Flash in the Pan: The Ingredients of "Too Many Cooks"
by Andrew Seroff — Unattached (ND '11)
March 05, 2017 – 21:19
One of the more recent instances of Adult Swim content breaking out into the mainstream is the 2014 short Too Many Cooks. Despite premiering in a 4 AM timeslot, the sitcom intro parody quickly became a viral hit online. As the success of television shows become more dependent on capturing the elusive praise of influencers, many would keen to reverse-engineer its winning qualities, but with a good understanding of Adult Swim programming, the recipe ends up being rather unsurprising. The comedic direction of the short starts to become apparent after what feels like a thirty second TV show intro continues, introducing an impossibly large cast. This simple premise is definitively aligned with the character of the Adult Swim block’s original animated shows, which employ regular use of implying, and then subverting the viewer’s expectations based on the perceived genre. As the short travels through multiple cliche TV show premises, it takes on an additional layer of genre expectations beyond that of the sitcom intro format, showing sequences and characters from each passing genre. Like the faux talk show of Space Ghost or the redubbing of Sealab 2021, this meta playfulness is the main ingredient of Too Many Cooks and is a tried-and-true staple of Adult Swim programming. The premise is slowly deconstructed as the character with the machete interrupts the progression of the opening credits, treating the viewer to an increasingly gory slasher sequence. This dramatic shift towards exaggerated and shocking content is another characteristic associated with Adult Swim programming, this time most commonly found in their original live action programs like Tim & Eric and The Eric Andre Show. These shows commonly employ vicious assaults on the viewer’s senses, using elements of surprise or graphic imagery to generate a shock reaction. Too Many Cooks employs this technique throughout the second act, further revealing the fingerprint left by Adult Swim’s influence on the short. Despite seeming like an aberration, Too Many Cooks has an easily recognizable formula that points to the most successful characteristics of Adult Swim original programs. Though the ingredients of the short are not as conceptually innovative as it may appear, the phenomenal breakout performance the short experienced is a testament to its execution, and its style, as well as a validation of the identity of Adult Swim itself.