Life's a Zoo.tv: Volume 1 (2008)
By: Paul Ryan on December 17, 2009  | 
DVD
SBS DVD (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 179 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Alex Gorelick
Starring: Kurt Firla, Mike Rowland, Stephanie Jung, Bridget Ogundipe
Screenplay: Adam Shaheen, Andrew Horne
Country: Canada
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Seven assorted animals have been bundled into a mansion in deepest, darkest Saskatchewan as part of a reality show where they must complete a variety of ridiculous challenges for our viewing pleasure. The prize is the fancy mansion (and hopefully fame), but if they lose, they don't just get evicted, they get EXTINCTED!

Our contestants in Life's a Zoo.tv are:

Jake: A selfish, slovenly, homophobic pig, whose closest companion is his blow-up doll, whom he has named Nina.

Ray: An amiable monkey, perpetually stupid or stoned, or both.

Chi Chi: A gentle Chinese panda who is a firm believer in the power of karma…and binge eating.

Morreski: An aging, gregarious, vodka-fuelled, Fez-domed, Ukrainian bear. He's an affable chap. Just don't fuck with his mother…

Dr. D: A bling-heavy, street-talking penguin. He's not a real doctor, and its unclear whether or not the "D" stands for douchebag, though it should.

Minou: A bitchy Jamaican-accented panther, whose mean streak masks severe body image issues.

Rico: A gay gator with boundless flamboyance, though give him a skerrick of power and he totally loses his shit.

Our host for the proceedings is Claude, a sardonic vulture (appropriately), who has been divorced many times, and clearly wants to have a better gig than this.

Similar in premise to the late, lamented Drawn Together, but distinctive enough to stand on its own, Life's a Zoo.tv is very funny, very dirty stuff. There's pig-on-papaya action, bulimic felines, panda-vs-penguin rap battles, and plenty more besides. Each episode is punctuated by a music video from a different Canadian indie act. Woven into the middle of each installment, the songs range from fairly good to a bit crap, but it's a neat way of getting exposure for the bands. The stop-motion animation (by veterans of Celebrity Deathmatch) is excellent, with expressive character design and amusingly seedy settings. If you missed its recent run on SBS One (who also coproduced the show) then, this DVD release is a good opportunity to catch up.

However, it has to be noted that there are some problems with this release, the kind of which should have been picked up in production. Of the seven episodes featured, two listed on the cover slick and menu ("It's Not Easy Being Chi" and "Teddy Bears Picnic") are actually missing from the disc. Instead, two other episodes ("Scared Shirtless" and "Self Helpless") have been included, but aren't listed. On top of this, five of the seven episodes don't correspond to the menu selections, so – for example - when you pick "Rayland", you actually get "Live and Let Diet", and vice versa! The bonus features included on the disc mostly relate to episodes from later in the run.
Video
Though it's labeled as 16x9 on the rear slick, video for Life's a Zoo.tv is in ye olde 4x3, which does appear to be the original aspect ratio. There's the familiar haze of an NTSC-to-PAL conversion, but it actually suits the grimy feel of the show. Otherwise, there's little to complain about.
Audio
Similarly, the 2.0 Dolby audio is serviceable. The musical segments have some more noticeable oomph compared to the rest of the show, but there's little here to really test your speakers to their full capability.
Extra Features
As mentioned earlier, the bonus stuff here is related to later episodes of the show, exemplified by the animatic with commentary, which comes from episode 19 ("Chubby Chasers"), and is full of spoilers for episodes as yet unseen on DVD. Featuring creators Adam Shaheen and Andrew Horne, with Mike Rowland (the voice of Ray, more or less in character throughout), you get an animatic version of the episode, side-by-side with the finished product. The commentary itself is still interesting and amusing, but it doesn't belong on this set. Next comes some stop-motion time-lapse footage, which is a brief look at how a single scene involving Ray is put together, followed by the finished product. which again, appears to come from a later episode. Still interesting to see how this kind of thing is done though. Two music videos finish things off. The first, "Totally Morreski" sees our resident drunken bear doing a gangsta rap with the aid of Dr D on the decks, while "You Said You Loved Me" is an intentionally drippy acoustic love ballad by Ray.

On yet another authoring note, these extra features all play as one sequence, as there isn't a selectable menu for the bonus material. Ergo, if there's a particular feature you're after, you have to chapter-skip through the animatic to get to it. Seriously, did Ray or Morreski have a hand in putting this disc together?
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Good, filthy fun, this first batch of episodes from Life's a Zoo.tv bodes well for future installments. Video and audio are generally fine, but the DVD itself has some odd authoring issues and extras that aren't relevant to this season. And remember, produce is for eating, not fuc-[ZZZZZZBEEEEEEEPPPPPP……].

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