Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.

The Night In: Burgermaster's Combo #2 (Burgermaster, fries, and a milkshake) and Cartoon Network's Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1 .



Burgermaster Vs. Master Shake: Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1 Comes to Seattle

Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.

The Night In: Burgermaster's Combo #2 (Burgermaster, fries, and a milkshake) and Cartoon Network's Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1.

The Cuisine: Burgermaster is known to some Seattle natives as the local drive-in that doesn't make you get out of your car to get your food like some farmer, to others as beholders to some of the best Swedish pancakes in Seattle, and to still others as possibly the only restaurant in the world that thinks putting a mayonnaise on a pulled-pork sandwich without coleslaw is a good idea. Whichever camp you may fall into, chances are you've had plenty of time to form an opinion on the over-half-a-century-long legacy of The Burgermaster.

The Burgermaster with cheese is positively stacked with fixin's, including what felt like half an onion and a thick layer of lettuce. In some bites (particularly near the end), you're destined to get just a downer mouthful of bread and onion, but the wide buffer between the juicy meat and the bun makes it an artery-clogger that you could actually get a clean hold on without wrapping a full roll of paper towels around it.

Considering how much of a diet-crushing tank the burger is, Burgermaster's fries show a lot of restraint when it comes to grease and salt. Saying they're a healthy addition to the meal is pushing it, but they do provide some reprieve from the utterly brutish cheeseburger, especially when you consider the paper-disintegrating cardiac-doomsday devices doled out by other certain Seattle drive-ins.

For the shake, I went with strawberry. The drink's cartoon counterpart is allegedly pistachio-flavored, but A) that's open to interpretation, B) Burgermaster doesn't have a pistachio-flavored milkshake, and C) that sounds gross. What the shake lacked in thematic connection, it more than made up for with creamy delight and the errant bit of berry that shot into my mouth every two or three sips.

The Entertainment: Aqua Teen Hunger Force, long since one of the deranged crown jewels in Adult Swim's cartoon lineup, has recently managed to stun a fanbase that has been through two "series finale" fakeouts, a critically reviled live-action episode, and even an accusation of domestic terrorism.

Following the last season's 100th-episode celebration, Aqua Teen Hunger Force played along with its annual cancellation scare with a theme-song change (now composed by Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme), as well as an ambiguously permanent new title/branding nightmare in Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1. The premiere of AUPS1 also shook things up by supposedly taking the action into the streets of Seattle, but as of the season premiere, most of the revamp has taken place where it always has--a vacuum of black humor punctuated by comic death scenes and the odd alien invasion.

It seemed . . . ambitious, to put it lightly, to start the season of a show renowned for having the bare minimum of continuity with a 15-minute-long cliffhanger episode, but ATHF/AUPS1 is no stranger to either insane risks or out-and-out taunting of its audience. Just before the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie came out in 2007, it was announced that it would have its world-premiere broadcast on Cartoon Network--only to be shown on April 1 on mute, picture-in-picture, with the network's regular Adult Swim programming.

The show might seem obnoxious above all else at this point, but the heart of all the absurdity and snob-baiting are the familiar comedic triangle of the intelligent yet mostly powerless straight man, the arrogant loser, and the lovable idiot. Respectively, Frylock, Master Shake, and Meatwad embody a time-honored dynamic that echoes less-baffling comedies such as the Bluth Brothers of Arrested Development, Jim/Dwight/Michael of The Office, or even The Three Stooges. This crucial fundamental and a usually incessant stream of gags manage to keep the show's momentum steady while it plunges headfirst into its myriad of nonsense settings and a seemingly bottomless roster of secondary characters, who vary from a balloon dummy possessed by the soul of Adolf Hitler to a malevolent pile of used condoms shaped like a duck and brought to life by a magic New York Giants helmet.

The Pairing: Besides the criminally facile "BurgerMaster Shake" pun, the show and the burger joint seem to be two sides of the same coin when it comes to breaking convention. Burgermaster has stood fast in its few locations (even after Dick's, of all places, finally decided to branch out), never forsaking its drive-in roots but also not pandering to fickle retrophiles by torturing their waitstaff with rollerskates and horrific pastels. It's certainly not going to win awards for panache or experimentation anytime soon, but its quality burgers and fresh, chunky shakes have allowed the franchise to survive for over 50 years in the honorable, all-too-increasingly rare way: serving unpretentious food that tastes good.

On the other end of the unpopular spectrum (or the frowny rainbow, as I like to call it), Aqua Unit Hunger Team Patrol Force 1 isn't afraid to build its house on sand, offering every sliver of consistency with heaps of the surreal and non sequitur. The show has built no small part of its followers through meta-trickery and audience antagonism, utilizing an utterly devastated fourth wall to connect with repeat viewers in a certain way you just can't approach with most other shows. Many critics will accuse the show of being vacuous, asinine, or just plain boring in its relentless quest away from normalcy, but the fact is that Aqua . . . Whatever is still making noise in its eighth season after a feature-length movie and over a decade of being on-air.

You have to respect two institutions that seem to be going strong against any coherent expectation of success in trying times, no matter how many times either are called tacky, cheap, or low-rent. So if it's your bag, you should never have to pretend that it isn't fun to indulge in Burgermaster's greasy patties or Aqua's comic nihilism--no matter how much potheads love them.

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