Much like Adult Swim's Space Ghost Coast to Coast, the animation used stock footage from a 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoon, in this case the short-lived, environmentally themed Sealab 2020, along with original animation. While there was initial resistance from several of the original series' creators to the reuse of their characters, production moved forward on the series. Sealab 2021 was produced by 70/30 Productions, which eventually closed in January 2009.
Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, the creators and writers of Sealab 2021, came up with the idea for the show in 1995 while they were production assistants for Cartoon Network. They stumbled upon a tape of the show Sealab 2020, and wrote new dialog. Cartoon Network passed on the show because they did not believe it was funny. Five years after quitting Cartoon Network, the two went back to the original tape, this time making the characters do what they wanted. Cartoon Network bought the show, coincidentally around the same time that Adult Swim was created. The original "pitch pilot" is available on the Season 1 DVD as a special feature.
The show is set one year after the time frame of Sealab 2020. During this year, the crew's professionalism and morals have slowly degraded, causing the crew to spend more time goofing off in various ways rather than doing any serious work. None of the episodes share any connection or ongoing plot. As a result, continuity is frequently ignored; for instance, the entire installation is destroyed at the end of many episodes, and cast members are often killed in horrible ways, only to return in the following episode. Despite the show containing many references to the pop culture of the 1980s–2000s and appearing to be set in the year 2021, John F. Kennedy is President and Robert Kennedy is his Attorney General, suggesting that it is in fact still the early 1960s. (Episode 29, "Red Dawn"). The show also contains numerous subtle references to The South, e.g. the submarine "The Hunley" and the discussion of Dollywood.
After four seasons, the final episode aired on April 25, 2005.
Captain Hazel "Hank" Murphy – is the ostensible leader of the crew, though his qualifications, and even his grasp on reality, are questionable. He is generally found loitering on the bridge, neglecting his duties. Murphy spends his time participating in scams and juvenile antics and generally causing problems that the crew have to solve. The only episode which features Murphy acting responsibly throughout is "7211", which is a faithful reenactment of the original Sealab 2020 show. Generally, Murphy is incapable to the point of incompetence. On more than one occasion, it has been implied that Murphy has gone insane due to the amount of time he spent underwater. However, the crew either doesn't notice this or doesn't care and usually follow his orders, even when they will directly lead to the crews' deaths. Murphy is a practicing Alvian and has a deep seated fear of doppelgangers and flashlights, the latter a fear that there is no name for. After the death of voice actor Harry Goz, Murphy was written out of the show by having him leave Sealab to fight in the "Great Spice Wars". It is implied that Murphy is the leader of the Earth forces in this war, though the reasoning behind this or its effect on the war are never delved into. A recap montage of Murphy's moments were played in the final episode in memory of his voice actor.
Captain Bellerophon "Tornado" Shanks – is a retired football coach and health and hygiene teacher who lost his job for slapping (or throat punching) a student. He answered Sealab's help wanted ad and became the new captain, despite having no experience whatsoever. Shanks is from Texas and is the youngest of several brothers all named after characters in Greek mythology, and all of whom met their death on or around a bridge in Shanks's hometown. Dropping his southern accent late in the series, Shank's personality bears a resemblance to Captain Murphy, being voiced by Harry Goz's son. However, Shanks is much more self-aware than Murphy, openly commenting on the odd goings on aboard Sealab and even the fact that he is on a television program. Since Shanks has no experience or idea what he is doing, he goes along with whatever the rest of the crew suggests, usually with disastrous results.
