For the eighth season of hellzapoppin’ madness that is Aqua Teen Hunger Force (now called Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1), creators Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis have promised to return the show to its roots, bringing back favorite, formerly dispatched characters (namely Steve and Dr. Weird, who haven’t been seen since Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters‘s bloody finale, but expect appearances by the Mooninites and Plutonians sometime down the road) and reinstating the three protagonists’ status as crime-fighting detectives. That premise (initially a ploy used in the pitch to storyline-craving Cartoon Network execs, only to be unceremoniously dropped after a couple of episodes of the first season) might suggest a well running short of ideas, but for a series that has thrived for so long on the surreal and illogical with only the occasional creative drop-off, grounding the narrative in something more familiar is its own kind of expectation-bucking audaciousness.
Like Calvinball, the only rule the creators seem to abide by is to perpetually make them up as they go along, and by reframing the narrative with a previously established scenario, it’s that much easier to appreciate the evolution the show has undergone in the past decade. Now known in the refurbished, gnarly opening credits as the “Aqua Unit Patrol Squad” (think an animated take on the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” music video), it remains to be seen what shenanigans Meatwad, Frylock, and Master Shake will get themselves into, but the first episode suggests a mighty good tokin’ time to come. Carl’s latest DUI (for doing 136 in a 25 mph school zone) sees the installation of a breathalyzer in his beloved 2 Wycked, and before long, he’s enlisting the help of Jesus’s gay hairdresser, Rupert, to bypass his ignition interlock en route to the strip club. Along the way, nipples will be lost on the tarmac. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and in the case of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, err, Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1, that can only mean good things to come.