‘Son of Zorn’: A Cartoonish Sitcom That Needs Work

·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
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It looks as though the first new fall network show of the season will be the premiere of Son of Zorn, Sunday night on Fox. It’s a combination live-action and animated sitcom that seemed promising, but the pilot episode doesn’t pay off in sufficient laughs.

The Zorn of the title is said to be a warrior from the island of Zephyria, but really this animated muscle-head is a visual echo of He-Man, who headed up the Masters of the Universe schlock-cartoon series from the 1980s. Zorn is animated, his voice provided by Jason Sudeikis. Everything else around Zorn is live-action, including his ex-wife, Edie, played by Cheryl Hines, and his 17 year-old son, Alan, played by Johnny Pemberton. (Tim Meadows is around as Edie’s fiancé.)

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The premise is that Zorn has returned home from battle to reestablish contact with his son. This is complicated by the fact that Zorn is a complete jerk — an arrogant egomaniac. While this explains why he’s divorced, it doesn’t help the show, because Zorn makes for a pretty unlikable central character. On a technical level, Son of Zorn is well-done — all of the humans make convincing eye-contact with the cartoon figure. But I felt badly for Hines, who has to act exasperated and — well, just exasperated, nearly all of the time, her Edie irritated by Zorn’s barging back into her life, with his bad parenting ideas for Alan. In a way, this crazy-concept show is most grounded in its expression of just how frustrating it is to be a divorced parent.

Son of Zorn has the feeling of a show that wants to be edgier than it is (which may be one reason creators Reed Agnew and Eli Jorne stepped away from the project once production was underway). The punch-lines aren’t very funny — you’re supposed to laugh primarily at how clueless Zorn is about his garrulous self-centeredness. Its best scenes occur away from Edie’s house, when Zorn goes out for a job interview. As a weekly series, Son of Zorn has its work cut out for it — trying to make an audience keep tuning in once the novelty of the premise wears off, when viewers are supposed to become invested in this doltish master of no universe.

Son of Zorn will premiere Sunday at 8 p.m. on Fox. The series begins its weekly run on Sept. 25.