The Aqua Teens had no mission, no reason for being. They were mascots without a restaurant, signifiers without any signified. At their core they were talking trash, parodies of commercial waste who actually became merchandisable characters in their own right. They represented a kind of dystopian future that had, by the turn of the millennium, become more and more plausible: a shabby suburban nightmare filled with boarded-up strip-malls and cheap franchise restaurants, covered in garish advertising for products that no longer exist. (Even at the height of the series’ popularity there was never a fast food tie-in, which is a good thing: the universe may not have survived the irony.) Aqua Teen Hunger Force was a show about nothing, but not like Seinfeld. It was about nothing in the same way as Waiting For Godot was about nothing: “nothing” as a kind of earnest hopelessness, an anticipation of meaning that seems forthcoming but which never actually arrives. They were cartoon characters seemingly designed to play to the worst stereotypes of stoned late-night dorm-room viewers—check it out, man, talking food!—also intended as a not-so-subtle critique of those same viewers. There was an edge to the show, a self-critique baked (pardon the pun) into the premise that belied its cult status. The very act of watching the show was itself a kind of insult, almost as if Willis and Maiellaro were daring their audience to laugh at the stupidest thing imaginable.