Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop Actually Makes Sense with a Laugh Track

Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop Actually Makes Sense with a Laugh Track
Cowboy Bebop's logo if it were a live-action 90s sitcom about nothing. (Screenshot: Smelford Dip, Fair Use)

Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop is a show that often feels at odds with itself as it haphazardly shifts between the various and disparate tones that defined the original anime it’s based on. Just when the series feels like it might have found a comfortable groove to settle into, it switches things up, and its characters are all left struggling to make sure that they still “fit” into the story.

Depending on the episode, Cowboy Bebop is a neo-noir, a western, a sci-fi space opera, and more, but the show’s themes never quite coalesce together in any significant way. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what kind of series Cowboy Bebop is trying or wants to be, but a short video edit that’s going around makes the strong case for reading it as a sitcom complete with a canned laugh track to accentuate its terrible jokes.

In “Callisto Soul,” Cowboy Bebop’s fourth episode, the promise of free, unlimited cheesy bread leads Spike and Jet to a diner where the pair have a decidedly unfunny conversation about how much of the meat in space is fake. While nothing about the scene would normally illicit laughter, Smelford Dip’s edit reimagines the space diner as Tom’s Restaurant, the haunt Seinfeld’s characters often found themselves hanging out at while having conversations about very little. “Cowboy Bebop x Seinfeld” isn’t the sort of crossover that makes much sense on paper, but it absolutely works here, which says something about Netflix’s adaptation.

More than the so-so ness of some of Cowboy Bebop’s writing, what often ends up making the show feel off are the uncomfortable pauses that linger between actors that don’t quite seem to be solid editing choices. Cowboy Bebop shouldn’t have the space for a laugh track to so seamlessly fit in, and yet Netflix’s does. That’s not to say that sitcom stylings can’t work within genre or that Netflix needed to wholly model itself after the anime, but the larger joke this video’s making — which is also a criticism — is the sort of thing Cowboy Bebop’s creative team should have seen coming from a mile away.

Cowboy Bebop is now streaming on Netflix.