Sealab 2021 is an American adult animated television series created by Adam Reed and Matt Thompson. It was shown on Cartoon Network's late-night programming block, Adult Swim. Cartoon Network aired the show's first three episodes in December 2000 before the official inception of the Adult Swim block on September 2, 2001, with the final episode airing on April 24, 2005. Sealab 2021 is one of the four original Williams Street series that premiered in 2000 before Adult Swim officially launched, the others being Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Brak Show and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
|Based on||Sealab 2020 by Alex Toth, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera|
|Theme music composer||Julie Stepanek and performed by Calamine|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||52 (and 1 unaired pilot) (list of episodes)|
|Running time||12 minutes|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television|
|Original network||Adult Swim|
|Picture format||4:3 SDTV|
|Original release||December 21, 2000– April 24, 2005|
|Preceded by||Space Ghost Coast to Coast|
|Related shows||Sealab 2020|
Much like Adult Swim's Space Ghost Coast to Coast, the animation used stock footage from a 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoon, in this case the short-lived, environmentally-themed Sealab 2020, along with original animation. The show was a satirical parody of the original Sealab series, and the conventions of 1970s animated children's series generally. While there was initial resistance from several of the original series' creators to the reuse of their characters, production moved forward on the series. Sealab 2021 was produced by 70/30 Productions, which eventually closed on January 9, 2009.
Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, the creators and writers of Sealab 2021, came up with the idea for the show in 1995 while they were production assistants for Cartoon Network. They stumbled on a tape of the show Sealab 2020, and wrote new dialogue. Cartoon Network passed on the show because they did not believe it was funny. Five years after quitting Cartoon Network, the two went back to the original tape, this time making the characters do what they wanted. Cartoon Network bought the show, coincidentally around the same time that Adult Swim was created. The original "pitch pilot" is available on the Season 1 DVD as a special feature.
Very few of the episodes of the series share any continuity or ongoing plot. For instance, the entire installation is destroyed at the end of many episodes, and crew members are often killed in horrible ways, only to return in the following episode. There are occasional running gags, such as the "Grizzlebee's" restaurant chain, the character of Sharko, and Prescott, the half-man, half-tentacle monster "from the network." It contains many references to the pop culture of the 1980s–2000s, and makes use of other cartoons from the 1970s besides that on which it is based, such as 1973's Butch Cassidy for the on-screen appearances of the Sealab writers, and various one-off appearances of other characters.
Paul Di Filippo of the website Sci Fi Weekly, in his review of the Season 3 DVD, felt that general fan opinion of the show declined sharply following the death of Harry Goz (the voice of Captain Hazel Murphy) during Season 3. After four seasons, the final episode aired on April 25, 2005.
- Captain Hazel "Hank" Murphy (Harry Goz) – is the ostensible leader of the crew, though his qualifications, and even his grasp on reality, are questionable. He is generally found loitering on the bridge neglecting his duties. Murphy spends his time participating in scams and juvenile antics and generally causing problems that the crew have to solve. The only episode which features Murphy acting responsibly throughout is "7211", which is a faithful reenactment of the original Sealab 2020 show. Captain Murphy is a parody of Captain Mike Murphy from Sealab 2020. Generally, Murphy is incapable to the point of incompetence. On more than one occasion, it has been implied that Murphy has gone insane due to the amount of time he spent underwater. However, the crew either doesn't notice this or doesn't care and usually follow his orders, even when they will directly lead to the crew's deaths. Murphy is a practicing Alvian and has a deep seated fear of doppelgängers and especially flashlights, the latter a fear that there is no name for. After the death of Harry Goz, Murphy was written out of the show by having him leave Sealab to fight in the "Great Spice Wars". It is implied that Murphy is the leader of the Rebel forces in this war, though the reasoning behind this is or its effect on the war are never delved into. A recap montage of Murphy's moments were played in the final episode in memory of this voice actor. However, he later appeared in Archer, where he was voiced by Jon Hamm and debuted in the two-part episode "Sea Tunt".
