During the 1968-69 season, NBC premiered a new Sunday night show titled The New Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, becoming the first television series to use a hybrid of live-action and animation. Based on the characters of Mark Twain’s book of the same name (minus the “New”), the Hanna-Barbera series lasted only one season and wound up as a segment in syndicated reruns of Banana Splits And Friends, a terrific Saturday morning show that debuted the same season on the same network.
48 years later, network TV is going the live-action/animated avenue again in Fox’s Son Of Zorn, where He-Man meets real life. Unlike the live-action kids from Finn (who were on an exciting adventure every week), the animated Zorn lands in suburbia trying to reconnect with his teenage son Alan while locked in a 9-to-5 job in a cubicle at a bland office park.
Jason Sudeikis voices Zorn, who moves to Orange County, California, putting up with his human ex-wife (played by Cheryl Hines) and her new beau (Tim Meadows), a psychology professor. The pilot features Zorn battling creatures in his animated world, but after learning Alan hates him for being absent in his life, he decides to stay in the O.C. and take an office job.
The second episode featured Alan using “The Stone Of Sight”, otherwise known as a stalking device to see what his crush Nancy is up to. The third episode was Alan dealing with a bully at school, who looked more like a middle-aged shoe salesman. In the episode, he dealt with his bully – kicking him with his “animated” legs. Huh? At least Alan isn’t being chased by Injun Joe (an animated character who was in Finn.)
Unfortunately, Zorn appears as a show with the same kind of tropes we’re used to seeing in TV and film for decades: nerdy teen-age son, awkward husband, new guy in mom’s life trying to be “understanding”. Whether animated or live-action (or both) it doesn’t matter – Zorn doesn’t break any new ground in character development, casting, or writing, as the plots seem recycled from 1980’s teen movies.
As for laughs, there are hardly any found. The jokes are simply not funny, and neither are the situations – Zorn holding his sword up, knocking out the power at work is a lame bit out of some Geico commercial. The antics of Alan aren’t funny either – they make you want to cringe.
To yours truly, this is all too similar to what I went through with the short-lived 1989 ABC sitcom Chicken Soup: the sitcom with Jackie Mason and Lynn Redgrave was supposed to edgy and funny, and much as I wanted to like the show, I didn’t. At least Zorn is better than former Fox flop Allen Gregory, but that’s not saying much.
As for ratings and critic reviews, the series debuted with 6.1 million viewers the first week (a special preview out of an NFL lead-in), but when it had its time period premiere on Sept. 25, it plunged to 2.5 million. Zorn’s Rotten Tomatoes percentile is at 57 percent while is Metacritic score is at 56. Really? Zorn deserves a lower score.
The best thing about Zorn is when the show is canceled after six episodes, it won’t be stuck in a syndicated cartoon show so it’ll be forgotten. It’ll just be forgotten.
T Dog Media Hall Of Shame Eligibility: I’m polishing up the plaque as we speak.