ON TV: Sit Down, Shut Up
If a network is going to initiate comparisons to Arrested Development while promoting a new show, they had better not be taking that name in vain. Like AD, Fox's new animated series Sit Down, Shut Up has an ensemble cast, heaping helpings of meta-humor and Mitchell Hurwitz at the helm, but (not surprisingly) falls short of that masterwork and into the cheap joke traps that AD deftly avoided. This shouldn't come as a huge surprise, but there is some hope for the future.
In the first episode, we are introduced to P.E. teacher Larry Littlejunk (voiced by Jason Bateman), the moral (and moping) center of the show. Larry is in love with Miracle Grohe (Kristin Chenoweth), a New Age airhead with large breasts who brightens everyone's day. Running the school is acting Principal Sezno (Kenan Thompson) who never misses an opportunity to berate her assistant principal (or "Ass. Principal") Proszakian (Will Forte). The plot has something to do with downsizing and the "big game" and Larry trying to get Miracle's attention, but the real point of the first half-hour is give all the supporting teachers pretty much equal time -- from Will Arnett's aggressive English teacher to Henry Winkler's German teacher Deutchebog. Everything is a joke -- or an attempt at one -- on SDSU.
With all the awkwardness and wordplay flying around, the pilot breezes by pretty fast as the gags start to blur together. Thankfully, the second episode (airing next Sunday) takes a little more time in setting up its shenanigans, though the particulars of the humor are still the same. In the first two half-hours, the private part jokes range from the lame (Littlejunk) to the somewhat subtle (Knob Haven High School) to the visionary (they coin a term for a Yeti's private parts), but they seem to be improving.
There has been a decently-sized deal made about the animation techniques in Sit Down, Shut Up, but after a few minutes the two-dimensional drawings superimposed over live action backgrounds no longer appear all that visually interesting. Most of the set-ups are static, so other than a few opening scenes in cars, there's no actual aesthetic difference between SDSU and the rest of Fox's Animation Domination Sunday line-up. Sadly, there's no real difference in content, either, despite Hurwitz's pedigree. (And the disappointing ratings may reflect viewers' expectations.) Many of the bars set by Arrested Development will never be cleared -- especially the sublime sexual/bodily function humor of Tobias Fünke -- but there's no reason to lower our standards. RATING (out of 10): 6.5