- Captain Bellerophon "Tornado" Shanks (Michael Goz) – is a retired football coach and health and hygiene teacher who lost his job for slapping (or throat punching) a student. He answered Sealab's help wanted ad and became the new captain, despite having no experience whatsoever. Shanks is from Texas and is the youngest of several brothers all named after characters in Greek mythology, and all of whom met their death on or around a bridge in Shanks's hometown. Dropping his Southern accent late in the series (citing that some viewers thought he was gay), Shanks' personality bears a resemblance to Captain Murphy, being voiced by Harry Goz's son. However, Shanks is much more self-aware than Murphy, openly commenting on the odd goings on aboard Sealab and even the fact that he is on a television program. Since Shanks has no experience or idea what he is doing, he goes along with whatever the rest of the crew suggests, usually with disastrous results. Captain Shanks debuted in the season 3 episode "Tornado Shanks".
- Jodene Sparks (Bill Lobley) – is the station's radio operator who is always seen sitting and with his headsets on. Sparks is a parody of Lieutenant Sparks from Sealab 2020. Sparks mostly uses the radio for his own personal purposes, even going so far as to disconnect vital transmissions that interrupt him. He generally travels around in his office chair, either because he's crippled, or simply because he's lazy. Sparks is a convict serving time at Sealab while still operating a blackmarket distillery and takes part in a wide variety of other illegal activities. He occasionally serves as a voice of reason to the crew, particularly to Murphy. However, he is just as often the catalyst of problems aboard Sealab, including Sealab's destruction. He's claustrophobic and a Malkin, the show's version of Wiccan. Sparks's quest for money has been in several plots; such as the murdering of the crew to collect on life insurance policies, the creation of Stimutacs to "make an assload of money", and his numerous underhand deals with Paddy O'Reilly and the various Daves. An early episode revealed that he acts as a criminal mastermind called "Overlord" with a hollowed out volcano base and an army of minions. Episode 46 reveals he enjoys hentai with themes of forced submission and humiliation. Rank: Commander
- Debbie "White Debbie" DuPree (Kate Miller) – is a marine biologist, and one of only two adult females on the base. Serving as a parody of Gail from Sealab 2020, she is a blonde and is often the object of the sexual interest of the males on Sealab. She has an ongoing sexual relationship with Doctor Quinn, and their relationship and its ups and downs and its effect on the rest of the crew plays out in several stories. When she's on the outs with Quinn, the other males, particularly Stormy, attempt to get on her good side. Debbie's mood swings are a constant issue to the crew, as she changes wildly from the sole voice of reason to a shrieking lunatic. Debbie picked up the "White Debbie" appellation at the behest of Doctor Quinn, who thought it was unfair that Debbie Love went by "Black Debbie" while Debbie Dupree was simply Debbie. Nevertheless, few of the crew actually call her that. Rank: Lieutenant Commander
- Derek "Stormy" Waters (Ellis Henican) – is a pretty boy lacking in intelligence or seemingly any qualifications to be working on a government research lab, and a parody of Hal from Sealab 2020. Stormy's job is never clearly defined and he usually walks around Sealab doing whatever he wants, or acts as a henchman or assistant to whomever he is nearest to. Stormy usually works alongside Quinn, who frequently is the victim of Stormy's ignorance, but is ironically the most tolerant of him. Stormy has shown skill in the operation of the submersible Deep Diver, both as a pilot and gunner, as well as operating other technological gadgets, though he is just as irresponsible in those positions as anywhere else. The crew has been shown to dislike or mistreat Stormy on multiple occasions, such as putting a sign outside the mess hall saying "No Stormies" when they held a pizza party or forgetting that he was trapped outside of the closet with Murphy's dogs. Stormy is a proudly practicing Alvian, like Murphy. Of all characters, Stormy is the most different in the episode "7211". In the episode, he directs the rest of the crew effectively in the salvage of the damaged sub. He is allergic to shellfish. Rank: Lieutenant Commander
