First impressions of Animals‘ second season from two first time viewers

Animals, what can we say about HBO’s crazy animated show? To give you a quick rundown, Animals is an American animated comedy television series created by new talents Phil Matarese and Mike Luciano. The first two episodes were independently produced and presented at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015 and HBO picked the series up after its success at the festival.

For many in Australia, the first season may have slipped by under the radar – but that may change now that the show has been renewed for a second season. “A second season? This show must be good?” you say. For the lack of better words, Animals isn’t good… it’s nasty. But it may well be the nasty you’re looking for. It has its moments of clarity amongst the madness, though on first impressions I am not sure this is up my alley of crazy. But am I being too cynical?

HBO’s Animals is a show that on most parts uses clever retro-scripting, which is when a script contains a plot outline and leaves dialogue deliberately vague for interpretation by the actors through improvisation. Meaning, the animation is done and given over to the voice actors to improv mostly entire scenes of dialogue, as long as they stick to the main plotline.

Last week, fellow contributor Ryan Champion and I – neither of us having seen the series before – sat down and watched a few episodes of the second season. In doing so, we couldn’t make up our mind on whether the series was good or bad, and so to gain clarity, we discussed it together – here now were our first impressions as soon as we finished the first episode of season two.

David: So you want to explain to me and the audience at home what exactly we just watched? Animals was a mixed bag for me, in fact if I had no idea the show was improvised dialogue I am not sure I could have stuck with it for long.

Ryan: If I’m being quite honest I disliked almost every minute. The only part I could tolerate was the ‘Roach’ segment because of Michael Rappaport honing that character that he does so well. He more of less played the same character in the TV series Louie, albeit not a homosexual cockroach.

Right – Michael Rappaport’s turn as a Cockroach

David: I enjoyed Emilia Clarke’s quite literal ‘Shitty’ cameo and Jason Alexander’s ‘Algae’ sequence, it was quite smart how that little story played out actually and a shame it was only the smallest of the lot.

Ryan: The animation is a tad on the crude side but I can often look past that if the dialogue and writing delivers, unfortunately, it doesn’t. I love retro-scripting – Curb Your Enthusiasm borders on genius and that show has a host of terrific comedians, which Animals often employs. So I think it has less to do with the talent involved and being underwhelming instead is what falls flat on the format here.

Having only seen one animated show in with this format I can’t say that it works. You strip away an actors nuance and facial expressions and delivery of improvised dialogue and it just feels jarring.

David: Yep, the rest of the episode and episode two was just on the nose for me. Didn’t really care for much of it. It has potential to tell some crazy stories being set in that messed up little science lab however, I just felt something is missing.

Emelia Clarke (right) playing a walking talking pile of mouse feces, Cos why not!?

So as it stands, there is an audience out there for this psychotic animated side gag, otherwise why risk on paying for a season two? The viewership must be hiding in the deep, dark and grainy shadows of homes somewhere, sadly not with us however. Maybe it’s for you?

HBO’s Animals Season Two airs from today on Foxtel, Foxtel Play & HBO Now

Article by David Hunter and Ryan Champion