Allen Gregory: “Van Moon Rising” S1 / E7
- D+ Community Grade
After only seven episodes, decidedly negative reviews, and disappointing ratings, Allen Gregory airs what appears to be its final episode tonight. It was left off the midseason schedule to the surprised of absolutely no one, so this one last go-round gives us an opportunity to talk about where Allen Gregory went wrong. When the show debuted, Todd compared Allen Gregory as a protagonist to the other FOX animated leads Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, and Stan Smith, and found Allen lacking. He’s a douchebag to anyone and everyone but his father, who taught him that behavior, and this inspires no sympathy when other kids and his teachers either ostracize him or refuse to accept his behavior. I sort of expected Allen Gregory to fail in the vein of Mike Judge’s ill-fated The Goode Family, as an indictment of effete or politically-correct culture, but it turns out I was completely wrong. Allen Gregory is a misfire in a different way, because it ended up offering barely any social or cultural commentary, and focusing too intensely on the depths a spoiled, sheltered child and his equally vain, man-child father could sink to in order to get their way.
Allen Gregory isn’t just pretentious; he’s single-minded and malicious. His will steamrolls anyone else in his path, and when supposed authority figures like his teacher, principal, or family fail to gain any traction, it’s supposed to be funny. He’s in love with his 86-year-old principal. He tries to break up Gottlieb’s marriage and blackmail her into having dinner with him and consummating some kind of sick, twisted relationship. ISN’T THAT HILARIOUS? Through the entire season of Allen Gregory, I could probably count the number of audible laughs on one hand. I wasn’t shocked at how much I hated the main characters, but just kept rolling my eyes at how far over the edge Allen Gregory goes to manipulate every single person in his life.
His father Richard fares no better, exhibiting an even more advanced psychosis that goes to Robin Williams-esque extremes of crazy in shameless ploys for laughter. The only element I found remotely intriguing was observing the “nature vs. nurture” battle at play within Allen Gregory. With a father like Richard to set such a high standard of emotional manipulation and relationship blackmail, it’s no wonder the son is such a megalomaniac. Allen and his father had no problem firing a housekeeper for using the bathroom, then started throwing away all of their reusable items. Their inability to care for themselves isn’t funny; it’s horrifying and excruciating to watch. Though Julie, Jeremy, and Gina point out what’s wrong in almost every situation, Allen and Richard simply shout over them, and the others are left to go along with the loudest voice in the room, because those are the SparkNotes sitcom rules the show plays with.
Jeremy seems the most sane character, if not for the fact that after all the physical abuse from Allen Gregory and emotional abuse from Richard, he still remains in a tortuous situation. Tonight, when he draws the admiration of Richard’s old nemesis Perry Van Moon (voiced by Jeff Goldblum) Richard amps up his lies about just how charitable he is, but promptly ignores anything factual about his own adopted daughter. When Juliet doesn’t appear at the climactic charity event, Jeremy goes to retrieve her, using the infuriating excuse that they have to continue indulging Richard or Allen as a protective measure for their own well being and standard of living.
I like the cast assembled here, especially the multiple voice duties of Will Forte. His voice never really changed to much to fit each character, but I was far more interested in seeing Sydney slowly lose his shit and start competing with Allen Gregory and the rapport of the Superintendent than I was in how Allen tormented the other characters. Jonah Hill, Leslie Mann, French Stewart, and Nat Faxon all turn in voice work that may not be groundbreaking, but is certainly more than competent. The problems with Allen Gregory go all the way back to the conceptual stage, and the ratings never gave it a chance to get the time necessary to tinker around with those glaring weaknesses in order to make them work at all.