Cow and Chicken was an animated television series, running from July 1997 to July 1999. Cow and Chicken are sister and brother, a cow and a chicken, with human parents. The creators were faced with the question of whether and how to explain this scenario. Sometimes opening credits are cumbersome vehicles for an origin story. David Feiss approached this problem in the series' opening title sequence:
This is all that is ever offered in explanation, although in one episode, their father threatens to send both Cow and Chicken back to 'the orphanage'.Cow and Chicken's extended family consists of various other types of animals, including Cousin Boneless, who is a boneless chicken (unable to walk or get up from the floor); Snail Boy, a snail; Cousin Black Sheep, a sheep; and Sow, an evil pig. They also have an uncle Longhorn Steer, who appears in "Professor Longhorn Steer". The episode "Happy Meat" also showed the ghosts of a pair of Cow and Chicken's ancestors, a male (human) farmer married to a female chicken. Friends and close associates include Chicken's two buds Flem and Earl, and a loud and obnoxious school teacher. And then of course, there's the Red Guy, who they run into frequently in various guises.Initially, the show included a Three Shorts format with two Cow and Chicken episodes and one of I Am Weasel. Later on, I Am Weasel was spun off into its own series.As of March, 2013 you can find the series on Netflix.
Contains examples of:
Abusive Parents: Red's mother feeds him gruel and keeps challenging him to fight her like a man.
Ambiguously Gay - Pretty much everyone at one point or another has had a Gay Moment, but the Red Guy is the only character on the show whose consistent effeminate mannerisms may be a sign that he's a homosexual (not unlike the Larry 3000 from Time Squad).
An Aesop: Averted. Starting halfway through Season Two ("Buffalo Gals", specifically), an episode would end with a character, usually Red Guy, announcing, "There's a moral to this story...", and most of the time, those so-called morals were pretty irrelevant to the actual story. These "morals" became more frequent towards the end of Season Three, to the point that almost every other episode ended with these moments.
Art Evolution: While the show was always pretty well animated (for a crudely animated show made on the heels of Ren and Stimpy's popularity in the early 1990s), as the series progressed the color palette became richer and the line work was stronger. Compare the look of Season 1 and the look of Season 4 and you'll see the difference.
Both Season 3 and 4 are very consistent, Season 2 is like a transition season: the first handful of episodes look like a slightly improved version of Season 1, while the rest of the season better resembles the following two.
Banned Episode: The infamous second-season episode "Buffalo Gals" was quickly pulled after its original broadcast, after a mother wrote in to Cartoon Network complaining about the obvious lesbian stereotypes (involving really butch-looking female bikers who break into people's houses and literally munch on the carpets) and sexual innuendos (mostly focused on lesbian sex, like the carpet-munching pun and the "pitch and catch" pun). As a result, rerun versions of this particular episode replace the segment with a repeat of the first-season episode "Orthodontic Police".
The Pilot is also hard to find due to the subject matter (Chicken's addiction to smoking) as well as the Red Guy actually being called The Devil and living in Hell unlike the regular episodes.
Be Careful What You Wish For: In an episode of the same name - Chicken wishes for Cow to shut up, which backfires when she is unable to A) warn him of dangerous traffic, and B) speak in his defense in court.
Also, Red Guy, depending on what the situation of the episode calls for: most of the time, he is the villain, who doesn't care if either Cow or Chicken are hurt, or even killed, while on a few occasions, he is actually somewhat helpful to them (specifically when he poses as some kind of teacher or instructor).
The episode "Cow's Toys" has Tom Kenny voice an unnamed little girl (you know it's him because "she" sounds like Heffer Wolfe from Rocko's Modern Life).
A Day in the Limelight: Red Guy had a hilarious "tour de forced" episode where he throws himself a birthday party... "Oh birthday boy, add one more year! Oh birthday boy, with the big fat rear!"
And just a couple of episodes later, Flem and Earl had one where they believe they're lost at sea, and reminisce about past events that never really happened, such as eating cheese in France, being chased by bulls in Spain, and hanging out in a milk bar in Germany.
Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Chicken once had no choice but to allow his cousin Snail to join his team for a relay race. Snail's adversaries fell into this trope. Chicken even told them they could just keep running.
Drop-In Character: Jolly Roger. He appeared only once on Cow and Chicken at the beginning of Season Two, but afterwards, it wasn't uncommon for him to make a completely random and unexpected appearance in any segment of I Am Weasel.
Evil Is Petty: The Red Guy is supposed to be Satan, yet he has nothing better to do with his time than constantly mess with a cow and a chicken (and occasionally a weasel and a baboon).
Executive Meddling: After the first season was completed, David Feiss wanted to drop the I Am Weasel segments from the show altogether, but Cartoon Network demanded that he keep it in; eventually, a compromise was reached, that would allow Feiss to have Red Guy cross over into the Weasel segments, as to hold his interest in continuing the segment (and eventually, more characters, including Cow and Chicken themselves, were allowed to cross over into the Weasel segments).
Gender Bender - "Which Came First?" revolves around Chicken being convinced that he is a girl because he laid an egg (when in reality, it was just a bird egg that the Red Guy put in Chicken's bed sheets overnight as a prank). Of course, Flem and Earl jumped the gender barrier once they find out Chicken's current gender identity.
The episode "Horn Envy" has Cow crushing on a boy at school. To get his attention she tries numerous ways to make her boobs...I mean, horns look bigger by stuffing them with toilet tissue inside a bra.
The constant jokes and references to gender-bending and possible transsexuality are way too high for a typical kids' cartoon. How most of them got past the censors is anyone's guess (then again, if Cartoon Network can let Time Squad pass with its excess of homosexual undertones, then this show is, strangely, considered kosher, so long as it doesn't go too far).
The tribe in "Boneless Kite" are called the "As-Wi-Pe" (It was spelled out as "asswipe" in closed captions).
Inversion - the Spanish-language version has Supercow and Wonder Wattle speaking Gratuitous English, but only in the Latin-American dub, because in the European Spanish dub the Wonder Wattle speaks with a Gratuitous Mexican accent.
Grossout Show: Justified in that most of the people who worked on Ren and Stimpy also did this show and, well, old habits really do die hard.
Halfdressed Cartoon Animal: The Red Guy, who never wears pants. His aliases are always puns referring to his lack of dress (Ben Panced, Mr. Jeans B. Gone, Larry Lackapants, Baron von Neinlederhosen, Cleo-Pantless, etc) or his prodigious heinie (Mrs. Barederriere, C.D. Heinie, Rear Admiral Floyd, etc).
I Am Not Weasel - The Red Guy often thought Chicken was a duck or turkey and Cow as a moose, horse, or antelope (considering how Off Model they are, it may be a reference to what viewers thought of them when they first saw this show). Weasel from the Trope NamingI Am Weasel was often referred to by The Red Guy as a squirrel, a gerbil, a ferret and several other species of rodents, despite weasels not being rodents, I.R. Baboon got this treatment too. Being often mistaken for other species of primates
In the episode "Duck, Duck, Chicken" The Red Guy (as a door to door doctor) thought Chicken was a Duck and surgically altered him into a non-sapient one.
One episode had Chicken perform a magic trick and pull Weasel out of his hat. After being referred to as a squirrel, Weasel responds, "I am not a squirrel. I am Weasel!"
I Have Many Names: the Red Guy. Most of his aliases are puns on the fact that he doesn't wear pants (Baron von Neinlederhosen, Ivan Panced, Ben Panced, C.D. Heinie, Mrs. Barederriere, Larry Lackapants, Rear Admiral Floyd, Geraldo Rearviewa, Cleo-Pantless, etc).
Interspecies Romance- Cow and Chicken's great grandfather was married to a non anthropomorphic hen and the family has a lot of animals as relatives.
One of their relatives being married to a normal sized, but talking snail.
Cow has had crushes on human boys too, and Boneless Chicken attempts to date a human girl.
Inexplicably Identical Individuals - the Red Guy seems to have a lot of identical, er, "relatives," including a beige version of him known as "The Scab Fairy," who collects scabs for money the same way the Tooth Fairy (or in this show's case, the Molting Fairy) does.
