Fox is always ready to add another member to its Sunday night animation troupe, and this fall's addition is Allen Gregory. The new show from movie comedian Jonah Hill encompasses some touchy issues, but can it meet or beat the other animated shows on broadcast or cable? Read on to find out.
Allen Gregory DeLongpre (Jonah Hill) is the "son" of two upwardly mobile socialites, with a vocabulary and ego to match. Due to the recession he's forced to attend public school, where his intelligence and precociousness face off against the (more) normal kids. His fey father Jeremy (French Stewart) is essentially a copy of the pint-sized character, the straight man to his life partner and foil Jeremy (Nat Faxon). The two also have an adopted but neglected Cambodian daughter, Julie.
Allen Gregory's cultured and sheltered upbringing make him an instant magnet for every rich snob stereotype in the book, a task that Hill's breathless and understated delivery compliments well. When he learns that his parents' fake party is a smokescreen for sending him to public school, instead of a congradulatory celebration for a Tony nomination, he throws an incredibly cultured hissy-fit. His upbringing doesn't serve him well at school, either: he's met with confusion by the more kind-hearted children and hostility by those with a less charitable outlook.
Not that he isn't asking for it. Allen Gregory expects everyone to treat him as their equal, if not more - he instructs his teacher not to talk back to him, uses his new friend as a verbal punching bag and generally jerks around the entire student body and faculty. This includes his adopted sister Julie, who's already stuck at the bottom of the social ladder. After years of being ignored by her uninterested parents, she alternately feels apathy and hatred for Allen Gregory.
When Allen Gregory brings a sushi sampler and white wine in for lunch, he's sent to the principal's office. There he immediately and inexplicably falls in love with the 60+ year old, who (thank God) doesn't reciprocate. The rest of the episode is spent in an awkward love parody, interspersed with Julie's pathetic situational disinterest and the DeLongpre's relationship woes.
Allen Gregory made headlines as an animated Will and Grace for the South Park generation. Unfortunately, the pilot demonstrates neither the cultural significance of the former nor the comedic value of the latter. Allen Gregory is a show with nothing to say, and nothing funny with which to say it. Despite considerable comedic talent in the production and voice department, there simply isn't any fun to be had.
You'd expect a show about two gay men raising two children to press buttons at the very least, but no: all the comedy (such as it is) comes from other characters' reactions to Allen Gregory's demanding and demeaning behavior. There aren't even any gross-out laughs that take advantage of the animated format - you could basically do this show live-action with any talented ten-year-old in the starring role. As an animated wild child, Jonah Hill's Gregory isn't as entertaining as Bart Simpson, as shocking as Eric Cartman or as random as Stewie Griffin. He's just the receptacle for every snobby rich character you've seen in a C-grade movie, shrunk down into a three-foot frame.
If there's a highlight to the episode, it's Joy Osmanski's portrayal of the ever-neglected Julie. The character is sharp and even a little sympathetic, in a vicious sort of way. It's unfortunate that sh'es surrounded by characters that are annoying, or worse, uninteresting. There's very little for any of them to do - with the exception of Jeremy as a closeted straight man, there was hardly a new idea to be had.
I'm normally somewhat forgiving of pilots, considering that it takes a while for any show to find its feet. But with Allen Gregory, it's hard to imagine things getting any better. Family Guy has been stuck in a comedic rut for years (see American Dad for a fresher alternative) and The Simpsons keeps on going like an animated Tithonus, but both of these offer more laughs than Allen Gregory.
There's simply too much good animated comedy out there, especially on cable, to recommend this show. For shocks you can watch South Park, for heart you can watch Futurama, and for intelligent and consistent laughs, I heartily recommend Archer. Stay away from Allen Gregory - there's just not enough humor here to be worth your time.
Allen Gregory airs Sunday nights at 8:30 PM on Fox.
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