Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!; Saul of the Mole Men



11:45 p.m. Sundays
Cartoon Network

Saul of the Mole Men
Midnight Sundays
Cartoon Network

The Cartoon Network relaxes its animation-only bylaws to make room for two new series, both predominantly live action. In all honesty, "live action" is a pale description of the frantic and zany pace of each show and the raw energy packed into each 15-minute episode. Both series appropriately are part of Adult Swim, where biting satire competes with adolescent lunacy, often in the same show.

First up is the immodestly titled "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!" a blink-and-you'll-miss-it sketch comedy created, exec produced and starring Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. The self-congratulatory title suggests a degree of accomplishment that is far from evident in the premiere.

Granted, this is Adult Swim, a laboratory for experimental comedy where risk-taking is encouraged and celebrated. Even so, it's important to have a point of view to give the comedy shape and form. With "Tim and Eric," the skits seem aimless and the dialogue less impressive than the computer graphics and special effects.

Heidecker and Wareheim previously combined for the droll "Tom Goes to the Mayor," a combination of crude animation and perceptive social commentary.

Here, they settle for quick and inconsequential gags, like an extreme hacky sack competition. Even when they arrive at a promising concept, like a local newscast from gay co-anchors -- "the only married news team in the tricounty area" -- the premise turns out to be more clever than the execution.

Not so with "Saul of the Mole Men," a story within a story within a story.

Press material submitted with the first episode said exec producers Peter Girardi, Craig Lewis and Tom Stern were inspired by the work of Sid and Marty Krofft and the film "Planet of the Apes." Perhaps so, but there's also a lot of the campy "Mystery Science Theater 3000" to be found here as well.

The premiere shows the crew of a spaceship-like vehicle, only instead of soaring to the stars, it's boring its way to the Earth's core. Disaster strikes and the vehicle crashes into an underworld inhabited by Mole Men.

The only surviving crew member is well-meaning but clueless geologist Saul Malone (Josh Gardner, who also plays Johnny Tambourine, a British pop star inexplicably on board and protected by his sleep chamber, a character weirder than the Mole Men.)

Malone, the TV equivalent of newspaper comic strip hero Brewster Rockit: Space Guy, has a knack for doing the wrong thing, albeit unintentionally or unknowingly. Computer effects create a primitive world of stone and flames, but what really matters here is Gardner's performance as the goofy Saul and a script that is hilariously geopolitically incorrect.