Since 2007, TV Club has dissected television episode by episode. Beginning this September, The A.V. Club will also step back to take a wider view in our new TV Reviews section. With pre-air reviews of new shows, returning favorites, and noteworthy finales, TV Reviews doesn’t replace TV Club—as usual, some shows will get the weekly treatment—but it adds a look at a bigger picture.
The January premieres of Golan The Insatiable and Lucas Bros. Moving Co. mark the completion of a plan more than a year in the making: A complete hour of original late-night animated programming on Fox Saturday nights. The early previews of both series, airing on November 23, mark a significant moment for Animation Domination High-Definition (friends call it ADHD), a Voltron-like linking-up of nonsensical sensibilities and cartoon cheekiness that the ADHD animators will presumably turn into a Voltron-riffing GIF. These shows are the expansion of the ADHD empire, an indication that Fox is serious about the silliness it’s putting up against Saturday Night Live.
With Golan The Insatiable, that empire gets a little darker; with Lucas Bros. Moving Co., it gets a little sillier. Either way, the look of ADHD is growing more distinctive: Axe Cop had its template set by a web comic, while High School USA is populated by Archie doppelgängers. Golan takes its inspiration from a Something Awful series written by Josh “Worm” Miller, and the basic outlines of its visuals follow the illustrations accompanying those pieces. But the world around the eponymous godlord is completely fresh: Its shadows crosshatched like storybook illustrations, its supporting players resembling doe-eyed Anything Muppets. Lucas Bros. is more Internet-like in every sense of the phrase: The animation is charmingly low-rent, and the pacing is like a faded trip down a wiki wormhole.
On a conceptual level, Golan is the most sound—though Kenny and Keith Lucas have the Crusher of Wills beat in terms of adventurousness. Expanding on the premise of Miller’s Something Awful pieces, “Ragin’ Fun” finds the character exerting his impotent will over the suburban realm of Oak Grove. The most exciting part of Golan is the way it takes certain archetypes to their furthest possible extremes: Grim li’l Dylan has all the outwardly gothic, doll-beheading markings of a Wednesday Addams, but neither Lisa Loring nor Christina Ricci harbored an inter-dimensional despot in her bedroom. Juxtaposition is the name of Golan’s game, and it’s grounded in the same kind of reality that sent visitors scrambling from The Munsters’ front door and drove Gladys Kravitz to snoop on the witch next door. But Golan makes real the phantasmagoric threats perceived by those characters.
Or at least he talks like he does. The big joke of “Ragin’ Fun” is Oak Grove’s annoyance with the horned beastie in its midst, who blusters his way into a town-hall meeting and sullies a bayou-themed water park. In turn, Golan is just as worn down by the vagaries of life in our reality, an all-powerful tyrant nonetheless made to deal with red tape and the nuances of DVR programming. His cruelty is implied, and he’s all hot air until it comes time to show how much he cares about Dylan and her family. He’s more Slimer than Gozer in that respect, but the relationship the antihero shares with his human hosts opens Golan The Insatiable for a deeper level of character-based comedy.
Curiously, the horizons of Lucas Bros. Moving Company feel broader than those of Golan, if only because its slacker vibe so readily goes with the surreal flow. “DDT” begins with a job that’s too big for the scrawny twins and ends with a pro wrestler’s attempt to conquer all of Brooklyn. The Lucases’ stream of consciousness flows steady and swiftly, and the direction in which it pulls their characters makes this ADHD’s least-blinkered series yet. The key to the brothers’ victory lies in self-esteem, a notion that certainly wouldn’t fly on other, more cynical animation outlets. If anything, Lucas Bros. is what Adventure Time would look like if its creative staff was allowed to admit that BMO would make a sweet bong.
Yet for all their playfulness, neither preview reaches its predecessors’ giddiest heights of hilarity. Lucas Bros. is audacious, but never inspires more than a moony grin—perhaps fitting for characters who use a CD-ROM drive for joint storage. But it took Axe Cop a few weeks to give in completely to doodled-in-the-margins madness, and Kenny and Keith already deserve kudos for aspiring to be more than the stoner-comedy equivalent of the Sklar Brothers. Their show is the underdog here; Golan The Insatiable’s the series that starts with a whole world to explore. There’s a complete litany of mundane annoyances still waiting to be filtered through the POV of a displaced deity, and “Ragin’ Fun” gets the series off on the right track—though it’s also the slow one.
More importantly, both shows build on the voice of ADHD’s first wave. A little gross-out humor, a lot of irreverence, and the sense that anything’s possible. Sure, it’s unlikely that Golan would approve of the full bloc’s patient rollout—good thing “patience” and “rolling” are two of the Lucas brothers’ favorite things.
Golan The Insatiable/Lucas Bros. Moving Co.
Created by: Josh Miller (developed for TV by Matt Silverstein and Dave Jeser)/The Lucas Brothers
Starring: Josh Miller, Mary Mack/Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas
Debuts: Saturday at 11 p.m. Eastern on Fox
Format: Quarter-hour animated comedies
Preview episodes watched for review