family values. The series focuses on 12-year-old Orel Puppington, whose dedication to fundamentalist Christian values often causes strife for those around him. Orel spends his days in the fictional town of Moralton, surrounded by his relentlessly dysfunctional family and a slew of other colorful characters.

Right off the bat, "Moral Orel" stands out amongst other Adult Swim content due to its use of stop motion animation. The show's animation style has been compared heavily to "Davey & Goliath," though Stamatopoulos told Vice the two have little in common. Throughout its four-season run, the series transforms from a cynical parody to an impressively dour viewing experience. The inner workings of various characters are showcased in an extremely bleak fashion, resulting in a series of dark revelations. 

This style of storytelling made the series' production a stressful one –- Stamatopoulos explained to TV Squad that three of season one episodes were temporarily shelved by network standards and practices. If you are up for something truly unique and unapologetically bleak, definitely check out "Moral Orel."

The Oblongs

Sometimes a show's premise is so bizarre and so inventively gonzo that it simply must be seen to be believed. Like "Mission Hill," the original run of "The Oblongs" would be short-lived but would find a new home on Adult Swim. The series focuses on the titular Oblong family, a literal nuclear family who traverses daily life in an impoverished valley community. The family deals with gross physical deformities and mutations brought on by the waste of a wealthy community known as the Hills. This includes the father, Bob Oblong, who was born without arms or legs, and the twins, Biff and Chip, who are conjoined twins.

Despite its short stint on the air, "The Oblongs" definitely left an impression on those who caught it. In recent years, media outlets like Comic Book Report have praised the show for its unique portrayal of class division and climate change topics. While its brand of strangeness might've been a bit too much for viewers in the early '00s, "The Oblongs" is worth revisiting.

Black Dynamite

Based on the film of the same name, "Black Dynamite" arrived on Adult Swim in 2015 and quickly established its unique style and direction. The series, much like its cinematic predecessor, is an unapologetically over-the-top parody of '70s blaxploitation cinema. 

Blaxploitation was a sub-genre of film that was marketed towards African-American audiences but would quickly become a favorite of various races and ethnicities. The series, set before the film's events, finds Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) and his team getting into increasingly dangerous adventures. These escapades often result in the team encountering various celebrities — including Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, Elvis Presley, and Rick James. Additionally, the series villain is none other than an over-the-top parody of the 37th President of the United States, Richard Nixon.

Much like the genre the series is an homage to, "Black Dynamite" is crass, ridiculously violent, and packed with rampant sexual promiscuity. The series went off the air in 2015 but is still remembered fondly by its fanbase.

Sealab 2021

In the formative years of Adult Swim, four shows served as the inaugural pieces of content for the burgeoning late-night programming block. These shows were "Space Ghost Coast to Coast," "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," "Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law," and "Sealab 2021." The latter, much like its brethren, would help to define the early identity of the program block with a balance of adult jokes and surrealist humor. Much like "Space Ghost" and "Harvey Birdman" it reused old Hanna-Barbera assets, in this case the single-season underwater adventure program "Sealab 2020," in a humorous way.

The series would mark the debut of Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, the future creative forces behind "Archer." In many ways, "Sealab 2021" marks the genesis of the duo's style of punchy, self-aware dialogue mixed with surrealist humor. If you love "Archer," definitely dust this one off to see where the creators first left their mark on the world of animation.


If you are a die hard metal fan and love cruel and surreal humor, "Metalocalypse" was made just for you! It's basically every over-the-top death metal album cover brought to life, and we mean that in the best possible way. "Metalocalypse" features a deranged alternate timeline where the biggest musical act in the world is the death metal band Dethklok. The band is composed of William Murderface, Skwisgaar Skwigelf, Nathan Explosion, Pickles, and Toki Wartooth (what lovely names). Over the course of the show's four-season run, the band deals with their rabid fandom, assassination attempts, and their own stupidity. 

The series is the brainchild of Brendon Small, co-creator of "Home Movies," and is an ode to his affinity for metal music. In addition to his writing and voice acting credentials, Small also provided many of the musical arrangements for his work (via Galaktikon.com). Despite Smalls having more stories to tell and the show having an extremely passionate fandom, Adult Swim would opt to cancel the show in 2015. However, in 2021 it was announced that Dethklok would be returning for a "Metalocalypse" direct-to-video film for HBOMax.

Tom Goes to the Mayor

"Tom Goes to the Mayor" would serve as the artistic springboard for two of modern comedy's most influential figures, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. The series would begin life as a crude web cartoon on the duo's website and would gain the attention of Bob Odenkirk, as Heidecker revealed during an interview with People. Odenkirk saw potential in their little webtoon, opting to come on as a producer and bring it to Adult Swim's attention. The series follows the titular Tom, played by Heidecker, who brings various ideas to the mayor, played by Wareheim. More often than not, the mayor will take the idea in his own problematic direction, leading to relentless madcap mayhem.

Much like the duo's subsequent endeavors, the show was polarizing with equal amounts of rabid supporters and critical detractors. There's no denying, however, that the show helped jumpstart their very successful and still ongoing careers in entertainment. If you love Tim and Eric's brand of humor, check this show out to see where it all started.