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Monday, October 31, 2011

Meet Allen Gregory

     FOX's newest animated series is Allen Gregory, which premiered its "Pilot" last night. Allen Gregory De Longpre (Jonah Hill, Superbad, Get Him to the Greek) begins first grade at a public school. Spoiled by his rich father, Richard (French Stewart, 3rd Rock from the Sun), Allen Gregory has the niceties and attitude of an older gentleman, and thus is ill prepared to deal with his peers. He quickly falls for well-into-middle age Principal Judith Gottlieb (Renée Taylor, The Nanny), then poops his pants. Luckily, Allen Gregory has a second father, whom he calls Jeremy (Nat Faxon, The Cleveland Show, Happy Hour) whom convinces Allen Gregory to give it another try.

     There are many hints, not so subtle, that make one think Richard is having money problems. Thus, Jeremy must get a job, rather than stay at home to tutor Allen Gregory. Richard is very selfish, so it's understandable that he would cut back on his son before himself. Looking at Richard, who is practically a clone of Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) from Community, with a hint of Dr. Venture thrown in, it's very clear just how Allen Gregory becomes who he is.

     If there is a major complaint to be had, it's that Superintendent Jeremy Rossmyre (Will Forte, Saturday Night Live, The Cleveland Show) bends over backwards to suck up to Richard. One presumes this is because Rossmyre wants money from Richard, and doesn't realize that Richard has none to give. Rossmyre is too dumb to figure this out. But offering up the principal as a girlfriend for Allen Gregory crosses so many lines, that his character is standard cartoonish, without any realistic bend to him at all. Not always a bad thing in an animated series, but Rossmyre is twisted odd in such a way that he detracts from the enjoyment.

     Many critics have lambasted Allen Gregory and its title character as annoying and hard to relate to. This may be so, but one cannot blame the child completely for the sins of the father. Allen Gregory is a product of his world, and is the way Richard raises him to be. As he is so young, there is still time to change him. Should Allen Gregory continue to call his teacher by her first name and bring wine to school indefinitely, this series will not be funny, However, should the titular boy grow and chance, Allen Gregory could be a very interesting, and unique, cartoon. It's funny enough to keep watching for now.

     Allen Gregory has other influences besides Richard, of course. As mentioned, Jeffrey is a much more grounded individual, though as persistent as Richard is about what he wants, it doesn't quite gel that Jeffrey is a straight family man, stolen away by this flamboyant rich guy. It's every Republican's worst nightmare come true, but in a way that would never happen, thus mocking the concept. Allen Gregory also has a normal sister named Julie (Joy Osmanski, Grey's Anatomy, The Loop). But these two cannot get through to him because, like Richard, he sees them as inferior and treats them with disdain. It's not a healthy family situation that begs to have drama threaten to break it up.

     Bottom line, if Allen Gregory chooses, like most animated sitcoms, to keep things status quo every week, it won't be very good for very long. If it takes a bold risk and allows character growth from week to week, as well as some larger plot arcs, there is potential here for a really cool series. Though the chances are it will fall into the latter, it's hard not to hope for the former.

     Allen Gregory airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

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