I don’t drink cocktails often, but when I do it’s a Tom Collins. There are different ways to prepare it, but the main, best way is: gin, soda water, sugar and lime juice. Usually served with a maraschino cherry. It’s a gentleman’s drink. If I’m in a scenario where I frequent the same cocktail lounge enough to be recognized by the bartender, I’ll usually just show up and say, in a Kennedy-esque accent, “Fix me a Tom Collins, just the way i like it.”
I got into it after watching an episode of the now defunct Adult Swim cartoon Sealab 2021, which was basically a comedy sequel to the classic 1972 Hanna-Barbera cartoon Sealab 2020. In this version, it’s all the same characters, except they’ve all gone slightly insane after spending too much time in their laboratory at the bottom of the sea, isolated from the real world.
Sealab 2021 pretty much repurposed images and scenes from the original, straight-forward “adventure” series that was Sealab 2020. It was basically a re-mix of the original, characteristically stilted 70’s style animation, with crazy new plotlines inserted a la What’s Up, Tiger Lily? The writers placed new wacky dialogue in the old characters’ mouths, based on what the characters seemed to be doing in the original scene. The freshness, the randomness of the humor owed in large part to the “writing prompts” that were those select 70’s Hanna-Barbera scenes. They forced themselves to work within that framework, and it paid off.
Well, at least that’s how it started. Eventually the animators started taking more liberties and creating their own material from scratch. New characters showed up. The training wheels were cast aside. From that point on, the show got progressively weirder and weirder. I always preferred the more “writing prompty” Hanna-Barbera based material, but the weirder original stuff had its own charm too.
Do you remember it? This show came out at the same time as the Aqua Teen Hunger Force. This was in Adult Swim’s infancy, when they were still broadcasting micro-shows that were only about 10 minutes long. These cartoons would sometimes play back-to-back, filling up the better part of a full 30 minute time slot. Aqua Teen, of course, went on to have a very long and successful run. Even a feature film. It’s still on the air, I believe.
Sealab 2021 could have easily held its own with Aqua Teen, could still be on the air to this date, except tragedy struck fairly early on. It was a great cartoon right up until its vocally charismatic star Harry Goz, who played the even unpredictable Captain Murphy, tragically died. They tried to replace him with another character (voiced by his real-life brother), but it never really worked, as Captain Murphy was the reason to watch in the first place.
Anyway, there was an episode, “Red Dawn,” that spoofed the cold war movies of the 60’s, mainly Dr. Strangelove and Failsafe. This was right around the time the show started really branching away from the 1970’s source material. In this episode, the characters interacted with a version of John F. Kennedy, who was trying to help prevent a weird communist alternative version of Sealab from initiating a nuclear holocaust.
I’ve always been a major fan of John F. Kennedy’s charisma, and I found the Sealab version of him so entertaining. With his stuttering, high-pitched New England accent he kept ordering Tom Collinses for himself and his brother, regardless of the grim scenario unfolding around him. I tried and failed to find a convenient video clip on Youtube. Or even a photo of Sealab JFK. But trust me. If you’re a fan of Adult Swim’s brand of comedy, or Aqua Teen Hunger Force or the great Space Ghost Coast to Coast (another gone but not forgotten classic), Sealab 2021 is definitely worth a look.
It’s an interesting alternative to the irreverent, often insensitive adult cartoons of the present. Sealab 2021 didn’t rely on the inappropriate or the sensational. It was funny for weird, completely random reasons. It was unique.
So whenever I order a Tom Collins, I always think of Sealab 2021 as I take my first sip. It takes me right back to the early 2000’s. Rest in peace, Sealab.
Kinda hard to sum the show up in just one quick clip, but here’s a taste of Sealab 2021’s random, wacky vibe:
This post was based on the following Daily Post writing prompt: Captain Picard was into Earl Grey tea; mention the Dude and we think: White Russians. What’s your signature beverage — and how did it achieve that status?