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Animated series Animals (2016-current, Season 1 is now on Showmax) is what happens when you jumble human and animal experiences in a kaleidoscope of ideas to form crazy, wonderful patterns. But make no mistake: this comedy series isn’t for kids – it’s seriously over-18s-only as it examines the perils of modern urban life, as seen through the eyes of inner-city creatures from rats, cats and pigeons to flies and algae. The characters display a gleefully unpredictable blend of animal and human behaviour – and animals’ lack of inhibition – as they muddle through their days.
“These pigeons and rats are housed by concrete buildings and phone poles and wires. It’s interesting to think about what these animals are dealing with, living in the most man-made place on Earth,” says Animals. co-creator Mike Luciano. Fellow series creator Phil Matarese adds, “We think the world revolves around us, and maybe it doesn’t. We share this planet with lots of different things. I can’t just be involved in myself. It feels good sometimes to share your existence with other things, a dog that you adopt or something like that.”
Seeing our world through animal eyes allows us to see some seemingly familiar experiences in a different light, giving us new insight into our animal pals and ourselves…
For the birds
In episode 2, a lonely male pigeon who wants nothing more than to be “a mommy” tries to hatch out a golf ball (in pigeon talk, “a white-guy white ball”) that’s landed in in the ashtray that he’s using as his nest. Convinced he’s having a chick, the proud daddy pigeon carries his “egg” around – in a handy plastic grocery packet. Meanwhile around him, his fellow pigeons are trying to mentor their young as they try to fly, while sounding petty much identical to exhausted, pushy and competitive moms and dads on sports fields everywhere. Keep your eye on the background in this episode, because there is a locker-room moment that will seem awfully familiar to anyone who’s ever wondered why old guys are so eager to let it all hang out after their shower. Watch now »
The politics of the dog park are explored in episode 4 when a reluctant Papillion is dropped off in the fenced-off park which, it rapidly becomes clear, is like a prison yard for dogs, complete with catcalling and harassment from the more experienced mutts. The dogs are seen taking part in typical prison activities like gambling and, in the case of the heavier-boned dogs like bulldogs and mastiffs, working out. The way that the different breeds fall into different prison stereotypes is put to great use. And yes, it’s the white (supremacist) dog who asks the Papillion if he’s a “pure bred” – before flashing him a swastika tattoo. Woof! And stay tuned for the weird and adorable little Shawshank Redemption-style (1994) live-action doggy moment at the end. Watch now »
Out of sight of human beings, the rats in New York’s sewers get a little more animalistic and a little less human in episode 5. But a tale of hiding your naughty parts becomes a story about art, fashion and exploitation when one rat makes his friend a pair of shorts from a bubblegum wrapper to help him to hide the inappropriate physical reaction he has every time he talks to his crush, only to have it snowball into a fashion revolution. Later, outfits include fantastically recognisable elements from common street trash, including a vest that has the Greek key border from common New York disposable coffee cups and pants made from multi-coloured sweet wrappers. PS: prepare for a rat version of artist Marina Abramović performing The Artist Is Present and a Polaroid with rat photographer Terry Richardson. Watch now »
Nuts about squirrels
In episode 8, two young squirrels who’re home alone re-enact the disaster-at-sea movie The Poseidon Adventure (1972) spliced with a haunted house horror movie. The tree that they call home is struck by lightning and falls over, trapping all sorts of different animals inside it as they try to make their way to “the roof” of the tree. The same episode also explores the relationship between a snake at a pet shop and the feeder mouse who’s just been dumped into her tank – which gets framed as a combination between an unexpected guest arriving without notice when you haven’t tidied your house and the world’s most awkward dinner party, in which the guest and host are both aware that the guest is on the menu… with a side order of sexual perversion. Watch now »
HBO’s Animals really does offer something for everyone … as long as you’re over 18!
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