I’m sure Mike Tyson is the last person that many expected to appear on Adult Swim in any capacity, especially in an animated Hanna-Barbera-style mystery show. And yet, when he’s running through the desert of Cormac McCarthy’s ranch attempting to lay the beatdown on La Chupacabra while being chased by his adopted Korean daughter, the Ghost of the Marquess of Queensberry, and a foul-mouthed pigeon, the question becomes why no one thought to bring this to series before.
Between high profile marriages and divorces, constant run-ins with the law, and being the former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Tyson was a celebrity of the highest order in his heyday in the 1970s and 80s, drawing as much attention for his conversion to Islam and his public image as for his brutal effectiveness in the ring. He’s been on a comeback streak ever since retiring from the world of boxing in 2005, with the documentary “Tyson” released in 2008, his one-man stage play directed by Spike Lee, and assorted ironic cameos in projects like “The Hangover” and “Franklin and Bash.”
Long story short, Tyson is still a celebrity, albeit for the completely different reason of his eccentricities and larger than life personality now being front and center, and both Adult Swim and Tyson himself are tapping into that personality with absolutely no shame in “Mike Tyson Mysteries.” And when I say no shame, I mean that infamous aspects of his life, from his love for pigeons to his lisp and even his bi-polar disorder, are recurring gags throughout the series, and the results are short, sweet, and crazy as hell.
The show is also an homage/parody of the Hanna-Barbera style mystery series like “Scooby Doo,” “Josie and The Pussucats,” or “Mr. T,” complete with the prerequisite group of misfits, including Yung Hee, Tyson’s adopted Korean daughter/Velma surrogate, the Ghost of the Marquess of Queensberry, a gentlemanly send-up of the obscure “Funky Phantom” character, and Pigeon, a foul-mouthed alcoholic man who was turned into a pigeon by his ex-wife. Tyson, clad in a blue hooded tracksuit that would make DMC blush, answers calls for help that he receives from his carrier pigeons.
As I mentioned before, the first episode involves the crew attempting to help author Cormac McCarthy (The Road, No Country for Old Men) finish his latest novel, and that’s the other half of the joke right there. The show’s humor comes from Tyson’s own dressing down of his eccentricities and his character’s overall cluelessness mixed with the mystery structure of Hanna-Barbera clashing with the gonzo archaic humor of contemporary animation, and the results are mercilessly funny at their best. Mike’s attempts to pronounce Chupacabra (Chipa-Karma) and his brief talk with the ghost of Trevor Berbick are funny just by themselves, but coupled with the rest of the mystery schtick it adds a sort of giddy energy to the proceedings.
The rest of the voice cast elevates their characters beyond their HB stock character status. Norm MacDonald does sardonic well as Pigeon and Rachel Ramras wrings brief pathos out of the Velma archetype as Yung Hee. The weak link to me is actually Jim Rash as the Marquess. He’s not given much to do other than be the straight man, but the show has some fun with his ghostly nature. This is only the first two episodes, so it’s hard to tell exactly where they’ll be going from here.
A show as madcap and deranged as “Mike Tyson Mysteries” is one that I didn’t know I needed in my life, but Mike Tyson beating up a chess-playing computer that’s being powered by Bobby Fisher’s brain and everything made sense. It works best in the quarter-hour bursts that it will be airing in, but Tyson and Adult Swim prove to be a perfect fit for one another. This show is self-deprecating and proud of it.
“Mike Tyson Mysteries” premiers on Adult Swim Monday, October 27th at 10:30 p.m.