With its sleek animation and meticulously well-spoken central kid character, Allen Gregory is a welcome addition to Fox’s Sunday-night Animation Domination programming block. This new creation headed up by actor-producer Jonah Hill, who voices a ”pretentious” 7-year-old, is eccentric in a way that belies its glossy surface.
Allen Gregory De Longpre is a sniffy priss who wears a carnation in his lapel, condescends to his elementary school teacher, and is attracted to his angry, white-haired, corpulent principal (voiced by the marvelous Renee Taylor) — ”the most ravishing gal I’ve ever seen,” he gushes. Allen Gregory deals with sex in a new way for cartoons. It doesn’t traffic in the adolescent smut of Family Guy or satirize straight and gay sex in the anarchic manner of South Park. Instead, Gregory presents its preadolescent hero as a fully sexualized being, fantasizing about seducing his senior-citizen crush. At home, he’s overseen by his gay fathers, Richard (voiced by 3rd Rock From the Sun‘s French Stewart) and Jeremy (Nat Faxon), both sensible fellows who want the persnickety Allen to be happy.
Allen himself, while aggressively straight, is portrayed as a fussy little boy whose demeanor most closely recalls earlier, real-world comics who got their laughs from a gay archness, such as Charles Nelson Reilly and Paul Lynde. The result is an intriguing new character, one who uncorks a bottle of wine with his lunch in the school cafeteria and asks his befuddled classmates whether they watched Charlie Rose the previous evening.
Fox keeps trying to find a good fit to wedge into a night held aloft by The Simpsons and Family Guy. Bob’s Burgers has its cult of fans (the series will return this spring), but it doesn’t do much for me. The Simpsons, recently renewed for two more seasons, continues to create ripe parodies that now sometimes feel a bit behind the curve — the show’s 22nd ”Treehouse of Horror” anthology spoofed Avatar lackadaisically but was in fine form retrofitting Ned Flanders as a serial killer in a Dexter parody.
As for Family Guy, well, I’ve never been a fan of its relentless cutaway gags, non sequiturs, and belief that any joke gets better if it’s repeated five times. Another of Seth MacFarlane’s series, The Cleveland Show, is often funnier than FG these days. Its Oct. 30 entry, featuring a fine guest-voicing by David Lynch, has, unlike FG, real, sustained plots, and jokes that aren’t all about one family member undercutting another. Allen Gregory, however, with its piquant hero and an animation style that takes off from the minimalism of Saul Bass and John and Faith Hubley, could become something special. Allen Gregory: B, The Simpsons: B+, Family Guy: B-, The Cleveland Show: B