NEW YORK – It’s only 15 minutes long – but consider it heavily concentrated comedy. Watch the 15-minute premiere of “Robot Chicken,” Cartoon Network’s newest “Adult Swim” entry, and I all but guarantee you’ll laugh harder, and more often, than at any current prime-time sitcom twice its length.

“Robot Chicken” is the brainchild of actor Seth Green (Dr. Evil’s son in the “Austin Powers” movies) and Internet stop-motion short filmmaker Matthew Senreich, and an outgrowth of their early, Sony-funded experiments with Internet animation.

The concept, fleshed out by head writers Doug Goldstein and Tom Root, is as weird as it is original: Imagine an “SCTV” sketch series poking fun at TV and film, but with animated action pictures and puppet likenesses playing all the parts.

The first “Robot Chicken,” co-created and co-directed by Green and Senreich, premieres Sunday night at 11:30 on Cartoon Network.

Viewers may want to take a toy collector’s approach to this show, by taping every one and trading with friends. This show’s a keeper – and definitely rewards repeated viewing, because some of the skits go by with such blinding speed, they’re almost subliminal.

A puppet President doing a commercial that says, “I’m George W. Bush, and I approved this message: Tacos rule!” – five seconds.

The scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz,” getting stabbed with a shiv in prison and bleeding straw – eight seconds. And not until I rewound the tape did I notice the skit’s title, which justified the conceit: “Oz.”

There are longer productions, too, ranging from a “very special episode” of “Transformers,” which turns out to be a medical public service announcement starring Optimus Prime, to a delightfully accurate parody of the classic “This is your brain on drugs” PSA spot, in which Rachael Leigh Cook trashes her apartment with a cast-iron frying pan.

In “Robot Chicken,” the real Cook provides the voice of her stop-animated puppet counterpart (cheaply superimposed cartoon mouths match up to the recorded dialogue), who continues her rampage outside the apartment – for a very long, very funny drug-induced temper tantrum. It may be Cook’s career-high performance, though that’s not much of a compliment.

Other celebrity voices adding to the fun in Sunday’s premiere include Macaulay Culkin, Seth Macfarlane, and lots of voices by Green.

“Robot Chicken” is too much fun to miss.

Action figures sold separately.


3 1/2 stars

Sunday night at 11:30 p.m. EST

Cartoon Network

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