Clerks: The Animated Series is a loose adaptation of the film Clerks by Kevin Smith, running from May to June, 2000 on ABC, and Smith helped co-develop the show with partner Scott Mosier and David Mandel of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm fame. Dante Hicks is the much put-upon clerk of a Quick Stop convenience store in Leonardo, New Jersey. He is tormented by his friend, video clerk Randal Graves, as well as stoner hangers-out Jay and Silent Bob.
Included more wackiness and fantasy than the film. This was lampshaded. Contained little swearing or sexual references. Also lampshaded. Added such things as an arch-nemesis, Corrupt Corporate Executive Mr. Leonardo Leonardo and his Odd Job-like assistant, Plug. Had a Token Minority, Lando, who showed up just to be black, saying a few words every now and then. All of that lampshaded as well. It also had a Clip Show, in the second episode. Lampshaded, at least the first part.
Marked the first time the character designs of Stephen Silver were added to the animation direction of Steve Loter and Chris Bailey. This team, with a distinct visual style, would come up again in a much different place. Also had an impressive voice cast, most notably the four main actors in the original film (Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith) reprising their roles.
Only six episodes were produced. Episodes four and two made it to air, in that order. ABC ordered the series to capitalize on the success of primetime adult animation like The Simpsons and South Park, but after Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? became a hit, quickly dumped it because it didn't fit with their programming. Fortunately, it was released on DVD (and oddly VHS too, perhaps thanks to its short lengthnote ) and the show reran in full on Comedy Central and Adult Swim.
Smith had planned a Direct to Video film, entitled Sell Out, about Dante and Randal making a film in the Quick Stop, but when Harvey and Bob Weinstein left Miramax in the hands of Disney, Smith refused to work with the Mouse House without the support of the Weinsteins. Miramax's later non-Disney owners briefly partnered with the Weinsteins, which brought a greater likelihood for the series to return in some form or another, but as of 2013, nothing happened — and given Harvey Weinstein's criminal trials and fall from grace after 2017, seems somewhat unlikely. For what it's worth, the films basic plot was recycled into what finally became Clerks 3.
Interestingly, Smith has always referred to the show as Clerks: The Cartoon (which it was also called in a trailer shown at film festivals) or "the Clerks cartoon", but never Clerks: The Animated Series. Go figure.
This show contains examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: Clever and witty as an adaptation. Could be considered a show on its own and still be as good, especially since the original film was extremely well-done.
- Adaptational Dumbass: Randal is much less intelligent and far more impulsive here than in the films.
- Affably Evil: Leonardo Leonardo.Well played, Clerks.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: From the pilot — The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer may sound like a show the writers made up to parallel the show, but it was all too real. It aired on UPN for four episodes — two more than Clerks did.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Subverted/parodied in episodes one through three.
Kid: Grandpa, what's prejudice?
- There was going to be one that addressed prejudice. The DVD commentary say it would be something like this:
Grandpa: Where did you hear that?
Kid: Kenny told me.
Grandpa: Who's Kenny?
Kid: My Jewish friend.
Grandpa: That's prejudice. You think of him as your Jewish friend instead of just your friend.
- Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?; From the first episode:Dante: Wait a second. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
Randal: Urinating in the frozen food section and watching it steam up? Oh yeah!
- Anticipatory Breath Spray: When Jay says that Caitlin Bree is making out with guys whose names start with B, Silent Bob does this before running off.
- Art Shift: Which was... yes, lampshaded as being due to Korean animators extemporizing after losing the end of the script.
- As Himself:
- Banana in the Tailpipe: Judge Reinhold dreams of this in reference to the trope namer.[after being woken up by his wife]
Reinhold: Ugh. I had that dream again.
- Best Served Cold: Leonardo Leonardo vows to do this at the end of episode 1 after his evil plot has been foiled by Dante and Randal:Leonardo: I vow that my vengeance won't be swift or entertaining! I will draw it out over a decade in such a subtle fashion, that you will have to wonder if the misery in your life was either manifest or the machinations of Leonardo Leonardo! Or... a third thing.
