"If you're looking for me, You'd better check under the sea, Cause that is where you'll find me... Underneath the sealab Underneath the water Sealab... At the bottom of the sea..."
Sealab 2021 is an [adult swim] original show, which parodies the 1970s animated series Sealab 2020 (and, to a lesser extent, the entire genre of crudely-animated60s and 70s cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera) through combining recycled footage and animations with a Gag Dub. The show lasted from November 2000 to April 2005 with a total of fifty-two 15-minute-long episodes over four seasons.Set Twenty Minutes into the Future, the series recasts the crew of the titular undersea colony as a group of extremely unstable individuals, all of whom are too crazy or Too Dumb to Live. Several episodes end with the destruction of Sealab as a result of the crew's hijinks (directly or indirectly).Major characters include:
Captain Hazel "Hank" Murphy, the unhinged leader of Sealab, who has the mentality and attention span of a six-year-old. After voice actor Harry Goz died, Murphy was replaced with:
Captain Bellerophon "Tornado" Shanks, an overbearing former football coach (voiced by Harry Goz's son, Michael Goz).
Debbie Dupree, an easily offended, slutty blonde marine biologist who later becomes Quinn's on-again off-again girlfriend.
Debbie Love (or "Black Debbie"), the schoolteacher and the only other black person on Sealab.
Jodene Sparks, the scheming radio operator who never leaves his chair, even when scuba-diving. It's not entirely clear if he's actually chair-bound, just really lazy or pulling off a scam by claiming a disability. He plays the Only Sane Man from time to time, but being criminally insane stops him from doing so as frequently as Quinn.
Marco Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar Gabriel Garcia Marquez (voiced by Erik Estrada), a Latin lothario. He was originally the Only Sane Man, but this was quickly dropped.
Minor characters include Hesh Hepplewhite, a sarcastic engineer and aspiring rap artist who frequently speaks in ghetto-slang and/or refers to himself in the third person; Dolphin-boy, a rotund human child who only speaks dolphin; Dr. Ilad Virjay, the station's medical doctor and Hindu-rock icon; and Tedfrom Accounting.Adam Reed and Matt Thompson initially created the idea while working for Cartoon Network as production assistants; they found tapes of 2020, wrote new dialogue for them, and presented the idea to the network. It passed on the idea in 1995, but reconsidered the idea five years later (around the time it had started to develop [adult swim]). As a result of this approach, Reed and Thompson made the show's pilot and several episodes from the first couple of seasons using Stock Footage from Sealab 2020; they replaced the original banal environmentalist plot lines with Black Comedy and other weirdness, then edited the footage (and added in some original touches of their own). A notable exception to this approach occurs with the episode "7211", which remade one of the original Sealab 2020 episodes with the 2021 cast and played it completely straight — but there's a clue to the viewers that something is up with this remake: after the captain of the sub decides to team up with Murphy despite holding a grudge against him, a '70s-era title card which says "PLACE COMMERCIAL HERE" is displayed. (During the end credits of the episode, Sealab explodes. Again.)Midway through the show's run, Harry Goz (the voice actor for Captain Murphy) died, which caused a major change in tone for the entire series. The one-off crazy elements of the earlier episodes were dropped, and after Captain Murphy left Sealab to fight inthe spice wars, he was replaced with the slightly-more-sane Captain Shanks (who, as noted above, was portrayed by Harry Goz's son). The series retained its trademark surrealism while experimenting with long-form storylines (including as Debbie's relationship with Quinn, the saga of Marco's apparent death, and the introduction of Sharko, Marco's half-shark/half-human son). These episodes also featured more original animation than stock footage, and it's easy to see the shift in tone from earlier seasons. In its typical surreal fashion, the last episode featured a series of fourth-wall-breaking scenes involving the characters as actors who know Sealab is a TV show, and the show faded to black with the promise of airing a trailer for a new horror film starring the characters.This show now has a Recap page in progress.Adam Reed went on to helm Frisky Dingo and Archer.
