China, IL is an animated series that I am constantly surprised to hear people have not seen. The series combines a unique NSFW sense of humour with an insane group of characters and some of the catchiest music you are sure to be humming on the way to work the next day. I mean, who here wouldn’t like to see Hulk Hogan as a crazed headstrong overlord of a dysfunctional college known only as “The Dean” bringing such classic lines as “My arms are yelling at me to hurt you!” to the small screen?
The series centers around two brothers, Steve and Frank Smith, who are professors at a college in China, Illinois where down right craziness seems to be the norm and rebel zebras are at the front of the curriculum. As one might expect the brothers often find themselves on a variety of misadventures, including one where Steve is accused of being a terrorist and asked by a mysterious government agency to help stop a rogue time travelling Ronald Reagan.
Each episode is a rough 11 minutes of fast paced comedy, crude jokes (just the way we like ‘em) and hilarious characters. Although you would not guess by looking at him, Steve has an undeniable amount of charisma and suaveness while Frank is portrayed as a much less neurotic character always off on some crazy side mission to the actual plot like trying to sell giant mutant baby blood or fending off the advances of the now out and proud ghost of his former colleague… stuff like that. The two brothers are joined by an equally eclectic cast of oddballs like the philosophical man child known only as Baby Cakes, whose quaint take on life brings a quality to the show that is truly priceless. All three of whom are voiced by creator Brad Neely.
Neely is a very funny and talented man who’s label Neely Comics came together with Adult Swim to produce this little gem. Neely has had cult success previously with a series of short videos called I AM Baby Cakes and The Professor Brothers, both sets of characters that ended up in China, IL. These previous videos were comprised of very catchy, funny songs and what seems like just a place to put the random thoughts in Neely’s head. Although not the highest caliber animation, they were basically just pictures with Brad Neely talking/singing over them, a lot of fans say they wish he had kept things this way.
Personally I enjoy China, IL as well as his previous work. The show has definitely kept up the high standards of Adult Swim productions over the past years and is a serious recommendation from me. As luck would have it, Neely revealed on his Twitter feed recently that Season 2 is currently in production and that episodes will be being bumped up to a full 30 minutes. So, if you haven’t already seen it, go now… and if you have already seen it then “Balloons… Motherfuckin’ balloons!”