Watch New TBS Animated Series Tarantula Free On YouTube, Tattoos Extra

Echo Johnson tattoos bat wings on a fellow Tierra Chula resident in new animated series, Tarantula.
Echo Johnson tattoos bat wings on a fellow Tierra Chula resident in new animated series, Tarantula. TBS

The new TBS animated series Tarantula may have familiar names attached — including the Futurama animation studio, plus executive producers Danny McBride, Jody Hill and David Gordon Green (Vice Principals) — but Tarantula is a different and stranger experience than most new shows. And you can check it out for yourself right now: TBS has posted the first two episodes of Tarantula to YouTube.

Here’s the first episode, “Seesaw”:

Based on a web series by Carson Mell, director of Another Evil (streaming now on Shudder) and former writer for Silicon Valley, Tarantula follows unlicensed tattoo artist Echo Johnson and the other tenants of the Tierra Chula Resident Hotel, affectionately known as The Tarantula. To an outside observer, Echo is poor, nearly a vagrant, but his sage disposition and charisma illuminate him and his fellow misfits and castoffs, like if Mickey Rourke in Barfly wasn’t so fond of street fighting. Unlike all those shows featuring jobless-but-with-a-nice-apartment, ambiguously moneyed 20-somethings, Tarantula stars the precarious and poor. How to pay for the next beer or scrounge the next meal becomes the minute-to-minute tissue of a Tarantula episode.

This leads to the first quality that makes Tarantula unlike so many other shows: its oddball brand of compassion. Tarantula’s best moments work as simultaneous jokes and humanist vignettes, like when Echo wins the affection of a growling dog by tackling it and showering the pup with kisses instead of blows. “I’m full of love! I’m full of love for ya,” he says as the dog snaps at his face.

It may then sound incongruous or clashing to also report Tarantula’s flair for sci-fi and other genre touches. Though grounded — largely localized around a flophouse and its in-building bar The Brass Dragon — Tarantula also possesses a psychotronic and fantastical imagination. While every animated show has little hallucinogenic trip sequences these days (Rick and Morty episode “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy” is a memorable recent example), Tarantula’s entire second episode revolves around a field of giant mushrooms, where sleepers dream in omens and sci-fi psychedelia. One of Echo’s best friends at the Tarantula is Lucas Reed (voiced by Dan Bakkedahl, who elevates profanity to disgusting art on Veep), a bread truck driver and science fiction writer, currently working on his opus, placeholder title: “The Chronosexual Lovelog of King Hornus.”

As much as Tarantula is about the mundanities of life on society’s outskirts, it’s also about the worlds we build in our mind that elevate our animal lives into the transcendent. Tarantula uses one of the oldest methods of all: storytelling. Far beyond the anecdotal cutaways Family Guy made infamous, Tarantula indulges its characters’ fantasies, pulling us into the stories they tell themselves and others, each depositing new and exciting realities over and around the Tierra Chula. Tarantula’s writers are expert at colliding the humdrum and fanciful; sweet and grotesque; ennobling and disheartening (it’s also really funny).

Maybe just watch it for yourself. Here’s the second episode, “Mushroom Valley”:

Tarantula airs on TBS, beginning Monday, Dec. 4 at 10 p.m., with two episodes debuting subsequent Mondays. Or you can watch the whole series with your (or anyone’s) cable login information and the TBS app.

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