I'm Keith, an aging hard rock and metal fanboy, movie buff, and all around retro pop culture nerd from the Garden State.
Tubi Lets Their Freak Flag Fly!
It's been a long time coming, but Gilbert Shelton's classic '60s underground comics characters, The Freak Brothers, have finally leapt off the printed page and onto the screen in an adult animated series on the Tubi streaming service. The Freak Brothers stars Woody Harrelson, John Goodman, and Pete Davidson as Freewheelin' Franklin, Fat Freddy, and Phineas Freak, respectively, with Tiffany Haddish as Fat Freddy's beloved pet cat, Kitty.
I've been a fan of the Freak Brothers comic books since long before I was old enough to purchase them legally. I'm such a fan boy that I have been using "Fat Freddy" and/or "Fat Freddy's Cat" as a screen name on various online forums and web sites (including this one) for many years. So yeah, I've been waiting for this cartoon for a LONG time!
The Brothers have had brushes with Hollywood in the past—a Freak Brothers movie was reported as being "in development" on the back cover of a 1987 comic book, but nothing came of it. In the early 2000s, plans for a Claymation animated film of the classic '70s comic Grass Roots only resulted in a few scraps of test footage before the project was abandoned.
Good things come to those who wait, though, and at long last, the Freaks have been brought to animated life thanks to the fine folks at the Starburns Industries cartoon studio, producers of the Adult Swim hit Rick & Morty. When production on Freak Brothers commenced in 2018, rumors swirled that they would eventually land at Adult Swim or Netflix, before the free-with-ads Tubi streaming service officially announced that they would be adding the Freaks to their growing stable of original content in November 2021. So was it worth the wait?
Red Band Trailer (warning: salty language)
As of this writing, only the first two episodes were available for streaming on Tubi (new ones will be added every Sunday). "Pilot" and "Squatter's Rights" essentially serve as the "origin story" for the Freaks and set up the action to come in future episodes.
"Pilot" opens in 1969 San Francisco, where the three brothers, always on the search for "the ultimate high," seek out an Indian swami who has come up with a weed additive that, in Phineas' words, will "blow your mind out your eye holes." They track down the guru at the Woodstock festival, and when they smoke a joint of his special blend, they're put to sleep for fifty years, Rip Van Winkle style.
Re-awakening in 2020, the Freaks find that their basement pad has a freshly renovated house on top of it, owned by the hopelessly square, "woke" Switzer family (Phil LaMarr and Andrea Savage), and their old "Basura Vista" neighborhood has been gentrified and taken over by investment bankers and cell phone clutching hipsters. They're terrified of this brave new world at first, but the brothers soon learn that the 21st century isn't all bad, because weed is now legal in Frisco. This leads to a big musical number in a marijuana dispensary, which ends with the boys getting tasered into submission by the cops and hauled off to jail.
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In "Squatters Rights," the Switzers take the Freaks to court to evict them from their basement, while Phineas attempts to engineer an antidote to the Swami's special "weed sauce," in the hopes of getting them back to 1969. To complete the experiment, the Brothers need a sample of the exact same strain of weed they smoked back in the day, and luckily, one just happens to be growing out of Fat Freddy's ass. (Don't ask.)
I don't want to say much more because it'll spoil it, so let's just say that both episodes are loaded with low-brow, tasteless, foul mouthed humor, which is pretty much exactly what I wanted to see!
"Kentucky Fried Freaks" Mini-Episode #1
Summing It Up
The Brothers are portrayed pretty much as they appeared in the comics—Franklin is the slow talking sex maniac, Freddy is the childlike food addict, and Phineas is the high strung pseudo-intellectual. The voice actors are perfectly cast; all three of the bro's sound exactly the way I imagined they would when I read their comics all those years ago.
Fat Freddy's Cat, on the other hand, has had some radical restructuring. In the comics, the Cat was clearly a dude (his nut sack was prominently featured every time he was viewed from the rear), but Kitty is now a "she." Kitty was generally smarter than the Freaks in Shelton's comics, always looking down on them with typical feline disdain, and usually remained behind in their apartment whenever the Brothers tripped off on another adventure, where he waged an ongoing war against the local cockroach population.
In the cartoon, however, Kitty is an active participant in all of the Brothers' shenanigans, and enjoys smokin' just as much as they do. I wasn't sure if I liked this "re-imagined" Kitty at first, but the writers gave Haddish most of the good lines, so she won me over by the end of the two initial episodes.
"Are You Ready For An Edible?" Mini-Episode #2
The eight-episode first season of Freak Brothers left me with the munchies for more. Fortunately, enough viewers supported this 'toon to justify a second season, which was announced in Spring 2022. I would love to see appearances by some other characters from the comics, like Fat Freddy's Uncle Artie (whose wife turned him into a parakeet with witchcraft), Dealer McDope, or Tricky Prickears ("The blind, deaf cop!"). It would be cool to see adaptations of classic Freak epics like the Mexican Odyssey or The Idiots Abroad, too. The sky is the limit.
In short, I did not feel like I'd been "burned" by The Freak Brothers. Tune in, turn on, drop out, and enjoy. Clang! Honk! Tweet!
© 2021 Keith Abt