More and more, of course, animation is intended for adults as often as it is for kids, and no network understands this better than Fox, home of The Simpsons and King of the Hill. Now comes The PJs, a comedy about an inner-city apartment-house superintendent featuring the production power (and lead voice) of Eddie Murphy. The figures moving on screen are created by Will Vinton Studios, which gave us the soul-shuffling California Raisins some years back. Vinton is touting his new style as ”foamation” — the characters look soft, puffy, and three-dimensional. This is animation at the other end of the scale from Batman Beyond, which is not to say it’s either better or less effective — just different, and certainly distinctive. Once you get a load of Murphy’s grouchy-but-lovable super Thurgood Stubbs, with his straight-up bristly hair and sofa-cushion cheeks, you’ll never mistake him for any other cartoon character.
The show itself is rather more conventional: a sitcom straight out of the Honeymooners tradition of working-class comedy, with Thurgood a kind of black Ralph Kramden. The Jan. 10 premiere is fresh looking but tired sounding; it includes a predictable plot about Thurgood teaching some neighborhood kids that they shouldn’t play hooky, and a Titanic joke that’s been made 30 times too many. Thurgood’s exasperated exclamations are kind of funny (”Holy Moesha!” ”Halle Berry full of grace!”), and I laughed seeing him dance to James Brown’s ”Super Bad,” but then, loudly played James Brown music always puts a smile on my face. Eddie Murphy is going to have to work at least as hard as the Godfather of Soul does to earn my grins in the future. B