'Allen Gregory': TV Review

"Allen Gregory"

The new Fox series, revolving around a precocious seven-year-old, is the network's latest animated entry.

So many rules don't apply to animation that it's almost impossible to predict what will work in the genre. More importantly, it's impossible to predict which new offerings will become big-tent hits. Cult-fave, critically acclaimed bits of irreverence shot through with screw-you mentality? All over the place, particularly on Adult Swim.

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But what's the next Simpsons or Family Guy? Well, probably Archer on FX. And HBO's The Life & Times of Tim should be more popular. Beyond that, candidates come from Fox because it's about the only net in the game. So you have to forgive whomever listened to Jonah Hill's pitch about a precocious 7-year-old (voiced by Hill). His or her thought process must have gone like this: 1. It's Jonah Hill; 2. Pretty much anything Jonah Hill says is funny, sometimes even in a baseball movie; 3. I love it already.

The problem with that scenario is that the pilot for Allen Gregory isn't very good. It can be funny, but it's got no real point, looks cheap, has a crazy, vague ending and will make pretty much any TV critic who likes NBC's Community get totally distracted by how the title character's gay dad, Richard (French Stewart), looks exactly like the Dean Pelton character. (Jim Rash and Dan Harmon, get the lawyers on the line). Small problems, mostly, except the part about the pilot not being very good (and that's all Fox sent to critics; apparently it takes as long to make Allen Gregory as it does to make Terra Nova).

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The series centers on Allen Gregory De Longpre, who has lived a life of luxury under Richard and Richard's life partner, Jeremy (Nat Faxon), who has home-schooled Allen Gregory (he's never just called Allen, for some annoying reason). Richard and Jeremy have spoiled Allen Gregory endlessly, overlooking that the result is the child acts like he's 35, dresses like a patron of the arts and ladles out cultural snobbery in heavy doses.

And Hill, in the preshow hype, keeps calling the character "adorable." This could be a fatal perception problem. Allen Gregory is obnoxious; not liking him seems to be the point. As Richard begins to have money woes, Allen Gregory must go to public elementary school, and of course he doesn't fit in. When Hill riffs as Allen Gregory -- alerting the teachers he's a peer, forcing kids to schedule lunch with him -- it's funny. Except Hill never convinces us that Allen Gregory's delusions are something to pity or that we should care about him.

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With no other likable characters and a thin premise, Allen Gregory seems as one-dimensional as the animation. After seven episodes, Fox will next try to turn the Napoleon Dynamite film into a TV series, but that doesn't sound remotely promising. Maybe Bob's Burgers, a recent Fox animated series that is infinitely more enjoyable, will return to save the day.

Airdate 8:30 p.m. Sundays (Fox)