Jodene Sparks – is the station's radio operator who is always seen sitting. Sparks mostly uses the radio for his own personal purposes, even going so far as to disconnect vital transmissions that interrupt him. He generally travels around in his office chair, either because he is crippled or simply because he's lazy. Sparks is a convict serving time at Sealab while still operating a blackmarket distillery and takes part in a wide variety of other illegal activities. He occasionally serves as a voice of reason to the crew, particularly to Murphy. However, he is just as often the catalyst of problems aboard Sealab, including Sealab's destruction. He's claustrophobic and a Malkin, the show's version of Wiccan. Sparks's quest for money has been in several plots; such as the murdering of the crew to collect on life insurance policies, the creation of Stimutacs to "make an assload of money", and his numerous underhand deals with Paddy O'Reilly and the various Daves. An early episode revealed that he acts as a criminal mastermind called "Overlord" with a hollowed out volcano base and an army of minions. Episode 46 reveals he enjoys hentai with themes of forced submission and humiliation. Rank: Commander
Debbie "White Debbie" DuPree – is a marine biologist, and one of only two adult females on the base. She is a blonde and is often the object of the sexual interest of the males on Sealab. She has an ongoing sexual relationship with Doctor Quinn. Debbie's mood swings are a constant issue to the crew, as she changes wildly from the sole voice of reason to a shrieking lunatic. Debbie picked up the "White Debbie" appellation at the behest of Doctor Quinn, who thought it was unfair that Debbie Love went by "Black Debbie" while Debbie Dupree was simply Debbie. Nevertheless, few of the crew actually call her that. Debbie and Quinn's relationship plays a role in several episodes and the ups and downs of it often affect the rest of the crew. Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Derek "Stormy" Waters – is a pretty boy lacking in intelligence or seemingly any qualifications to be working on a government research lab. Stormy's job is never clearly defined and he seems to act as a henchman or assistant to whomever he is nearest to. Stormy spends most of his time wandering around Sealab, doing whatever he wants. Most people refuse to work with Stormy, as he is generally more trouble than he is worth. Stormy has shown skill in the operation of the submersible Deep Diver, both as a pilot and gunner though he is just as irresponsible in those positions as anywhere else. The crew has been shown to dislike or mistreat Stormy on multiple occasions, such as putting a sign outside the mess hall saying "No Stormies" when they held a pizza party or forgetting that he was trapped outside of the closet with Murphy's dogs. Stormy is a proudly practicing Alvian, like Murphy. Of all characters, Stormy is the most different in the episode"7211" In the episode, he directs the rest of the crew effectively in the salvage of the damaged sub. He is allergic to shellfish. Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Dr. Quentin Q. Quinn – is the science officer. He is an African-American who is extremely intelligent, with an IQ of 260 and Ph.D.s in several scientific disciplines, which he is not shy about reminding the other characters. Quinn grew up in unbelievably over the top poverty and got to where he is through hard work, unlike the majority of the other characters. He is regarded as an uptight killjoy by most of the crew. Quinn is often the only responsible crew member and the sole voice of reason. This has caused the other crew to neglect their duties even further, as they believe "Quinn will handle it." Despite his intelligence, Quinn is extremely vain and prone to outbursts of anger when he is not appreciated. Quinn often attempts to prevent Murphy's questionable plans from being enacted, leading Murphy to distrust Quinn. However, Murphy is aware that he and the station completely depend on Quinn, going so far as to snake his vacation to ensure that he didn't leave the station. Quinn has an ongoing sexual relationship with Debbie Dupree. In the first episode, he revealed that he inhabits a robot body of his own design. Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Marco Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar Gabriel Garcia Marquez – is the station's engineer. He is very strong and muscular, unlike the rest of the crew. He speaks with a Spanish accent and often exclaims random things in Spanish, although not actually speaking the language. Quinn even remarks that his Spanish is terrible. His name comes from both the Spaniard epic 11th century poem "El Cantar del Mio Cid", which featured the character Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, and from the 1982 Literary Nobel Prize winner journalist and novelist Gabriel García Márquez. Marco's exact heritage is unknown, though he is fiercely not a Spaniard. Marco is prone to violence, both in the defense of the crew and against them. Marco often argues with Murphy about his methods and seems to be the only one Murphy actually listens to. Despite this, Murphy often calls Marco "mailbox head" and included a segment on his radio show where listeners could call in to tell him why they hated Marco. Marco gets along with most of the crew, especially Sparks and Quinn. Marco also interacts with the orphans on Sealab and has been shown to have a soft side. Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Hesh Hepplewhite – is the station's reactor operator and more often than not their whipping boy. Hesh has a habit of continually referring to himself in the third person.It was revealed that he is Jewish. Nasal-voiced, smart-mouthed, and whiny, Hesh is not well liked by most of the crew and thus works in the part of the station farthest away from them. He has no real understanding of how the reactor works and generally has to have guidance from Quinn when there is a problem. Hesh's own interactions with the machinery are generally useless, or actively destructive such as "The hammer game" which involves smashing the computers with a hammer. Hesh generally doesn't participate in the crews' activities unless he interrupts on the radio. Hesh performs the birthday song at Quinn's birthday and acts as Murphy's caddie. Hesh's safety is not a concern to any of the characters, as Murphy sent him into the reactor core to recover a ball. As a result of being isolated in the reactor, Hesh has developed odd tendencies, such as dressing as a woman on multiple occasions. Rank: Lieutenant
Debbie "Black Debbie" Allison Love – is both the only other adult female and the only black female on the station. She teaches school to the Sealab's orphans and is very proud of her race. She has a relationship with Marco at the beginning of the show and briefly dates Sparks and Tornado in the later seasons. In one episode, her name is displayed on a monitor as Debbie Allison; but in another her nameplate is shown as Debbie Love. She is a former Heisman trophy winner. Rank: Lieutenant
Dr. Ilad Virjay – is the station's official doctor and in-house surgeon, noted for his thick Indian accent and relatively normal personality. He graduated third in his class from The Medical College of Mescutabuti. He practices Manduism, the Sealab universe's version of Hinduism. Dr. Virjay is shown to be jealous of Dr. Quinn as the latter has multiple Ph.Ds and a higher IQ. Dr. Virjay delivers all his lines in a deadpan, whether informing crew members of medical issues or confronting an invisible monster shortly before his death. It is later revealed that he is also janitor for Sealab's restaurant section. Rank: Unknown
Dolphin Boy – is a little, chubby boy that speaks in dolphin noises. One of the orphans that inhabit Sealab for some reason, he is a member of Black Debbie's class. Dolphin boy often wanders around the station and as a result is often embroiled in whatever is going on. When translated, Dolphin Boy generally says inoffensive, naively childish statements, universally resulting in derision and hatred from the rest of the crew. He is the target of endless fat jokes, and is often killed for no reason whatsoever by the Sealab crew members. He is the persona non grata of Sealab. Rank: Lieutenant Jr. Grade
Sharko – is a half-human, half-shark freak of nature who is the result of Marco having sexual relations with a female shark. Rank: None
- Harry Goz - Captain Hazel "Hank" Murphy
- Michael Goz - Captain Bellerophon "Tornado" Shanks
- Bill Lobley - Jodene Sparks (Bill Lobley)
- Kate Miller - Debbie "White Debbie" DuPree
- Ellis Henican - Derek "Stormy" Waters
- Brett Butler - Dr. Quentin Q. Quinn
- Erik Estrada - Marco Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- mc chris - Hesh Hepplewhite
- Angela Gibbs - Debbie "Black Debbie" Allison Love
- Adam Reed - Dr. Ilad Virjay
- Matt Thompson - Sharko
Fifty-two 11-minute episodes of Sealab 2021 were produced, as opposed to only 16 (3 unaired) 22-minute episodes of the original Sealab 2020. Sealab 2021 is rated TV-14.
All four 13 episode seasons of the series were released on DVD between 2004 and 2006. All four seasons contain bonus features including deleted scenes and commentary.
- ↑ Holman,, Curt and Kuldell, Heather (2005-03-09). ""Midnight Munchies with Adult Swim". http://tampa.creativeloafing.com/gyrobase/Content?imageIndex=4&oid=oid%3A5217. Retrieved on 2009-12-29.
- ↑ "Predictability is a Disease: Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, Sealab 2021". 2003-03-13. http://www.morphizm.com/features/adult_mattandy.html. Retrieved on 2007-03-24.