Caught two episodes of Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken. It’s pretty uneven and for a show that’s less than 15 minutes, it still has sketches that can’t sustain their length (a sketch where a cybernetic Walt Disney wants to consume Elian Gonzalez seemed particularly directionless).
However, the abbreviated runtime allows you to see how unnecessary some set-ups are. One sketch from the first episode is X-Span, crossing TRL with C-Span with all the wonkiness of policy discussions and all the screaming and “woo!”-ing of celeb-obsessed teens. If it was a sketch on SNL and MAD-TV, you might have the announcement of “You’re watching X-Span” right up front to announce to a viewer right away “We’re crossing there two things - jokes to follow.” It’s done to make sure everybody is following along.
Instead, because Robot Chicken is cramming in material here, they just get right into it. A senator action figure talks for a little bit and a little window pops up of a teen praising the senator a la MTV. You’re in the joke right away, rather than being set up for it. Very nice. Right now, I read that they’re packing 20 sketches into what runs about 11 minutes plus change. However, I’d love to see them double the sketches. Ramp it up and cut out every extraneous detail possible. Make it a show you have to pause your TiVo to get every joke. The show already courts a geek audience with Cylons, Voltron and other artifacts of childhoods spent too much indoors. You don’t need to lead these people by the nose to get references. And if they don’t get one, they’re gonna look it up. Even if the sketches stayed uneven, the short ones will go by so fast, all viewers would remember is the hits. I really believe the Adult Swim audience would reward such a gambit.