With Steven Bochco’s name attached to this cartoon show as ”executive consultant,” we’d expect something smart, savvy, sharp; instead, Capitol Critters is soft, silly, and sentimental.

Critters follows the story of a young Midwestern mouse named Max who moves to Washington, D.C., to live with his cousins and other mice, rats, and roaches underneath the White House. The creature heroes regularly scurry up into the Presidential home to observe the nation’s leaders, who are always shown from the waist down — presumably a mouse’s point of view. Neil Patrick Harris, the star of Bochco’s Doogie Howser, M.D., provides Max’s voice, and Critters is an awkward mixture of cartoon slapstick and political satire. Shaped by Bochco and executive producer-writer Nat Mauldin, this series’ idea of a cutting joke is to show our representatives sitting around in the Senate reading comic books and girlie magazines instead of listening to their colleagues’ filibustering.

The animation, from the Hanna-Barbera studios, is fair — the figures move more realistically than on your average cheapie Saturday-morning cartoon show, but the drawing is unimaginative — the willful primitivism of Matt Groening’s characters in The Simpsons is more interesting than the blandly accomplished illustrations here. And Groening gets some artistic friction going by contrasting simple drawings with shrewd, sophisticated scripts; by contrast, the words in Critters are merely as dully proficient as the pictures. C