Review: ‘Sit Down, Shut Up’

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There was reason enough to expect something special from “Sit Down, Shut Up,” a new Fox animated sitcom created by Mitchell Hurwitz of “Arrested Development” and featuring a cast -- derived mainly from “Arrested Development” and “Saturday Night Live,” with Tom “SpongeBob” Kenny bringing the cartoon cred -- that deserves to be called “all-star.” But the show that premieres Sunday night, between “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” in the space formerly occupied by “King of the Hill,” is weak -- not hopeless, but given the pedigree, heavily disappointing.

Based on an old live-action Australian series about a self-involved, semi-competent high school staff -- the word “losers” comes to mind -- it makes no memorable use of the cartoon medium and relies too much on sex jokes and dirty puns, from the name of the school (Knob Haven) and the characters (reluctant P.E. teacher Larry Littlejunk, played by Jason Bateman on down. (“I want everything exposed and out in the open,” to give you a newspaper-friendly example.) It’s a kind of humor that registers at once as juvenile and geriatric.

On the scale of Fox animated sitcoms it’s closer spiritually, if that’s a word you can apply to an animated sitcom, to “Family Guy” than to “The Simpsons,” but when it gets its mind out of the gutter, it can have a kind of doofy charm. (“Has anyone ever told you that you’re completely oblivious?” “Not that I remember.”) There is some breaking the fourth wall, as the characters address creator “Mitch,” wonder what the censors will allow and how the audience will react: “I am not going to test well,” says bisexual drama teacher Andrew LeGustambos (Nick Kroll). But there is something almost forced and oversold about it. Unlike “The Simpsons,” they have not mastered the trick of being ironic about their contrivances -- and being ironic about the irony.

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(Photo courtesy Fox)