- Better Than a Bare Bulb: The show constantly lampshades how unlike the film the series is, culminating in the final episode when everything's going crazy and Dante and Randal just sit in the Quick Stop and reminisce about simpler times.
- Body Sushi: Randal recounts being married to a Japanese business man, who had him do this.
- Bottle Episode: The final episode takes place entirely within the Quick Stop. As an animated series however: the actual savings are questionable.
- Bowdlerisation: Jay and Silent Bob are never shown or referred to as drug dealers here (though the first ep has them thinking Leonardo Tower and a random dog are bongs (the Quicker Stop being the "ugliest damn bong I've ever seen), and in the fourth episode, when he slips at the Quick Stop, he tells Silent Bob that the "stuff" may have kicked in), though in the first episode they are shown selling illegal fireworks and dynamite to children. Both this, and the fact that the show contains very little (if any) cursing were heavily lampshaded during the series.Mewes (in the DVD): Because it was TV, we couldn't curse. So, on behalf of that... *cue Cluster F-Bomb*
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Done throughout the series, but the sixth episode strays into No Fourth Wall.
- Call-Back: Episode 5 references the "why are we walking like this?" scene from Episode 1 (fittingly, as it was also the one most referenced in the Clip Show).
- Carcass Sleeping Bag: In the second episode, the characters get locked in a freezer that Randal describes as "Hoth cold". Jay wishes he had a lightsaber so that he could slice up Silent Bob and climb inside to stay warm.
- The Chosen One: Parodied with Randal, who as revealed in episode 5 is the one to spread male worthlessness in order to convince all women to become lesbians.
- Clip Show: Parodied - The second episode (production and aired).
- Made even better by the fact that the series was shown out of production order and as such there are no clips or references to the fourth episode of the series which was actually the first to air.
- The same scene from the first episode is "remembered" multiple times. In a later episode, that scene is referenced by being reenacted.
- There is a flashback to a scene that happened earlier in the episode, only seconds before.
- Cold Opening: Every episode starts with a short scene, then the Title Sequence.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Rational, responsible Dante wears cool colors (blue and dark green) while carefree, audacious Randal wears warm colors (red and orange.)
- Complexity Addiction: Leonardo's plans to overthrow the Quick Stop involve a deeper plot, exposed by Dante and Randal: "Phase Thirty-Nine, robot chickens!"Leonardo: Or perhaps you'd rather visit our international coffee bar complete with its own little book department which has its own super teeny tiny coffee bar inside. And a selection of tiny adult magazines.
- Content Warnings: (Which become parodies in the third panel)
- Courtroom Antic: Parodied in the courtroom episode.
- The trial is presided over by the honorable Judge Reinhold,note and he lets Randal get away with his nonsense through open bias.
- Randal calls a series of "surprise witnesses" during Dante's trial. All of the witnesses are directors of movies Randal didn't like, and he demands refunds from each of them. After he's finished, the witnesses leave, without ever saying a single word that has to do with the actual proceedings. He also calls a girl to the witness stand just to get her phone number.
- The prosecuting lawyer has Dante questioned by a pair of giggling girls, and plays the tapes of a completely unrelated prank call made by Jay and Randal.
- Courtroom Episode: Episode 4 revolved around Jay pursuing a Frivolous Lawsuit against Dante for slipping on a puddle of spilled soda.
- Denser and Wackier: Take the characters from an extremely low-key indie film and throw them into a world where literally anything can and does happen. Hilarity Ensues.
- Dissimile: Caitlin's charity kissing booth which costs nothing, and isn't for charity. And has no booth. And it's not just kissing. And you don't have to be a guy. Dude, she's cheating on you.
- Distant Finale: Played in the second episode, as a spoof of Stand by Me. Jay has become a writer, and Bob is now Senator Blutarsky.
- Dreary Half-Lidded Eyes: Randall is often drawn with half-lidded eyes to emphasize his (often misplaced) self-confidence.
- Dutch Angle: Spoofs the Batman use of this to simulate climbing a building.
- DVD Bonus Content: The complete series included audio commentary on every episode, plus DVD-exclusive live action intros of Jay and Silent Bob introducing each episode while chilling at their "phat palatial estate".
