'Adventure Time with Finn & Jake': How Absurd is Too Absurd?

Next month, Cartoon Network launches Adventure Time with Finn & Jake, a new animated TV show for kids, part of an oeuvre I like to call "Attention Deficit Theater." Don't be fooled by its traditional title -- Adventure Time is an absurdist anything-can-happen romp starring a vaguely human-like, head-sock-wearing 12-year-old boy named Finn; and a shape-shifting 28-year-old talking dog named Jake. It takes place in the Land of Ooo, where people use mathematical exclamations like "Rhombus!" and "Algebraic!". Naturally.

Let me describe it another way: Imagine Dora the Explorer re-imagined by inebriated, cooler-than-thou college art students who don't speak Spanish, but watched way too much Rainbow Brite as children. Now imagine that show a little weirder. That comes close.

Side characters include a hard-rocking vampire girl, an evil ice king with a magic crown who "wants to secure a wife by any means necessary," and a millionaire geeky princess whose pet, a viola-loving part unicorn and part rainbow, is Jake's girlfriend. Yes, you read that right.

The series, which premieres April 5 on Cartoon Network,  is based on an award-winning animated short, but this may prove that not all short things deserve to be long. What actually impressed me more than all that nonsensical narrative litter is the list of this season's special guest voices, including Henry Rollins, Mark Hamill, George Takei, Lou Ferrigno and Erik Estrada. It's one thing to end up with guest stars kids have never heard of, yet another to go out of your way to include them.

I have nothing against absurd animation, whether it's old -chool (Ren & Stimpy) or new school (SpongeBob), but with the rise of shows like Adventure Time and -- from the same producer -- Fanboy and Chum Chum, I'm concerned kids' TV will eventually be reduced to a series of flashing bizarro images and random banging, splooshing noises. It won't exactly liquefy their brains, but it may leave kids without the patience span necessary to, say, read a good book. Or, for that matter, to write one.

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