Like Bob's Burgers? Don't miss the newest addition to Animation Domination.

By Darren Franich
January 29, 2021 at 03:47 PM EST
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Fox's Sunday night is for the Forever Shows, with Bob's Burgers, Family Guy, and The Simpsons dutifully churning out seasons 11, 19, and 32, respectively. The network has had trouble rounding out its Animation Domination lineup, though, which makes The Great North a welcome surprise. The sweetly clever cartoon takes place in Lone Moose, Alaska, where the library hosts a chainsaw workshop and the occasional moose sneaks into the occasional house. The concept suggests easy 49th-state gags — and there is the local Russian restaurant advertising, "We Can See Your Mouth From Here." But co-creators Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin and Wendy Molyneux are longtime Bob's writers, and — with Bob's creator Loren Bouchard executive-producing — they've successfully imported that series' quirky wordplay and fast-paced plotting into a likably off-kilter new setting. (The show properly premieres Feb. 14 at 8:30 p.m. ET, but you can stream the first two episodes now on Hulu.)

Credit: FOX

The Tobin family patriarch, Beef (Nick Offerman), is a cheerful-beardful outdoorsman with lots to say about fish and woodworking. He is, well, a bit like Nick Offerman, reflecting the Parks and Recreation star's teddy-bear-of-manliness deadpan comic persona. (Beef on apocalypse readiness: "We have 500 years' worth of rice and two Calvin and Hobbes books in the basement.") His wife ran off years ago, leaving him with four kids in a cabin that looks like a Dr. Seuss DIY project. Eldest son Wolf (Will Forte) is engaged to Honeybee (Dulcé Sloan), a curtain heiress from Fresno still learning the local customs. Daughter Judy (Jenny Slate) is a dreamy-smart high-schooler. Middle son Ham (Paul Rust) loves baking. Ten-year-old Moon (Aparna Nancherla) is some kind of savant who never takes off his bear onesie.

It's a straightforward family-sitcom dynamic, loaded up with endearing eccentricity. Judy speaks to imaginary friend Alanis Morissette, who voices herself as an ethereal god-thing floating amid the aurora borealis. (So: voicing herself.) Honeybee meets Wolf on a Shrek message board and they bond over Final Destination trivia — two random-reference gags that snowball into a Shrek-themed cabana and a romantic song about the bus death from Final Destination.

Minty Lewis, North's third co-creator, worked on Regular Show, which was one of the standout entries in Cartoon Network's 2010s renaissance of safe-for-kids surreality. That bizarro spirit explains why the four episodes I've seen of North are willfully random, to a degree that might surprise even Bob's obsessives. (The pilot requires more than one flare gun.) But these are rich characters in absurd situations full of quotable dialogue. "I don't know what I'd do without you," Ham tells Judy. "Probably die, or come up with some other coping mechanism." That's a Mitch Hedberg-worthy one-liner, in a plot that also includes a cannibalism-adjacent town holiday and the phrase "Jean-Claude Van Dammit."

"At the risk of sounding incredibly arrogant," Beef says,"I feel like we're doing a decent job." He's too modest, as usual. The Great North could be one of the norths. Greats, I mean, greats! Grade: A-

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