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Parodied. The episode titles describe exactly what happens, and get progressively longer.
- Failed Future Forecast: A major Running Gag is that The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer is a major hit, with its own fast food chain, plots that go all over the place (involving Time Travel and such) and it's Dante's favorite show. The real Secret Diary, thanks to its Audience-Alienating Premise, didn't last more than four episodes.
- Flanderization: Befitting a cartoon, the characters are presented as even wackier than in the film.
- Randal is portrayed as more of an idiot than he really is. On the commentaries, Smith acknowledges that Randal was also a lot more willing to "punch holes in Dante's boat" and essentially sell him out at the first opportunity. He and the other writers, though, feel this worked.
- Dante is even more of a Butt-Monkey who hates his job and whose girlfriend has slept with the entire town.
- Jay and Bob engage in even wilder antics.
- Foreshadowing: More than likely a complete coincidence, but episode 4 mentions "donkey shows", which becomes a subplot point in Clerks II.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble:
- Dante Melancholic
- Randal Sanguine
- Jay Choleric
- Bob Phlegmatic
- Furniture Assembly Gag: In the pilot episode, Leonardo struggles to assemble an IKEA desk, and ends up using his secret diary outlining his evil plan to prop it up on one side.
- Gainax Ending: More or less played straight in the final episode. Justified in episode 4, when the announcer said that the original ending was lost during its trip overseas to be animated by Koreans and the Korean animators created a new ending.
- Girly Run: Jay has a "dainty walk".
- Happy Birthday to You!: Averted; they sing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" instead.
- Helium Speech: "It's only funny if you talk, stupid."
- High-Five Left Hanging: Happens when Charles Barkley tries to high five the Force ghosts at the end of Return of the Jedi."Tha's cold, Obi-wan."
- "How Did You Know?" "I Didn't.": When Dante and Randal realize they forgot to blow up the Quicker Stop, suddenly it blows up and Jay and Silent Bob emerge from the wreckage.Dante: How did you know about the plan?
Jay: What plan?
- Hypocritical Humor: In the beginning of the final episode, after he sees the backlash against the show Dante announces that they're going to ditch the Denser and Wackier plots and keep the series more down to Earth in the style of the film. Cue a bunch of Disney-like animals all immediately popping up.Cartoon Horse: We're keeping it real, folks!
- I Warned You: In episode 6, Randal left the video store closed because vampires will be coming. He warned his and Dante's boss about it, but "he never listens." He was right, but Randal doesn't even bother saying it.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Except for "The Last Episode Ever", each episode features progressively longer titles that are more suitable as plot descriptions than episode titles. This is episode 5's title, for example (which is also the longest one):
- Ink-Suit Actor: All four main characters are designed to resemble their actors. Justified in that their appearances were already determined by the live-action film this is spun off from. Leonardo Leonardo would have been one for Alan Rickman, hence his resemblance to Hans Gruber, which is why he declined.
- Insufferable Imbecile: Jay; Randal was flanderized into this, being more of a bad friend to Dante and willing to sell him out at the first opportunity, while also being a big Cloudcuckoolander.
- Irony: The aforementioned Art Shift becomes this when you realize the rest of the show was also animated in South Korea.
- Kneel Before Zod: In episode 5:Leonardo: This rabble of mid-level managers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and Nobel laureates will bow before the might of Leonardo Leonardo Leonardo!... Sorry, Leonardo Leonardo.
- Lemony Narrator: The narrator (Kevin Michael Richardson, who also voices Lando) reading the disclaimer before each episode falls into this trope. He would also occasionally narrate certain things within an episode. During the last episode, after reading the disclaimer, he remarks, "I don't care for this show, either."
- Lighter and Softer: Even when this wasn't exactly a show for children, it contains much less sexual humor and profanity than the films that precede it. Funny enough the shows DVD release still got an R rating.
- The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: The Quicker Stop and Leonardo Tower were introduced as this, mainly to show that everybody's fingers were "far from the pulses of their community".Randal: (seeing the tent covering the Quicker Stop) That's new.
Dante: (watching the tower's unveiling) I find it hard to believe no one noticed that either.
