Pilot has no wings

Last Sunday’s “Simpsons” episode, the Treehouse of Horror special, posited an Earth facing a shortage of “hilarium.” Unfortunately, the pilot episode of “Allen Gregory” which followed offered no respite.

The show follows the title character, a 7-year-old who we first see winning some sort of award, maybe a Tony. Then he opens his mouth, and it turns out he’s a dick.

A precocious, cultured jerkass — is this Stewie Griffin? The comparison has been made — even by the show itself, inexplicably, in a fake interview with the fictional character. But that’s only wishful thinking. People actually like Stewie, but Allen Gregory is not appealing at all.

Presumably, the point of the show is to serve as an outlet for the creative energy of “Moneyball” star Jonah Hill.

jonah hill allen gregory allen gregoryBut other than the amusing fact of Hill voicing a 7-year-old, there’s not much to carry this show, at least in the pilot. And the 7-year-old thing was only amusing through the end of the first commercial I saw for this show months ago. The actual jokes in the show are no more successful.

Other reviewers have been turned off by the main character, who doesn’t really earn the sympathy the show expects us to feel for him. Personally, I enjoyed the scenes without Allen Gregory more than the ones he appeared in.

allen gregory sketch1 allen gregoryThe other big problem I had was an inability to enjoy the cartoon visually. Hill says the creators sought to make Allen Gregory’s model as “adorable” as possible (above), and I think they failed. In fact, none of the characters managed to be anything more than flat drawings to me.

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Do they live in Frasier's house?

Other flash-animated shows (meaning all the ones on TV) have the same problem with making their characters “act.” I think it’s the little eyes. People are often too neat and polished to look human. The pictures are so boring to look at it makes me wonder whether there’s any reason for this to be a cartoon, other than the novelty of a grown-up voicing a child (which is not novel, just that he uses his own voice to do it). There aren’t any sight gags, funny background details, or emotion to speak of.

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There are exceptions.

The co-creators reveal in FOX promotional materials that they’ve never done animation before, and it shows. But “Family Guy” vet David Goodman is also on board, so there is a good chance things will improve. Lots of good shows have improved after disappointing pilots, including “Animation Domination” neighbor “American Dad!”, so I’ll be watching tonight to see where things are going. But unless they can do something to the writing and the animation to make the characters and the jokes matter to me, I won’t keep tuning in for long.

And my roommate didn’t like it, either.

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