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Western Animation: Sam & Max: Freelance Police
Max: I never dreamed we could have this much fun and still be suitable for young viewers!

The Sam & Max cartoon series premiered on Fox in 1997 (and aired on YTV in Canada) under the full title The Adventures of Sam & Max: Freelance Police and lasted only 13 full-length episodes, with 24 individual stories. The show faced some inevitable Bowdlerization in heading to children's television, but make no mistake: it was made for fans of Sam and Max first and for kids second.

During the initial 2006 run of the first season of episodic Sam & Max games by Telltale Games, the portal/publishing partner Gametap aired the episodes for free online (no longer available for viewing there). They were released on DVD in 2008 by Shout! Factory and can still be bought through the Telltale Games website.


Tropes featured mainly in the cartoon include:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Darla "The Geek" Gugenheek is a cartoon-only creation filling the role of gadget provider. She works in the basement of the office.
    (Sam and Max are being sucked into Darla's school science experiment)
    Max: "That's COOL!"
    Sam: "Wanna come live in our basement, devote the rest of your life to fighting crime?!"
    Darla: [flat] "Okay."
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    Refrigerator Repairman: [Inspecting a fridge] What seems to be the problem?
    "The Geek": Well, for starters, it's possessed by some unearthly presence, it sneaks up behind me a lot and it doesn't keep my soda cold.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: the episode AAIIIEEE Robot has a host of 50-foot whatevers invading Tokyo and the Moon Cockroaches from the adaptation of Bad Day on the Moon.
  • Badbutt: Both main characters in this adaptation.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Sam, as usual.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At least Once an Episode.
  • Canon Foreigner: The Geek, who has yet to appear anywhere else.
  • Christmas Episode: Christmas Bloody Christmas.
    • This episode formerly qualified as Keep Circulating the Tapes, as it only aired on Fox once, and was never included in the syndication reruns. Eventually averted with the DVD release.
  • Clip Show: Parodied and lampshaded with The Final Episode, which is a Clip Episode composed by clips which are original material for the episode.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: They still manage to get some in at least.
    A refrigerator monster morphs into a basket of kittens making Puppy-Dog Eyes to try and avoid being roasted by flamethrowers
    Sam: Gee, I don't know anybody who could firebomb kittens...
    Max: Here, let me!
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In one episode Sam mentioned how his grandma said "Idle hands are the devil's monkey bars". A couple episodes later we see her herself and she instead says "Idle hands end up in the machinery.".
    • We see one of the Mole Men with a Mole Woman underground a couple episodes after they were featured.
  • Convenient Eclipse: How Sam and Max get out of pretty much every situation. Hilariously lampshaded at one point.
    "I think that I'm going to close this window for no good reason."
  • Cryptid Episode: "Little Bigfoot" has Sam trying to rescue a young Bigfoot working as a busboy and return him to the wild. It turns out he isn't a Bigfoot, just the son of a sideshow freak.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Max offers up an especially funny threat to Arlo over his annoying verbal tic:
    Max: "I'll make you a deal: you end one more sentence with the word 'Man,' and I get to remove one bone, of my choosing, from your body."
  • Demonic Dummy: Deadly Dangly Deever. However, the original Dangly Deever (who averts the trope) is still around, and he helps Sam and Max round up his evil doppelganger.
  • Deus ex Machina: The Rubber Pants Commandos show up here, too.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Mack Salmon.
  • Don't Try This at Home:
    Sam: Remember kids, we're professional cartoon characters. Don't try this at home!
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: One of the kidnapped repairmen in the first episode constantly yells "We're doomed man, WE ARE DOOMED!", much to the other characters' annoyance.
    • His name is even Hudson, in keeping with the Aliens parody.
  • Establishing Series Moment: In the first episode, there's a "Last time, on Sam And Max", showing them in a bottle being poked by a nerd, having a wedding (Sam as the bride and Max as the groom), fighting an octopus underwater, riding a boar in the jungle, and parodying the The Lion King intro just before the rock breaks, it's as if the show was saying, "Yeah, the intro didn't convince you this was gonna be crazy? Now do you think it's crazy?".
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: the duo's favorite handguns are no-no in the animated series; flamethrowers and rocket launchers are kosher though.
    • Like all the attempts at Bowdlerization, Purcell and company waltzed around this one, too; Sam is seen sporting his trademark giant revolver (albeit loading it with rubber bullets) in the opening of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, and normal firearms are shown numerous times throughout the series even if they are rarely fired.
    • In a cross between a lampshade and a parody, they put their fingers into a gun shape and brandish them as such, ala 4Kids' Yu-Gi-Oh!.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: It's peppered with innuendo and Parental Bonuses. Some people have commented to Steve Purcell that they were surprised how much the show got away with.
    • Purcell has also mentioned that in some small towns, Moral Guardians tried to get the show pulled for that reason.
    • Some jokes would probably also go unnoticed by kids, if this applies here. Two stand out in Christmas Bloody Christmas
      Sam: The Prison Showers. If these walls could talk...
      Max: *shudders* They best keep their mouths shut.
      *In the very same scene*
      Max: *Bends over to pick up a bar of soap, a sign on his bum labeled "Do not open till Christmas*
    • The lines spoken by Max as he and Sam are being picked up by a helicopter, leaving a stereotypical attractive secretary adrift on a raft in a major shipping lane.
