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"Well, there's somethin' I been meaning to tell you,
Brad Neely's China, IL started as a 4-part series of 3-minute shorts that aired on Adult Swim in 2008, combining his long-running characters of The Professor Brothers (Frank and Steve) and Baby Cakes. In 2011, Neely was given a 6-episode first season that further expands the universe (and adds some unexpected celebrity voices like Dave Coulier and Hulk Hogan as The Dean). Tonally, the show is similar to other Adult Swim fare like Superjail, but with Brad Neely's trademark humor.
The series mostly follows the Professor Brothers, Frank and Steve Smith; their TA, Pony Merks; and perennial student/confidant/drinking buddy Mark "Baby" Cakes, as they try to survive day-to-day life at "the worst school in America". Stories revolve around them dealing with their students, the impossibly macho Dean, the Strawman Christian Mayor...oh, and gay ghosts, time-traveling ex-presidents, and a colossal, murderous baby. Hilarity Ensues.
- Aerith and Bob: The four main characters are Baby Cakes, Pony Merks, and...Frank and Steve Smith.
- Although it hasn't been mentioned in the show yet, the Super Deluxe shorts and the pilot episode reveal Baby Cakes' real name is Mark Cakes.
- Ambiguously Brown: Pony. She has to inform everyone that she's Mexican.
- Art Evolution: Well, yeah. The original shorts were just a series of still images with Neely providing voice-overs. The series is fully animated.
- Berserk Button: Frank seems to have quite a few. In fact, this seems to be his default reaction to most situations.
- Brother-Sister Incest: Barely avoided. Baby Cakes almost nails his hippie sister, Mattie.
- Butt Monkey: Frank.
- Camp Gay: Professor Harold, voiced by a gloriously hammy Jason Alexander
- Cloudcuckoolander: Baby Cakes, though somewhat less so than in the Super Deluxe shorts.
- Darkskinned Blonde: The Dean's wife
- Dropped a Bridget On Him: Crystal, according to Episode 4.
- Expecting Someone Taller: The Dean expected The Governor to be a giant dude, like himself. Turns out he's a miniature, Penguin like guy.
- Five-Man Band:
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Like the shorts that appeared on YouTube and Super Deluxe - this trope is practically a Brad Neely staple.
- Funny Background Event: See Freeze Frame Bonus.
- Future Imperfect: Apart from Pony, the history department of UCI is comically misinformed about their historical facts.
- Gainaxing: Pony's breasts bounce with considerable detail in the opening.
- Godwin's Law of Time Travel: In the first episode, Ronald Reagan and Steve travel back in time and completely change the course of man, including having Adolf Hitler circumcised and giving him a Jewish upbringing. When they return to the future, Hitler is leading a Jewish version of the Nazi party in overtaking the world.
- Large and In Charge: The Dean, and The Mayor.
- Large Ham: The Dean and the Mayor, though most of the cast counts in one way or another.
- Little Brother Instinct: When Steve gets shot during the Dean's List challenge, Frank goes from weak and whiny, to a Ramboesque asskicker.
- Levitating Lotus Position: Steve and Ronald Reagan do this after being in stopped time for the equivalent of 100 years.
- Mad Scientist: Prof. Leonard Cakes (Baby Cakes' father), and most of the "Super Science" department at UCI.
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Dream Reamer
- Power Walk: Baby Cakes, Frank, Steve, and Pony during the opening credits.
- Robot Me: The faculty resorts to building robot versions of themselves to avoid teaching the students. Which leads inevitably to...
- Screw Yourself: Steve asks who else is f--ing their robot and every hand goes up. But it ends badly when the robots become clingy, jealous, pony-killers.
- Shout-Out: To Hamlet, of all things. When executing a 90-year old mass-murdering giant, always remember: the traditional method is to pour acid into its ears.
- Something Something Leonard Bernstein: Baby Cakes can only get through "Should all acquaintances be forgot" before he devolves into literally singing "Blah Blah Blah".
- The Quisling: Frank, after the Mayor takes over the campus.
- Third Person Person: The Mayor.
- Refuge in Audacity
- Verbal Tic: Mayor like to end his sentences with amen, amen.
- Will They or Won't They?: There are a few hints of this between Steve and Pony, most notably her offering to marry him right then (and his never actually turning her down) when she finds out about the premarital sex ban when the Mayor takes over the school.
- And something went on between her and his robot double. From the sound of it, it wasn't impressive.