Alibi V.26 No.49 • Dec 7-13, 2017 

Idiot Box

Motel Hotel Holiday Inn

“Tarantula” on TBS

TBS continues to expand the bounds of content and distribution with its newest series, the animated sitcom “Tarantula.” Recent TBS releases have embraced the binge-watching of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Season 1 of the cop spoof “Angie Tribeca” first hit TBS’ airwaves in a 25-hour marathon, while season 2 of the millennial comedy-mystery “Search Party” screened in its entirety over Thanksgiving weekend. Prior to its TV premiere, TBS “surprise dropped” all 10 episodes of “Tarantula” on its TBS app and website. Now the cable network is airing them, two per week, on TBS—allowing viewers to pick their preferred method of consumption.

Hovering somewhere between the more grounded animation of FOX and the heady boundary-pushing of Adult Swim, “Tarantula” comes from creator, writer and executive producer Carson Mell (“Silicon Valley”) and executive producer Danny McBride (“Vice Principals,” “Eastbound & Down”). Set in the fictional California nowhere town of Los Palacios, the show centers around the rundown Tierra Chula Resident Hotel—known to its equally rundown residents as “Tarantula.” Our main character here is Echo Johnson, an “uncertified” tattoo artist prone to absurd yet introspective monologues. Voiced by the show’s creator, Echo’s poetic ramblings are often directed at and star his fellow residents of Tarantula, including a bread truck driver/wannabe sci-fi writer, a sandwich artist/rock musician and a tough but haggard single mother.

The residents of the faux Mayan motel are a ragtag lot, prone to bar haunting, party crashing, dumpster diving and general acts of low-rent lawbreaking. But it’s clear that Mell harbors a love for these quasi-homeless misfits and their misadventures. Drugs, prostitution and arrest warrants aside, “Tarantula” plays out like the impoverished second cousin of Mike Judge’s “King of the Hill”—a genial ensemble of oddball characters and their colorful yet realistic world. “Tarantula” isn’t the weirdest, crudest, most wildly conceived piece of animation on TV right now. But it’s got an under-the-radar charm, a cast of loveable-if-not-admirable characters and a ramshackle, situational sense of humor that sets it apart from a lot of stuff on the airwaves (or otherwise).

Season 1 of “Tarantula” is available for viewing on the TBS app. Or you can watch it Mondays at 8pm on TBS.