- Locked in a Freezer: This happens to Dante and Randal in episode 2. Consequently, they spend the entire episode reminiscing about "past adventures".
- Long Title: Aside from episode 6 ("The Last Episode Ever"), every episode title is this, with the longest being episode 5:
- Made of Explodium: In the first episode, a man crashes his car, which catches on fire. After he gets out of the car, he spontaneously combusts while running down the street. Not to mention the fire hydrant he crashes into BURSTS INTO FLAMES.
- Mail-Order Bride: Parodied when Randal orders a Japanese mail-order groom by mistake, who forces Randal to dress and act like the Yamato Nadeshiko type.
- Man on Fire: The "Is it safe?" guy from episode 1.
- Medium Awareness:Randal: Critics love it when former Dirty Dancing stars TV shows.
Dante: This isn't a TV show.
Randal: Now who's being naive?
- Message in a Bottle: A failed attempt by Randal when he's trapped in the Pyramid.
- Monochrome Casting: A straight example, which is also parodied in the form of Token Minority Lando.
- Mysterious Informant: X in Episode 4, voiced by James Woods. Parodied, as he apparently mistakenly sent the letter to Dante and Randal.Randal: What does this have to do with Dante and the Quick Stop?
X: Dante?! Quick Stop?! Well, you see... (runs off)
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Similar to South Park, the opening narration warns about this.
Randal's thought bubble spells out "Monkey + Burrito + Leonardo Leonardo - Burrito, a blank headshot with Dustin Hoffman written under it".Narrator: Due to the recent lawsuit by Dustin Hoffman over the alleged unauthorized use of his likeness, the face of Dustin Hoffman in Randal's cartoon brain calculation will be played by... Al Pacino!
- This moment from episode 3 stands out.
- This is followed by Randal's intended use of Hoffman's name being dubbed over with Pacino.
- No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: In episode 5, Leonardo orders his publicist to kill Hop Osgood with bad publicity, to with the publicist responds with this phrase.
- Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Dante invokes this verbatim in the first episode...
- No, You: Randal's Catchphrase.
Brit: Pack of fags?
- In episode 2:
Randal: You're a fag!
Brit: It's a cigarette, mate.
Randal: I'm not your mate, fag! (Randal pounces on the man)
- Obligatory Swearing: Jay does this in the live-action episode intros for the DVD version.
- Overly Long Title: The titles of episodes one through five. Each one gets longer and longer to the point that they're almost a paragraph long.
- Parody Episode: Episode 3 parodies Outbreak. Episode 5 parodies The Last Starfighter, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Bad News Bears.
- Race Fetish: Randal mentions having a thing for Asian women in Episode 5. Mind you, when he says this, he has been given control over three geishas instructed to follow his every whim, which Randal uses to send them out to buy Asian porn.
- Recap Episode: The very second episode parodied this. What compounded this even further was that, due to Executive Meddling, this was actually the very first episode ever aired.
- Repetitive Name: Leonardo Leonardo, of course. In fact, his full name is Leonardo Leonardo Leonardo.
- Robotic Reveal: Plug in Episode 3.Plug: Sir, you must help him [Leonardo]. If any of my parts or circuits will help, I'll gladly donate them.
Randal: "Circuits?" What are you-some kind of a robot?
Plug: Of course not. Hahaha. It's just an expression! (Turns around and opens a panel on his person) New program: Kill the human Randal.
Plug: Hahaha. That's just an expression too! (to himself) A robot expression.
- Running Gag:
- "Why are we walking like this?"
- Randal's (day)dreams about Dante being "The biggest idiot ever."
- Charles Barkley getting dissed.
- "Are they/is he talking about us?"
- Randal's jokes about Dante being gay.
- In Episode 5: "You wanted to see me, Coach Dante?"
- Seinfeldian Conversation: Attempted in Episode 6 while chaos reigns outside the store, Randall wonders why Princess Leia would be upset about Alderaan's destruction because it would make her queen, and how do lightsabers stop when they stop.
- Self-Deprecation: In Eipsode 4:
- Shout-Out: The usual View Askew collection of pop culture references.
