Smiling Friends Season One review

Luis Rios

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Courtesy of Adult Swim

“Smiling Friends”, created by Zach Hadel and Michael Cusack, season one poster.

In the vast spectrum of adult animation, many shows use gross-out and edgy humor that takes influence from “South Park” or become narratively chaotic which is reminiscent of “Aqua Teen Hunger Force (ATHF)”. “Smiling Friends” is a breath of fresh air that stands out among its peers for its presentation of the entertainingly insane in both story and animation.  

Created by Michael Cusack and Zach Hadel, the pilot of “Smiling Friends” released on April 1, 2020 under Adult Swim. Years passed and on Jan. 24, 2022, six more episodes premiered consecutively with the final one coming out on the 31st. Each episode runs less than 15 minutes, and the show doesn’t waste time with the insanity.  

The show mainly revolves around two friends named Charlie Dompler (Hadel) and Pim (Cusack) who work for the company where their job is to make people’s frowns go upside down. While most of the show does utilize premises such as helping someone with their love life or rebranding a celebrity after they’ve been blacklisted, the show isn’t afraid to just do what it wants or tackle any genre such as fantasy and horror.  

“Smiling Friends” completely differentiates itself from its peers due to its knowledge of the internet. Cusack and Hadel both have experience in YouTube and have had a large presence in internet animation for years. From watching the pilot, the show juggles between the essence of awkward and dark comedy in perfect fashion, a type of style very synonymous with Hadel’s psychicpebbles channel. The animation is static yet fluid which means there’s never a dull moment and can even catch the viewer off guard.  

Then the rest of the episodes come out and elevate the level of quality to another notch. In animation, they start implementing the occasional 3D animation and even Claymation mixed in with 2D. In writing, the jokes are at a constant pace from random humor to fun jabs to the entertainment industry with multiple references and cameos of internet personalities from channels like RedLetterMedia and David Firth 

When discussing its content, the show is crude and is often brutally violent, which does meet everyone’s taste. Coupled with an absurd comedy style, Smiling Friends is more for fans of other Adult Swim shows like “The Eric Andre Show” or “ATHF”.  

Even with its niche nature, “Smiling Friends” is something truly special. It’s a triumph for independent animators and wears its internet roots proudly. It’s a real treat when a show can find its footing on the first season, and the show not only walks but takes strides.   

When “Smiling Friends” releases on HBO Max in Feb. 9, know that this is an adult cartoon that deserves its attention.    

4 out 5 Stars 

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