Earlier this year a friend recommended Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule and I quickly became enthralled with this offbeat series on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. The show’s creators, Tim Heidecker, John C. Reilly, and Eric Wareheim, are widely known for their quirky, unnerving comedic styles and unabashed abilities to buck normal comedic practices. Check It Out! runs in a parallel vein to the rest of their oeuvres with a few exceptions. For me, the most notable difference is the application of the glitch aesthetic and/or rude aesthetics.
Watching the first episode of Check it Out!, I was immediately jolted out of the show’s narrative with glitchy intercuts/frames of random footage such as pictures of crowded Indian city streets. After a few episodes I noticed that my attention to the show’s narrative sharpened more intensely just after viewing these odd glitchy segues. And then I began noticing this technique elsewhere, mainly in crime shows but also in other comedies. Adam Goldberg’s The Goldbergs uses a similar technique when transitioning from an episode’s beginning narrative to the show’s opening credits. Both examples have been included in my accompanying video.
The question I pose to those reading this is—Do you share similar feelings to mine? I have visceral reactions to these techniques. I am shocked out of my suspension of disbelief and, for the tiniest fraction of a second, awakened into a meta-moment. A moment in which I realize I am watching a television program and then just as easily extracted I am plunged back into the narrative. This jolt makes me wonder if shows like Check It Out!, Nighmare Next Door, The Goldbers, Evil Kin, and iCarly have tapped into an aesthetic of the MTV generation. Is this how television producers compete for our attention? In a world of (arguably) superfluous screen time, gadgetry, instant gratification, and go-go-go!, is this a useful technique to refocus our attention? Or are these techniques fulfilling a nostalgic yearning for media artifacts of days gone by?