- Dr. Quentin Q. Quinn (Brett Butler) – is the science officer. Parodying Ed from Sealab 2020, he is an African-American who is extremely intelligent, with an IQ of 260 and Ph.D.s in several scientific disciplines, which he is not shy about reminding the other characters of. Quinn grew up in unbelievably over-the-top poverty and got to where he is through hard work, unlike the majority of the other characters. He is regarded as an uptight killjoy by most of the crew. Quinn is often the only responsible crew member and the sole voice of reason. This has caused the other crew to neglect their duties even further, as they believe "Quinn will handle it". Despite his intelligence, Quinn is extremely vain and prone to outbursts of anger when he is not appreciated. Quinn often attempts to prevent Murphy's questionable plans from being enacted, leading Murphy to distrust Quinn. However, Murphy is aware that he and the station completely depend on Quinn, going so far as to snake his vacation to ensure that he didn't leave the station. Quinn has an ongoing sexual relationship with Debbie Dupree. In the first episode, he revealed that he inhabits a robot body of his own design. Rank: Lieutenant Commander
- Marco Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Erik Estrada) – is the station's engineer. Spoofing Dr. Paul Williams from Sealab 2020, he is very strong and muscular, unlike the rest of the crew. He speaks with a Spanish accent and often exclaims random things in Spanish, although not actually speaking the language. Quinn even remarks that his Spanish is terrible. His name comes from both the Spaniard epic 11th-century poem Cantar del Mio Cid, which featured the character Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, and from the 1982 Literary Nobel Prize winner journalist and novelist Gabriel García Márquez. Marco's exact heritage is unknown, though he is fiercely not a Spaniard. Marco is prone to violence, both in the defense of the crew and against them. Marco often argues with Murphy about his methods and seems to be the only one Murphy actually listens to. Despite this, Murphy often calls Marco "mailbox head" and included a segment on his radio show where listeners could call in to tell him why they hated Marco. Marco gets along with most of the crew, especially Sparks and Quinn. Marco also interacts with the orphans on Sealab and has been shown to have a soft side. Rank: Lieutenant Commander
- Hesh Hepplewhite (MC Chris) – is the station's reactor operator and more often than not their whipping boy. Hesh has a habit of continually referring to himself in the third person. It was revealed that he is Jewish. Nasal-voiced, smart-mouthed, and whiny, Hesh is not well liked by most of the crew and thus works in the part of the station farthest away from them. He has no real understanding of how the reactor works and generally has to have guidance from Quinn when there is a problem. Hesh's own interactions with the machinery are generally useless or actively destructive, such as the "hammer game", which involves smashing the computers with a hammer. Hesh generally doesn't participate in the crew's activities unless he interrupts on the radio. Hesh performs the birthday song at Quinn's birthday and acts as Murphy's caddie. Hesh's safety is not a concern to any of the characters, as Murphy sent him into the reactor core to recover a ball. As a result of being isolated in the reactor, Hesh has developed odd tendencies, such as dressing as a woman on multiple occasions. Rank: Lieutenant
- Debbie "Black Debbie" Allison Love (Angela Gibbs) – is both the only other adult female and the only black female on the station. She teaches school to the Sealab's orphans and is very proud of her race. She has a relationship with Marco at the beginning of the show and briefly dates Sparks and Tornado in the later seasons. In one episode, her name is displayed on a monitor as Debbie Allison; but in another her nameplate is shown as Debbie Love. She is a former Heisman trophy winner. Rank: Lieutenant
