October 31st, 2011
11:23 AM ET
Fox's new half-hour animated comedy "Allen Gregory" is perfectly titled, because the series star, a beyond-precocious 7-year-old of the same name, is the reason to keep watching.
The series, co-created by and starring actor Jonah Hill, made its debut Sunday ahead of another smart-mouthed kid, "Family Guy's" Stewie Griffin. The basic premise is that Allen Gregory's dad has fallen on hard times and needs his (maybe-straight) life partner Jeremy to get a job instead of home-schooling Allen Gregory.
That means Allen. G (as we'll call him) has to brave the halls of public school, along with his adopted Cambodian sister, Julie (Joy Osmanski).
Hill provides the voice for the fast-talking, snotty, and yet insecure elementary school student, who seems to be channeling his best impersonation of a talent agent. He refuses to call his teacher (voiced by Leslie Mann) anything other than her first name, Gina, and also isn't afraid to call her a "train wreck" under his breath before he bulldozes over whatever argument she offers.
His poor dad Jeremy and sister Julie are also hit with the brunt of his sarcastic wrath, although we see where Allen Gregory gets it from in the premiere - his other dad, Richard, is just as rudely snobbish.
We also got a glimpse of Allen Gregory's fantasy about his 60-something principal, which was a little unnerving to watch, but did offer a laugh. At one point, he asks her the most preposterous question: "Is it just like, a complete mess down there?" To which she responds: "I'm going to level with you - it's like post-Katrina."
Allen Gregory's habit of having sushi with wine for lunch and his haughty sense of self-importance don't make him a member of the popular crowd, and critics are about as charmed by Allen Gregory as most of his fellow students.
USA Today writes that Allen Gregory is a "total irredeemable brat" in an animated program that's "gross, ugly, viscous and stupid," and without enough laughs to matter. The New York Daily News inquired if no one in Allen Gregory's new school knew how to spit in his sushi roll, finding him more annoying than "the trust fund brats on 'Gossip Girl' or '90210.'"
The Washington Post critiques that "Allen Gregory" is "a coy but limp attempt" at adding to Fox's Sunday line-up, and that all one can hope for the title character is that he'll "meet some horrible demise."
But for me, Allen Gregory's awfulness is also part of his charm - especially when you see that his attitude could very well be a cover-up for a desire to be liked. A 7-year-old's sarcasm I can take, but I did find his father, Richard, to be far less funny. There's also the question of whether Allen Gregory's witticisms at adjusting to public school can sustain an entire series, because I'm sure there are only so many times I can laugh at another Gina, Jeremy or Julie put-down.
What about you? Do you think Hill's "Allen Gregory" has potential to stay afloat?
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