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?!"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.