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Review: Allen Gregory: Season One

The show seems to exist only to answer the question, “How many unfunny, soulless assholes can be crammed into a half-hour cartoon?”

Allen Gregory: Season One
Photo: Fox

Fox’s Allen Gregory, the network’s latest edition to its generally uneven Animation Domination lineup, seems to exist only to answer the question, “How many unfunny, soulless assholes can be crammed into a half-hour cartoon?” Be it that the series stems from the mind of Jonah Hill, a typically welcomed presence in either physical or animated form (his key work in Megamind, for example, helped keep the otherwise shaky third act of the film on par with its first), one could hope that Allen Gregory might salvage the post-Simpsons wasteland that occupies Fox’s Sunday-night schedule. That hope dwindles quickly, however, as Allen Gregory’s cast of ugly, mean-spirited characters rapidly populate the screen, apparently existing only to instruct uneducated viewers on how to go about insulting innocent bystanders in an utterly pretentious fashion.

Sudden, unavoidable economic issues have been the jumping-off point for comedies of late, and as such, Allen Gregory’s central plot bares a slight resemblance to that of CBS’s middling riches-to-rags tale 2 Broke Girls. Once a wealthy, home-schooled, socially arrogant seven-year-old, Allen Gregory De Longpre is forced in the wake of the recession to attend public elementary school by his conceited, flamboyantly gay father, Richard (French Stewart), and his meek “life-partner,” Jeremy (Nat Faxon)—who, as revealed late in the premiere, is actually “straight as an arrow.” What results is one of the most unlikable pilots I’ve seen all year, wall to wall with one-dimensional characters who act only for their own personal benefit, and in a manner that yields little to no laughter (see South Park’s Eric Cartman, Futurama’s Bender, or Venture Bros.’s Rusty Venture for modern examples of successful variations on this type of animated character). Hill’s Allen Gregory, in fact, is scarcely a character at all, but rather a tiny, callous quip machine who steamrolls through each scene, taking no prisoners as he projectile vomits unsolicited insults at anyone nearby, including his poor, obviously entrapped stepfather and miserable, adopted Cambodian sister, Julie (Joy Osmanski), who simultaneously loathes—yet ridiculously feels sorry for—Allen Gregory’s faulty, egomaniacal methods of dealing with the unfamiliar surroundings that confront him at Feldstein Elementary (commonplace bullies, uptight teachers, and the like.)

The pilot’s most detracting moment arrives when, after inappropriately cracking open a bottle of Pinot Grigio in the school’s cafeteria to accompany his sushi lunch, Allen Gregory is summoned by Feldstein’s tyrannical Principal Judith Gottlieb (Renée Taylor). Upon laying his eyes on the elderly, overweight, spider-veined Gottlieb, Allen Gregory relishes in an overlong fantasy sequence that essentially involves everything but the two of them having TV-14 ‘toon intercourse on screen (thankfully, a motel room curtain is closed before we’re exposed to such heinousness, though coital sounds are briefly heard). After Principal Gottlieb rebuffs Allen Gregory’s advances, he reacts in horror by defecating in his pants and fleeing her office, running in distress throughout the hallways in a truly unsatisfying moment of comeuppance.

It’s perplexing how the writers came to the conclusion that any of this would be funny. It’s one thing to be an offensive show from top to bottom, constantly degrading various cultural and societal sects, but there must be some sort of intelligence, efficiency, message, and, most importantly, underlying heart to effectively relay this brand of sour-grapes comedy. Allen Gregory possesses none of these things, and is thus destined to assist the just-won’t-die Cleveland Show and various half-assed Family Guy episodes in further polluting Fox’s creatively barren end-of-the-week programming block. For what it’s worth, Hill’s performance as Allen Gregory’s titular character is the only noteworthy aspect of an otherwise shoddy show. The dude knows how to nail a punchline—even a lame one.

Cast: Jonah Hill, French Stewart, Nat Faxon, Christina Puccelli, Joy Osmanski, Renée Taylor, Leslie Mann Network: Fox, Sundays @ 8:30 p.m.

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