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Spring 2012 Review: Unsupervised

30 Apr

The two on the left are Unsupervised

It’s looking like a three strikes and you’re out situation for new animation in the 2011-12 primetime television season.  The fall started us off behind in the count with Allen Gregory and Napoleon Dynamite, and the spring brings us a swinging strike three with new FX cartoon Unsupervised.

Unsupervised’s protagonist are two high school freshman, Gary and Joel, voiced by Justin Long and David Hornsby. respectively.  Hornsby is best known as recurring character Rickety Cricket on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and as the creator and co-star of terrible short-lived fall 2011 CBS sitcom How To Be a Gentleman.  Gary and Joel have just entered high school, and are eager to get the girls that are supposed to come with it.  While they want to be sophisticated and get girls, they enjoy the pleasures of the simpler things in life though, like riding their bikes, and creating a lightning rod, and jumping off one of their roofs onto bushes.  They’re Unsupervised because both of their parents are out of the picture and the two of them, though relatively poor, basically live in their houses on their own most of the time.  Because of their unusual living situations, they realize later they can have people over to drink, or throw giant parties without concern.

They need to grow up though, portly African-American friend character Darius (voiced by Weeds’ Romany Malco) tells them.  No more kid stuff – clean clothes, mature attitude, partying, alcohol, drugs; that’s the way to women.  Meanwhile, female friend character Megan (voiced by Kristen Bell) goes the other way – they don’t need to party to have fun, or have sex before they’re ready – good clean teenage living is the way to go.

Wacky side character alert:  It’s an animated series.  Of course there’s a couple of wacky side characters.  First, we’ve got latino neighbor Martin, who speaks with a thick accent, and tries to act as a mentor to the boys – telling them to avoid the partying ways of his own daughter.  Second, we’ve got Australian neighbor (Russ?  Maybe?  Not worth watching the show again to find out)  who lives up to every Aussie stereotype and participates in the weirdest flashback sequence where it turns out he was once in love with a kangaroo.

It’s not very funny.  Allen Gregory tried a lot of gags where I could easily see what they were attempting, and it just failed.  Unsupervised is a step away from that.  It just doesn’t work.  It’s not really an absurdist show; it’s vaguely juvenile and tyring to hit the perfect so-stupid-it’s-funny here and there.

It’s easy to box animated comedy together, but there’s so many different types.  While there’s unlikely in the near future to be a Two and a Half Men of animation, because cartoons skew younger, there can be as relatively conventional shows as King of the Hill as well as absurdist fare like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and everything in between.  Many of the gimmicks which made animation unique have been taken live action in shows like Childrens Hospital and Eagleheart.

Unsupervised doesn’t try to be absurdist or super clever or super reference-y or super droll.  I don’t think it’s quite as base as Beavis and Butthead, but there’s probably an influence there, or at least an attempt at one.

Will I watch it again?  It’s not going to happen.  It’s a shame such admirable voice talent is wasted on seriously grade B material.  I think maybe it’s particularly hard to figure out if animated material works before seeing it in action, but this doesn’t, and it’s not just slightly off.