    Max: "Don't worry miss, a boat will come come along soon and that means sailors, yup. you'll get picked up all right"
    • The hitman in The Final Episode.
    • In We Drop At Dawn, Max finds Arlo in a bush. A cannabis bush.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: No matter how intense the situation is, this is never subverted.
    • Except, oddly, in We Drop At Dawn where Sam's narration contains the line
    Sam: "We were to be air dropped into a virtual hell on Earth in order to engage in a life or death offensive in order to locate and retrieve the Commissioner's lost keys."
    • Also, Max does say "God's Sake" at one point, even though in all the other episodes, "Gosh" seems to be the word that they can use. Ex: The extremely forced, "Good Gosh" Spoken by the Geek.
  • Hammerspace: Max, naturally.
    Sam: (watching Max produce an object from seemingly nowhere) Wow, Max, I didn't know you were a marsupial.
    Max: Me neither! Whatever that means.
  • Hong Kong Dub: Parodied in The Second Show Ever.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Max is the one to tell Sam not to mess with the past, Sam agrees, only to find that Max is teaching his past self how to beat up a bully, Sam calls Max out on the hypocrisy.
  • I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: The Glazed MacGuffin Affair. Plus, half of the duo is named Sam, so you get two Shout Outs for the price of one.
  • It Came from the Fridge: The Thing That Wouldn't Stop It, a monstrosity born of Darla's leaky chemicals and a frozen steak dinner.
  • Large Ham: Max gets his ham volume turned up somewhat. (Probably to make up for the parts of his violent side they couldn't show.)
  • Let's Meet the Meat: It's what the monster of the first episode really wants. Sam is all too happy to oblige.
  • Lighter and Softer: Due to the Animation Age Ghetto, the titular duo couldn't carry their realistic guns, the humor and plots were a bit more Looney Tunes slapstick, among other things. That said, fans still like it.
    • According to some interviews, since they weren't allowed to be too Dark in the Cartoon, they decided to grab everything else which make Sam and Max, like the weirdness and the Parental Bonus, and upgrade them Up to Eleven.
    • Steve Purcell has said that the show's use of bazookas and rocket launchers instead of handguns and firearms both placated the censors and brought the show closer to the spirit of the original comic.
  • Loony Fan: Lorne, THE FRIEND FOR LIFE!
  • McGuffin: The titular Glazed McGuffin from The Glazed McGuffin Affair
  • Medium Awareness: They know they're in a TV show all right...
    Sam: Looks like the party's over. I think we better cut to the chase.
    Cut to Sam and Max running from the tribe of angry New Guinea Pigs.
    Max: Cut to the chase? So that's what it means!
  • Mythology Gag: Bad Day On the Moon was based directly on a story in the original comic, which is, at the same time, based in one of the original comics Steve Purcell drew as a kid. The episode has Max lampshade this fact by holding up a copy of said comic which the original Bad Day On the Moon comic was based and proudly proclaiming "The preceding joke was originally conceived back in 1978."
  • Never Mess with Granny: Max's, I mean Sam's Granny Ruth, who works at a maximum security prison on Blood Island. The duo visit her on Christmas Eve just as the prisoners attempt a jailbreak. True to this trope, Granny kicks seventeen types of ass to get the rapscallions back into place.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted with extreme prejudice. Sam and Max constantly talk about about cheating death, brushes with death, etc.
  • Nobody Can Die: Averted once, otherwise played straight thanks to unexplained recoveries. Max is vaporized in the adaptation of "Bad Day on the Moon"
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Harvey Atkin's Sam voice seems to be heavily based on John Astin's.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: Lamp Shaded in The Thing That Wouldn't Stop It.
  • Perma Stubble: Max gains this while he has his helmet in We drop at Dawn.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation
  • Previously On: Spoofed in the very first episode.
  • Reality Warper: Gary.
  • Running Gag: The fighting over who gets to answer the phone is also expanded to answering the door as well. In We drop at Dawn they fight over open the instructions of their mission in a determinated hour. Also, Max manages to actually win twice. But there ware extenuating circumstances. First was A Glitch in Time: he'd messed up time so that Sam had become a monk. It's especially funny because he cringed right before he picked it up, insinuating he expected to lose. The second time, the caller is Lorne, THE FRIEND FOR LIFE.
    • Also as a Couch Gag of sorts, every intro sequence in the first episodes featured a character that had no idea who Sam and Max were.
      Monkey: "Monkeys on skates? This truly is the dawn of evolution!"
      Monkey Elder: "And we have Sam and Max: Freelance Police, to thank for it!"
      Monkey: "Sam and who?"
  • Shout-Out: Sweet caviar nestled into the fur of a giant moon bear, are there shout outs. There's at least a couple every episode. There are just too many to name. From a whole episode of spy shout outs, to the monster movie shout outs, you have to watch the show if you want to know all of them.
  • Slipped the Ropes: Sam and Max due this repeatedly in the last episode of the series, because they're bored.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Darla the Geek (even she was originally meant to be a boy).
  • Stylistic Suck: Sam and Max's failed pilot "I Dream of Weenies", which is done in the style of an old Hanna-Barbara cartoon, complete with corny Laugh Track.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: It's part of their abilities as Cartoon Characters
    Sam: It's a cartoon, jarhead! We have remarkable lung capacity!
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: From That Darn Gator:
    Max: We visit him many times after that
    Sam: And not because he swallowed our keys and we're waiting to the nature to do its thing!
    • On a sign: Perfectly Normal Industries (And By No Means A Military Complex)
  • Time Travel: A Glitch in Time, which include a bit Set Right What Once Went Wrong flavor and the obligatory meeting with their soft, marketable younger selves.
  • Title Theme Tune
  • To Serve Man: The Uglions

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