- Dr. Ilad Virjay (Adam Reed) – is the station's official doctor and in-house surgeon, noted for his thick Indian accent and relatively normal personality. He graduated third in his class from The Medical College of Mescutabuti. He practices Manduism, the Sealab universe's version of Hinduism. Dr. Virjay is shown to be jealous of Dr. Quinn as the latter has multiple Ph.Ds and a higher IQ. Dr. Virjay delivers all his lines in a deadpan, whether informing crew members of medical issues or confronting an invisible monster shortly before his death. It is later revealed that he is also janitor for Sealab's restaurant section. Rank: Unknown
- Dolphin Boy – is a little chubby boy that speaks in dolphin noises. One of the orphans that inhabit Sealab for some reason, he is a member of Black Debbie's class. Dolphin Boy often wanders around the station and as a result is often embroiled in whatever is going on. When translated, Dolphin Boy generally says inoffensive, naively childish statements, universally resulting in derision and hatred from the rest of the crew. He is the target of endless fat jokes, and is often killed for no reason whatsoever by the Sealab crew members. He is the persona non grata of Sealab. Rank: Lieutenant Jr. Grade
- Sharko (Matt Thompson) – is a half-human, half-shark freak of nature who is the result of Marco having sexual relations with a female shark. Rank: Shark
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||13||December 21, 2000||May 5, 2002|
|2||13||May 12, 2002||November 16, 2003|
|3||13||November 23, 2003||July 18, 2004|
|4||13||November 14, 2004||April 24, 2005|
|DVD Name||Release Date||Episodes||Additional Information|
|Season One||July 20, 2004||13||This two disc boxset contains the first 13 episodes ("Radio Free Sealab" through "Swimming in Oblivion"). Bonus features include alternate endings for episode "I, Robot", deleted scenes, the original pitch pilot, and uncensored scenes for "Radio Free Sealab". Music during the main menu is the original recording of the theme song.|
|Season Two||February 1, 2005||13||This two disc boxset contains the second set of 13 episodes ("Der Dieb" through "Return to Oblivion"). Bonus features include commentaries for all thirteen episodes, an animatic for the unseen episode "Ronnie", and other assorted bonus features – many of which involve women in bikinis. The DVD cover, used for the "Bizarro" episode, is a homage to the cover of Uncanny X-Men #100, by artist Dave Cockrum. Music during the main menu is the theme song played backwards. This season two DVD is included on Adult Swim in a Box, which was released on October 27, 2009.|
|Season Three||July 12, 2005||13||This two disc boxset contains the third set of 13 episodes ("Splitsville" through "Neptunati"). Bonus features include two unseen episodes and the animatic of a third unseen episode, commentary for four episodes, and other features. Music during the main menu is the music used in the "Red Dawn" episode.|
|Season Four||August 8, 2006||13||This two disc boxset contains the final 13 episodes ("Isla de las Chupacabras" through "Legacy of Laughter"). Bonus features include alternate endings and deleted scenes. For this release, Cartoon Network abandoned their usual digipak packaging design in favor of a more traditional amaray style keep case. During the main menu, underwater sound effects are used.|
- "Sealab 2021 Episode Guide". TV.com. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
- "C&C - Sealab 2021 - "Legacy of Laughter" [4/24]". Toon Zone. April 24, 2005. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
- Holman, Curt and Kuldell, Heather. "Midnight Munchies with [Adult Swim]" (2005-03-09) Access: 2009-12-29. Quote = "Do the original creators of Birdman or Sealab ever come up to you and say, 'What the hell did you do to my character?' Crofford: Actually, yes. Ouweleen: Yes, they're mad about it."
- "Predictability is a Disease: Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, Sealab 2021". 2003-03-13. Retrieved 2007-03-24.
- "SCI FI Weekly: Review of Sealab 2021 Season-Three DVD". 2005-11-21. Archived from the original on 2007-01-26. Retrieved 2007-03-08.
- "Top 100 Animated Series - IGN.com". IGN.
- Fowler, Matt (15 July 2013). "The Top 25 Animated Series for Adults From caped crusaders to web-slingers to danger zones, here are the best animated shows to enjoy as a grown up". IGN. Retrieved 23 July 2013.