One And Done: Trap Universe

trap universe

Once again this is yet another Adult Swim pilot which never made it to air, it’s not that they make a disproportionate number of pilots compared to other networks but rather that they’re happy to air them once rather than hiding them in a vault and pretending they never happened like way too many other channels do. It’s a shame such a thing all too often happens as well as this column has proven that many pilots are actually very funny and enjoyable material, and that also definitely applies with Trap Universe.

Animated by J.J. Villard (King Star King) and written by Ben Joseph (The Jack and Triumph Show, Me, Myself and I) it’s another surreal, violent and absurdist show which might be why it wasn’t given a full series by Adult Swim as they have quite the number of vaguely similar programmes, but then it is also a strong and often very funny effort with a fine line in satire when it comes to mocking the utter evil ways corporations exploit their employees, and so fairly different from many of their other shows.

It starts with a clip of the Pretzel Princess (who probably looks exactly how you’d imagine her to be) presenting her own kids tv show, but then she’s approached by our lead character Eddie G and informed that his boss “Trap Lord” loves her show and so wishes to buy it. She turns his offer down, but it soon becomes apparent that Trap Lord gets whatever he wants as Eddie blackmails her in to selling it after showing her a video of the Pretzel Princess decapitating a person and then cooking and eating her brains. Which yes, is as funny / fucked up as that sounds.

During the rest of the episode Trap Lord (who’s a half eaten apple core, just to add to the surreal nature of the show) is shown to be even more of a bastard, the kind of corporate CEO who makes Succession’s Logan Roy look like a charming cuddly bear, as he forces people to work against their will due to their owing him money. Most of the time they have no choice on that front either as he tricks them in to receiving things they don’t realise will cost them, or just out and out rips them off and given his psychopathic tendencies they have no choice but to go along with whatever he says.

Which all explains why the normally quite kind and nice Eddie G blackmails the Pretzel Princess, and why he ends up being forced to try and buy a theme park called Happy Land. Except said theme park is the opposite of how it sounds what with it being filled with skulls and heads on spikes, and more skinned alive people slowly dying than you get at Disneyland, and you know how many tend to be found there. Eddie tries his best to convince Cuddles, the owner of Happy Land, to sell but when he refuses, wiping his arse on the contract, Eddie shoots him to death. Except that mere bullets aren’t going to take down this monster and it’s revealed that “Cuddles is an unkillable pervert”. And boy, what a pervert he is as the episode then delights in showing us.

Meanwhile Eddie G’s son and wife have their own adventure which sees his son accidentally destroy $1,000,000 worth of pencils, and so even though Eddie finally pays off his debts he has to stay working their to pay off his son’s. Which all does sound rather grim, admittedly, but most of the time the violence is cartoonish and it is packed with over the top disgusting elements (like the ways Eddie tries to kill Cuddles) that are so unhinged it’s impossible not to find them funny. Meanwhile there’s lots of amusing dialogue, for instance when Eddie faces a traumatic death he utters “Tell my family something different happened to me” in a very funny moment, and it has a slightly anarchic sense of humour too, with every so often text flashing up for half a second (if not less) that says things like “You can never know what your loved ones really think of you” and “In a couple of hundred years no one will know who you are or if you even existed” and “Trust Your Own Madness”.

J.J. Villard is currently making another cartoon with seemingly every cult tv and film star in the US which will hopefully be as deranged as this was, but I still have vague hope that one day Adult Swim will realise the error of their ways and give the show a full series, or a mini-series at the very least. Yes it’s filled with the kind of demented madness that we sometimes see in other Adult Swim shows but there’s enough originality here, along with a fantastic animation style, that it really does deserve another outing.

Alex Finch.
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