It’s no coincidence that “Freakazoid!” felt as off-the-cuff as it did. On the DVD’s special features, Dini, Rugg, and Tom Ruegger explained that the show was produced on a very tight turnaround, and a lot of Frakazoid’s own dialogue was improvised by Rugg. The creators gave no thought as to whether or not a studio would approve, or an audience would find it appealing. The makers were just trying to make themselves giggle, and what made them giggle was surreality, old musicals, and references to movies they saw the day of recording: Freakazoid’s line of “Pull da string” was taken from “Ed Wood,” a film released a mere months before the show’s premiere. In the special features, Rugg admitted that their humor might have been a little alienating. “And if there’s one thing little kids love, he said, “It’s references to ‘Hello, Dolly.'”
When it came time to make a second season, Warner Bros. insisted that the fun be reigned in a little bit, and that the show become devoted to full 30-minute episodes instead of 20 shorts. One might assume this meant more sanity, but Dini, Ruegger, and co. found plenty of ways to keep the kookiness flowing. Jonathan Harris’ presence certainly helped. Sadly, it was too strange to live. Kids didn’t jibe with its humor and stoned college kids weren’t buying the children’s toys advertised. “Freakazoid!” was canceled after two seasons.
A few short years later, in 2001, the Cartoon Network would launch a block of bizarro, nighttime programming under the banner of Adult Swim. “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” — the finest piece of Dadaist pop entertainment ever produced — led a pack that included “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” “Sealab 2021,” and “The Venture Bros.” The thumbprints of “Freakazoid!” are all over Adult Swim, and there is no doubt WB’s antics led to the production of weirder and weirder s***.
“Freakazoid!” wasn’t so much too weird as it was a few years ahead of its time. It was a superhero show that functioned as media commentary, a slapstick play yard, and a pop culture library. Nothing will ever match its highs. It is a show for the ages.