Off Model: Happens on occasion. The animation for both parts of "The Ugliest Weenie" from S1, as well as "Dream Date Chicken", "Sumo Cow", and "Yard Sale" from S2 look significantly different from the other episodes.
At the "END!" of every episode, a screen with the text "END" in it will appear. Oh, and cue a character from said episode saying "End."
Chicken keeps telling the audience he's got to be adopted.
Cousin Boneless asks for bones. Everyone laughs, thinking he was joking.
Boneless: I'm serious! * everyone laughs again * Boneless: What is wrong with you people?
Chicken losing his feathers for whatever reason. It was implied in one episode that his plummage returns by Christmas, but considering that this is Cartoon Network continuity, that just means the next episode.
Appearances of "Milk Bars", where milk is drunk like an alcoholic beverage.
Screwed by the Network: Somewhat. Before the final season had finished its initial run, Cartoon Network jumped the gun at splitting I Am Weasel into its own "spinoff". Because of this, the remaining "new episodes" of the series were essentially unaired "Cow and Chicken" segments cobbled together into half hour episodes.
"Manure the Bear! Manure the Bear! Something ain't right in his shorts that draw flies!"
Soap Punishment: The Halloween Episode featured the Red Guy (impersonating Space Ghost and hosting his Coast-to-Coast show) trying to use this on Chicken, albeit he initially thought it was "soup" punishment until Chicken corrected him.
Super Hero- Cow's alter ego, Supercow. When Chicken dons Supercow's costume, he becomes Wonder Wattle.
Clark Kenting- Parodied when anyone entertains the thought that Cow and Supercow could possibly be the same cow (being the only Sentient cows in the Universe no less) that idea is always shot down by the fact that Supercow speaks Spanish.
Temporary Bulk Change - The Red Guy attempts to sell a product he calls 'Fat Sauce' to the kids by showing its effects on Chicken, who almost immediately becomes fatter than Cow. Even the Red Guy is surprised it actually works.
The Faceless- Mom and Dad from the waist up (exaggerated as they actually have no upper bodies at all, if their shadows are indicative of anything).
Toilet Humour: For an animated show that's supposed to be Cartoon Network's answer to Nickelodeon's Ren and Stimpy, this one doesn't have much in the way of toilet humor. It's there (as seen in such episodes as "Chicken in the Bathroom" and "Meet Lance Sackless" and anytime Cow plays with Manure the Bear), but the show relies more on sexual innuendo and playing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender tropes and traits for laughs (something that most kids' cartoons back then and now would get in trouble for — unless they were really good at covering it up). In short, gender-bending and gay jokes are the real hallmark of the series (much like Time Squad).
Trademark Favorite Food: Pork butts 'n taters (fed to Cow and Chicken with a catapult).
In one episode, Red Guy, and his three identical sons (oh yeah, he was a mother in this episode) had an obsession with saltine crackers.
Of course, the entire in-universe favorite beverage: milk.
Unishment: In one episode, the Red Guy was planning to punish chicken by...washing his mouth with soup (though see the Fridge section of this page for a possible Fridge Horror scenario). It is then subverted when chicken corrects him by saying soap. The Red Guy finds this a better idea, and proceeds to put a bar of soap in chickens mouth.
Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?? - The Red Guy, although there may actually be many Red Guys (as seen in "The Molting Fairy," when it's revealed that the Red Guy has a beige brother who works as The Scab Fairy). And the warden of Folsom Prison made a cameo in a story where another Red Guy had more onscreen time and the two of them appeared together. I Am Weasel had a story where a female Red Guy had three Red Guy kids.
The intro for Cow and Chicken has several Red Guys, though that could just be The Red Guy himself showcasing the many aliases he has on the show.
There is, however, one episode where Cow and Chicken move away and the Red Guy begs them not to go, because he needs someone to scheme against. This seems to imply it is in fact the same Red Guy.
And when he can't get a job, he just makes one up. Office Mountie, anyone?
Yawn and Reach- Done by Flem and Earl on Chicken in "Which Came First?"