- Silent Bob: Guess who? (Very subverted: He talks during every "Science Says" segment except the last one.)
- Special Guest: Lampshaded every episode with Charles Barkley trying to horn in on Jay and Bob's PSA segment. And then, once those ran their course, Smith still found ways to shoehorn Barkley into every episode except for the last.
- Spoof Aesop: The "educational" segments at the end tend to provide these.
- Strange Minds Think AlikeRandal: Look at [that monkey], he's shaking in fear.
Dante: No, he's masturbating.
Randal: But it's out of fear.
Leonardo Leonardo: Oh, dear... something scared that monkey.
- And later in Episode 5, both Randal and Leonardo go to their high school reunions with a story of each one suing the government over bad meat.
- Stupid Question Bait: When the chief of police is holding a press conference about a suspected outbreak while wearing an Officer Big Mac costume, the reporters are more interested in asking him questions related to McDonald's.Steve-Dave: Will this administration ever bring the Hamburglar to justice?
Big Mac: No... Yes. Look, does anybody have any questions about the virus that could kill us all?
Reporter: Can the virus kill the Grimace?
Big Mac: Nothing can kill the Grimace.
- Take Our Word for It: The last episode is chockful of this trope. Randal and Dante are deliberately trying to evoke the original film — since fans of the film are complaining the series has strayed so far from it — by confining themselves to the Quick Stop, despite ludicrously interesting things happening just outside.
- Take That!:
Dante: You're victims of an overactive imagination of a pop-culture junkie loudmouth [Randal].
- The DVD commentary is full of these, it gets especially bitter once the subject of Seth MacFarlane and Family Guy comes up. The fact that Family Guy was Un-Cancelled is a particularly sore spot.
- Episode 3 has a fantastic one.
Major Baklava: Quentin Tarantino?
Dante: It was a hoax played by an idiot with too much free time on his hands.
Bomber Pilot: Quentin Tarantino?
- Thick-Line Animation: The show's art-style is this. It didn't help that character designer was Stephen Silver, who would eventually design characters with this art-style like Kim Possible and Danny Phantom.
- Title, Please!: No episode title is visible on the screen, though it's probably for the best, given how ridiculously long most of them are.
- Took a Level in Dumbass: Randal went from a lazy slacker with average intelligence who in the film gave the big profound "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Dante to an immature moron in the cartoon.
Randal: What did I do that was so wrong?
- Ironically, this is what Dante thinks Randal is in the film.
Dante: What don't you do? You know, sometimes I think the only reason you come to work is to make my life miserable.
Randal: Jesus, there you go again trying to pass the buck. I'm the source of all your misery.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Randal compared to the films. While still a jerk in the film and not above giving him some ribbing, it was clear he still cared about Dante. Here, he seems to be much more malicious towards him, including trying to get him sued by Jay for $1 million in Episode 4 or trying to get the government to burn him alive as soon as possible when he thinks there's a virus outbreak, even stating out loud that he's hoping he hasn't missed watching Dante get burned in Episode 3. The crew even notices this in the audio commentary.
- Vocal Dissonance:
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Parodied at the end of episode 2 during the Shout-Out to Stand by Me. The "Old Jay" bit was intended to be a spin-off.
- Whole Plot Reference: Episode 5. Dante's plot is The Bad News Bears while Randal's is a cross between The Last Starfighter and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
- Won't Take "Yes" for an Answer: This exchange from Episode 5.Leonardo: So, do you want to coach little league?
Dante: Hmmm..."coach Dante"...(Leonardo grows impatient) Yeah!
Leonardo: Fine. Will a million dollars change...You mean you accept?
- Working Through the Cold: Real-life example: During the recording for Episode 2, Mewes's voice was shot from smoking too many cigarettes. This is why his voice is so hoarse during the "Science Sez" segment.
- Yamato Nadeshiko: Spoofed in Episode 2 when Randal recalls an incident in which he wedded a Japanese businessman who forced him to become one. He's even seen at one point wearing a kimono and chopsticks in a hairbun. The businessman is pleased with his housework, to which Randal replies in a graceful manner.