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Joseph Petitti —

The Dilbert TV series is way better than it should be

Everyone's read Dilbert in the daily newspaper or seen it taped to a boss or professor's door, but few know about the animated TV series based on it that ran for 30 episodes in 1999-2000. I had the good fortune of stumbling across this cartoon recently, and it turned out to be way better than I expected, given the lack of acclaim I hear for it.

A Dilbert strip from 2011

Like the comic, the TV show focuses on the life of cubicle dweller Dilbert, and his generally lazy and incompetent coworkers. The comic concerns situations almost anyone who has held a white collar office job has dealt with, and is a great source of relatable corporate humor.

Usually when a family-friendly medium like a daily comic strip makes the jump to adult-oriented television the result is less than enjoyable. Dilbert creator Scott Adams (who is also a trained hypnotist and possibly insane) worked directly on the show, writing and producing several of the episodes.

It's a very freeing experience because doing the comic strip limits me to three (picture) panels with four lines or less of dialogue per issue, in the TV series, I have 21 minutes per episode to be funny.

Scott Adams

The result is an adult animated series that's actually really funny. The cast of characters are fun and have great chemistry together. The longer runtime of a TV show gives them more time to be fleshed out as characters. The voice acting is also pretty good, including the talents of Tom Kenny and Larry Miller.

It's goofy at times, but the humor really holds up, even 20 years later. It's even better if you've had a cubicle-centric engineering job, or an unbelievably dense boss. It's the ordinary everyday frustration stretched to absurdity that's so good.

It's also straight up weird at times. Like those early Spongebob episodes, it has those moments where it gets truly bizarre, like the episode where the office is terrorized by miniaturized past employees (who had been "downsized") and are now addicted to sniffing whiteboard markers.

The animation's about on par with other animated shows from this era, but it still looks great compared to sterile computer-generated garbage like Family Guy and American Dad.

It even has a bop of an opening theme, composed by Danny Elfman, for which it won a Primetime Emmy:

It's just a shame that it was cancelled after only two seasons, mainly because of mistakes the network made. In another timeline, Dilbert ended up becoming the next Simpsons. Although, maybe it's better that it ended while it was still good.