Let's get this out of the way: Richard De Longpre (voiced by French Stewart) looks, talks and acts distractingly like Community's Dean Pelton. I had to re-watch the first few minutes of the Allen Gregory pilot a several times because instead of paying attention to anything in the opening party scene, I kept thinking about how awesome it would be if this was just Community: The Animated Series (which got me thinking about Sabrina: The Animated Series). But then I heard Jonah Hill's voice coming out of a sharply dressed seven-year-old, and I had to quash those dreams and pay attention to the task at hand.
So, what are the rules in Allen Gregory's universe? I actually asked series creator Jonah Hill this question a few days ago and he basically told me that the show is confined to anything can technically happen in our world, but isn't it so funny to think that a kid would be attracted to "70-something year old disgusting woman" Principal Gottlieb (Renée Taylor)? I'd say meh, that's really not that hilarious, and that this concept could maybe work as a one-time gag. However, considering next week's episode description includes Allen attempting to make a sex tape with Gottlieb (who, by the way, immediately made me think of Recess' Miss Finster), it's safe to assume Hill and his fellow writers Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul find it knee-slapping.
I thought most of the writing in the pilot followed suit: Mildly funny concepts that are sloppily thrust onto characters, with a somewhat interesting premise that's weighed down by a complete lack of logic. Sure, Allen is cute and we can all relate to pretending you don't care what people think of you when you really do, but his character isn't complex past the whole being a wacky boy-man thing. I'm fine with a child being partially brilliant and/or evil (it's worked on Family Guy for this long), but not if it isn't balanced with a good amount of "remember, this is a kid" moments. Take, for example, when Allen drinks wine with his lunch; I think if that Pinot Grigio bottle was filled with apple juice, I would've been able to forgive a lot more about this nonsensical animated cartoon. However, in a world with no rules whatsoever, there's nothing that funny about a kid casually drinking wine, or a superintendent (Will Forte) pretending to have soiled his pants in order to cover for a rich student. There was a premise similar to this in a recent South Park episode ("Bass to Mouth"), and because that show has a pretty good grasp on writing for a world where literally anything and basically everything happens, it worked. Whereas Trey Parker and Matt Stone clearly have a sense of humor about the limitations of their subject matter (and go on to completely shatter them), I'm not convinced Hill's creation is quite as self-aware.
Unless the second episode straightens out the Allen Gregory universe a bit more, I don't see the series lasting much longer... which is a shame, because I really enjoyed Julie (Joy Osmanski), Allen's adopted Cambodian sister. She's sarcastic and perceptive, and I laughed the most when she was on screen with her dorky friends ("Thanks, Wayne!") and talking to/getting shamed by her little brother. Joel Zadak (Jake Johnson) was a great cool-kid villain and the bits about times tables were funny, but his character, like Allen's, was stale to me and not particularly interesting beyond those tiny personality traits. I don't understand the relationship between Dean -- excuse me, Richard De Longpre -- and his partner Jeremy (Nat Faxon), nor do I particularly enjoy watching them interact. Maybe there's something funny behind the whole "Is Jeremy actually gay?" thing, but most of that joke was buried in raunchy advances from Richard. Hopefully next week will be better, but if things don't work out, maybe Fox will finally stop trying to add another school animated comedy to its Sunday night line-up (R.I.P. Sit Down, Shut Up). You have Glee, guys. Move on.
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