Oh, there go my tropes again:
Abridged Series: This series can be seen as a prototypical example of the concept, although it was produced with the permission of the owners of the original show.
Cluster F-Bomb: The FCC agent that shut down Murphy's pirate radio station in "Radio Free Sealab". Ironically, Murphy made a point to run a profanity-free show, his violation was all about broadcasting without a license.
And a 3rd time five minutes later, after driving said Debbie into an angry rant with his unwitting racism.
Stormy: Man, don't go out there. That black chick is crazy!
Concussions Get You High: In one episode, the crew is trapped in a malfunctioning storage closet. Beard Guy comes in to fix the problem but Captain Murphy beats his head in. Upon breifly regaining consciousness, he displays this trope.
Beard Guy: I got my think a concussion. Now must remember not fix stuff. Gonna lay down back, cuz our concussion have us sleepy. Debbie: Uh, should Beard Guy be asleep with a concussion? Quinn: No, absolutely not.
Couch Gag: When the second zero in the Sealab 2020 logo turns into a one at the end of the opening, a different sound effect accompanies the change every episode
Cousin Oliver: Parodied with "Sharko", introduced in season 4 as the product of Marco's illicit love affair with a shark, repeatedly summarized as "He put his human penis in her shark-gina".
It was probably one of the few times in which this trope was purposefully invoked. Sharko left a few episodes later.
Marco:"I have the energy of a bear that has the energy of two bears!"
Diabolical Mastermind: Sparks has the rather frequent tendency to hatch evil schemes, including (but not limited to) making millions in life insurance by killing the Sealab crew, addicting them to a medicine made from a deadly neurotoxin, and blackmailing Quinn into turning him into 'Sparkimus Prime,' the chainsaw-handed robot. Also, in what turned out to only have been a daydream of Captain Murphy's Sparks has a secret mountain stronghold, complete with a veritable army of henchmen.
Played with in that it's clear to the audience pretty much from the start that Quinn and Stormy have not switched brains but everyone up to and including Stormy seems convinced because he used a few big words and said he felt smarter.
Gag Dub: The early episodes are constructed from entire scenes of Sealab 2020, just dubbed over with new dialog.
Flipflopped in "7211", which was a word-for-word redub of a Sealab 2020 story, told totally straight. Until midway. Then back immediately after. And again at the end, anyway.
Gaslighting: In "Happy Cake" Sparks reveals that he has been enacting a secret plan to drive Captain Murphy crazy. As part of this he threw his Happy Cake Oven into the ocean and was having the orphans pee in Murphy's bed. In this specific case, the whole episode is revealed to be a dream of Capt Murphy, although it is totally within Spark's character to be doing this anyway.
Head Desk: One episode has Sparks performing this while Captain Murphy rambles on about a video game.
Home Porn Movie: Not quite home, but when Stormy asked the ASHDTV to show him porno bloopers, it showed him one featuring Debbie and, based on context clues, Hesh. Debbie is more offended that they don't believe that her breasts are real.
Judge, Jury, and Executioner: The Knights of Mars, a "cadre" of "knights" charged with enforcing Martian law, seem to uphold the laws of the "sacred red planet" primarily by beating the asses of suspected thieves.
Kill 'em All: For the first season, it happened Once an Episode. They dropped that particular Running Gag but a few later episodes would still end with everyone dying or just one or two characters dying.
Named After Somebody Famous: Besides "Marco," Marco's name consists of the names of two famous Spanish speakers smushed together: Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar being 13th-century nobleman and soldier El Cid, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a famous Colombian author.
Marco: Once again your stupidity has killed us all!
As the series went on, more and more episodes would be referenced (including episodes in which everyone died) or they would show a Continuity Cavalcade every now and then. The last few episodes had the closest thing to a linear continuity as the series got. For instance, Sharko was the focal point of the one and only storyarc in the entire series.
