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Fox has an interesting little experiment kicking off its fall season Sunday night with the half-animated, half live-action sitcom Son of Zorn.
It’s amusing with a couple of strong laughs, and some creativity that might bode well for the future, but Zorn almost immediately brings up the question of whether it can be a sustainable conceit.
AIR DATE Sep 11, 2016
Series creators Eli Jorne and Reed Agnew also co-wrote the pilot (Jorne has departed) which is executive produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Last Man on Earth, The Lego Movie). Lord and Miller, of course, can do excellent work but now have a workload (another Fox midseason series, Making History, a Star Wars stand-alone movie about Hans Solo, Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street sequels) that makes you wonder how Son of Zorn will be developed creatively.
Since critics only got to see the pilot — and it’s impossible (and foolish) to make much of a judgment based on 22 minutes — the question will be how the world of Zorn is branched out and whether the tricky interplay between animation and live action (done well in the pilot) continues apace.
The series stars Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses, The Last Man on Earth) as Zorn, a 7-foot warrior from the island nation of Zephyria — which you can reach by plane but apparently goes unmentioned that it’s populated by warring animated tribes — who comes back to Orange County to visit his son, Alangulon, aka Alan (Johnny Pemberton from 21 Jump Street), a 17-year-old high school student who is simultaneously annoyed that his dad never really shows up much and also clearly missing a father figure. His mom, Edie (Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s Cheryl Hines), tolerates Zorn’s untamed warrior ways because she’s hoping he can still be there for Alan before it’s too late.
Edie, however, has moved on to new fiancé (Saturday Night Live‘s Tim Meadows) and just wants to live a normal life out in the suburbs. That would be much harder for Zorn, of course, but since the series clearly traffics in silly as the entire point, having an animated giant around regular humans as they go to the mall, have dinner out, etc., is the basis for most of the jokes.
The pilot is pretty flimsy but does manage to set up that scenario. Though Zorn wants to return to the bloody battles of Zephyria, he realizes little Alangulon is almost all grown up and without any real influence from his dad, so Zorn gets an apartment and a job in Orange County and makes the best of it.
Most of the jokes are amusing but only a couple got big laughs because they’re offbeat like the premise. Zorn thinks Edie still has a thing for him and asks her if she remember the “fivesome” they had in the good old days. “That was the old me — sex with the mountain trolls,” Edie replies. Hines is a good sport and can make a lot of things funny, but the pilot basically has her and everybody else reacting to Zorn’s outrageousness. If that remains the base of the humor, appeal will be limited.
Zorn is, of course, clueless about modern society. He’s a warrior. It doesn’t dawn on him that his boss is a woman because in the chain of command from his homeland that wouldn’t be possible. He’s the ultimate he-man (yes, you might find similarities to He-Man) who is a brute, rude and macho, so when he’s trying to bond with Alan over a dinner, he’s appalled to find out that Alan is a vegetarian (and thus doesn’t want a steak — uncooked) and that Alan likes drinking ginger. “You know what I drink?” Zorn asks the waitress. “The blood of my fallen enemies out of the skulls of their children.”
There’s a string of stuff like that, and it’s entertaining in the brief confines of a half-hour sitcom, but it’s worth wondering if Son of Zorn has any other tricks up its sleeve going forward and whether a sustainable, ongoing series resides in there somewhere.
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