Alibi V.16 No.6 • Feb 8-14, 2007 

Idiot Box

“Saul of the Mole Men” on Cartoon Network

During the day, Cartoon Network is a repository for clever, often inspiring cartoons for kids of all ages. At night, however, the lunatics take over the asylum. The late-night “Adult Swim” block allows cutting-edge crazy people to participate in some sort of work release program, ensuring stable employment for the criminally deranged and unquantifiably strange cartoons for the rest of us.

Personally, I love Adult Swim more than life itself. That isn’t to say that I’m not occasionally stunned and baffled by what goes on during Adult Swim (“The Milk Chan Show,” “12 oz. Mouse,” “Tom Goes to the Mayor” to cite just a few examples). Even so, I eagerly await every new Adult Swim offering.

This month’s freshly fried batch of weirdness is “Saul of the Mole Men,” a 15-minute spoof of early-’70s live-action Saturday morning shows of the type most often practiced by Sid and Marty Krofft (“H.R. Puffnstuff,” “Sigmund & The Sea Monsters,” “Land of the Lost”). “Saul of the Mole Men” embraces all the LSD-driven imagery, cornball plots and no-budget special effects of the era with glee.

The “Saul” of our title is one Saul Malone (Josh Gardner, former writer for “The Man Show”), a dorky geologist assigned to a top secret STRATA (whatever that stands for) mission deep inside the Earth’s core. When the team’s drill ship is pummeled by rocks, Saul emerges as the sole survivor. (Well, he does have a grumpy robot called Robot and a cryogenically frozen pop star named Johnny Tambourine in tow, but let’s just not count them.) Stuck deep under the planet’s core, our jumpsuit-wearing hero must navigate a maze of cheesy green-screen backgrounds and battle ratty, Muppet-ish monsters in his fight to get home.

Like most Adult Swim shows, “Saul of the Mole Men” is less concerned with story logic and more interested in all-out weirdness. Uncomfortable pauses, curious dialogue and the occasional severed sexual organ all figure into the show’s first wacked-out episode. Anyone who grew up on the junky charm of “Land of the Lost” or “Ark II” (my hand is raised) will appreciate the odd, yet somehow loving tone.

Since Adult Swim seems currently incapable of producing a show longer than 15 minutes (10 without the endless bumpers and commercials), “Saul of the Mole Men” is teamed with “Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job.” This fast-paced and thoroughly aburdist collection of skits, parodies and musical numbers comes from Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, the creators of “Tom Goes to the Mayor.” Like “Tom,” I don’t really get, but I am amused by the twisted cameos by the likes of Bob Odenkirk, Weird Al Yankovic, Zach Galifianakis and Brian Posehn. (Random guest John C. Reilly is easily the funniest part of episode No. 1.)

“Saul of the Mole Men” premieres Monday, Feb. 12, at 1 a.m.