Not Now, Kiddo: In "No Waterworld", Debbie Dupree is repeatedly silenced by being told "The men are talking!" as a Running Gag.
Obfuscating Disability: Sparks when he tries to claim he is paralyzed from the waist down, hence why he is always sitting. Debbie tests this by jamming a battle axe into his legs. He eventually admits that he is just really lazy.
The Oner: Of sorts. The episode Fusebox has only shot showing the outside of Sealab for the whole episode. The only thing that changes visibly is when Sealab explodes at the end.
"UH-OH", which goes on for what feels like several minutes. Twice. And almost a third time if not for direct intervention. On two separate occasions.
"It is... Bizarro!"
Packaged As Other Medium: The second season DVD provides the page image for this trope, with a cover inspired by Uncanny X-Men #100.
Parody Sue: Hesh in Dearly Beloved Seed. Even moreso by the end, when the whole episode is revealed to be some kid's (possibly mcheshpants420, the writer of the episode, who may or may not be Hesh's VA mc chris) fanfiction.
Precision F-Strike: Subverted in the episode "7211", which is a redub of an episode of the original Sealab 2020, and thus doesn't contain any swearing from the characters. When the Credits Gag comes up, you'd expect the Obligatory Swearing to come up, but all that is said is Captain Murphy going, "Hmmmmmmmm, m'kay."
Product Placement: Parodied in some episodes that feature constant and intrusive advertisements for the fictional "Grizzlebee's" restaurant chain.
The Bebop Cola episode was revealed at the end to just be a commercial pitch.
See You in Hell: Used surprisingly calmly and straight when Captain Murphy realizes that he is about to be murdered by Sparks in "Policy". He then proceeds to bring down Sparks with him. And Sparks even admits to it being a distinct probability. And they do in fact meet in hell.
Seinfeldian Conversation: "I, Robot" is about Quinn rushing to prevent Sealab's imminent destruction, while literally everyone else is busy talking about the implications of a baboon's brain being successfully transplanted into a robot body. For the record, Murphy would like his robot body to have chainsaw hands.
Shout-Out: Apocalypse Now. There's a scene that copies the dialog between Kurtz and Willard line for line. Right up until the wet willy. The entire episode was inspired by Waking Life. The show has frequent pop culture references, of a more subtle variety than those usually seen on Family Guy or The Simpsons.
Take Over the World: The side story to "Happy Cake" has Sparks secretly building an army for this. He tries to recruit Marco as a henchman and Hesh unsuccessfully tries to volunteer for the same position.
Take That, Audience!: Captain Shanks' fourth wall-breaking rant against the predicted fan backlash against his character, culminating in "And if you don't like it... you can go watch anime."
That Came Out Wrong: Subverted in "Vacation". Marco leaves some tamales outside Quinn's door and tells Debbie that they should leave without bothering him because he'll probably be "busy with that hooker for awhile." Cue Debbie's outraged "WHAT?!? A HOOKER?!??" and several minutes of people going "Uh-oh!" Finally:
Worth It: Stormy making a period joke in front of Debbie was worth getting thrown into a dungeon.
You Mean Xmas: "Feast of Alvis" is a parody of Christmas Episodes. Due to Executive Meddling, every religion was replaced by a fictional equivalent. For example, Jesus was replaced with Alvis, a cowboy whose total dissimilarity to Jesus just makes the obvious parallel all the funnier.
Sparks: How can you worship that guy! He killed a man! Murphy: Hey, only for revenge! 'Vengeance is mine', quoth Alvis, and then he shot that guy right in the freakin' face!
Celebrated, of course, with an over-abundance of the traditional gifts of ham, firearms, and whiskey. Then again, 7030's offices were located in Atlanta, which is in the Bible Belt. "Alvistide" isn't so far around the bend in some parts of the country.
Do you want the mustache on, or off? Off, please. Too bad.