If it's crap ... We'll tell you
I'm convinced now that the Fox network has a love-hate relationship with Mitch Hurwitz.
First he brings the network Arrested Development, which was critically acclaimed and has attained a large and devoted fan base, but failed to get the ratings to match. This was partially because of Fox's frequent habit of switching shows around in its schedule. Nobody knew when it was on. It ended in 2006, and I watched the last episodes air that night. The show was brilliant with it's sharp wit and hilarious cast. It was a show that Mitch and company clearly put a lot of thought into from the git-go. Watch the shows as they air, or in chronological order for the first time, there will be a few jokes that aren't that funny, or lines that pass by and you don't think about. Watch every episode, then watch them again: the same jokes went from "huh?" to "HA!" The show owned in terms of foreshadowing.
The final episode left us with so many questions and gave us the ultimate teaser at the end: Ron Howard listens to Maebe's pitch of her family's story. He replies, "I don't see it as a series. Maybe a movie."
You could image the reactions of the show's legions of fans. In interviews since, the stars are constantly asked whether or not a maybe will ever come into fruition. Finally, last year, our prayers were answered. Fox Searchlight gave the movie a Fox Greenlight. On top of that, Hurwitz was given a deal to develop a brand new series, based on a short-lived Australian sitcom. It was to be an animated series with the voices of A.D alumni Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Henry Winkler. I drooled with excitement like Stimpy watching The Muddy Mudskipper Show. Then I found out the characters were designed by Mo Willems, of Sheep in the Big City. Sounded like an Epic Win already.
**Original Character designs.
Last month (April 2009), Sit Down Shut Up premiered on FOX. Mixed reactions, low ratings, but I dug the hell out of this show. It had things about it that reminded me of Arrested Development. It wasn't quite as intricate as Development, but it still had the hilarious dialogue. After months of bad Family Guy episodes (Fall 2008-Mid-Spring 2009 was a dark period. A dark dark period that makes me want to kill everytime I hear the song "Surfin' Bird"), and so-so Simpsons episodes, this was the first time I've laughed so hard at a Primetime animated Fox Show in a while.
I thought this was to replace King of the Hill, which is coming close to the end of it's last season. We are still waiting for the upcoming Family Guy spin-off, The Cleveland Show.
To go over this show:
The series is set in a fishing town in Florida, in Knob Haven High School. The show focuses on the school's faculty. Roll Call...
**The cast, as seen on the show. Left to Right: Happy, Helen, Willard, Hofftard, Sezno, LeGustambos,
Grohe (with Merch), Littlejunk and Prozakian
**LARRY LITTLEJUNK (Jason Bateman): Probably the only guy who can teach, but he teaches gym class. How ironic. His original last name was to be "Slimp", and I have no idea why they changed it to "Littlejunk." That was the only thing on this show I can nit-pick at: the last names. But I'll get into that later. Like on Development, Bateman played the straight man in a dysfunctional group, but was still a flawed, conflicted character. His greatest conflict was his love/hate relationship with Miracle, a Christian science teacher. His yearbook catch-phrase: "Why can't someone else teach P.E?"
**ENNIS HOFFTARD (Will Arnett): The bizarro version of Larry. An athletic type who ended up teaching English. He never gives real lessons (in the four episodes that aired) but instead talked about his sexual escapades. Ennis was similar to Gob on Development: slow, confident, and a ladie's man. Watching him and Larry interact almost like a second coming of Michael and GOB Bluth...if GOB was a little more brain-dead. Catch-phrase: "Catch-phrases are for Losers! (TM MMIX Ennis Hofftard)"
**MIRACLE GROHE (Kristen Chenoweth): The aforementioned Christian hippie science teacher. Despite her job, she believes in things no science teacher would believe; namely mysticism. She also believes that science is "just a bunch of voodoo the Jews came up with so they can charge us for medicine and stuff." She is frequently seen with her baby son, Merch, who is clearly smarter than his own mother. She is the objects of Larry's affection, but they also fight constantly over her naive beliefs. She is a gullible type, and appears to be very open with sexuality.She was supposed to be voiced by comedian Maria Bamford. I do think Bamford is a very talented comedian and is great with voices. Saw her on Comedy Central years ago and was very impressed with her voices. Yet I saw a promo video of her reading lines as Miracle. She made Miracle seem less innocent. That's what makes her funny with her beliefs: her innocence. Chenoweth was a good call for the role. Miracle's catch-phrase: "Babies are gifts from God. Drummers are creeps."
**STUART PROSZAKIAN (Will Forte): A former prison clown, now assistant principal (or "Ass Principal"). Is often is a state of extreme happiness, which is brought on by medication. I loved Forte's performance as this character. His delivery was spot-on in almost all his lines, and many great moments, in my opinion. Catch-phrase: "I need a catch-phrase! (**applause**)"
**SUE SEZNO (Kenan Thompson): Not much to say on this character. She's acting as principal as the real principal recovers from personal injuries. Catch-phrase: "No."
**WILLARD DEUTSCHEBOG (Henry Winkler): Suicidally depressed German teacher who is practically homeless and afraid of just about anything. He hitches rides to work from ambulances, hearses, etc. I enjoyed Winkler's performance. It's great that many of his roles since Happy Days are like the "Anti-Fonzie" types. Catch-phrase: "If I believed in re-encarnation, I'd kill myself tonight."
**HELEN KLENCH (Cheri Oteri): Not much on this character either, except that she is very intelligent. This is because she constantly reads books, and she believes the library will be important if/when the internet shuts down. She is short tempered and wears a lot of make-up. Catch-phrase: "Quiet down!"
**ANDREW LEGUSTAMBOS (Nick Kroll): The flamboyant bisexual drama teacher. Last name translates "he likes both." He has a thing for Larry *and* Miracle (and Stuart after taking female hormone replacements, which causes Stuart to grow breasts). He is frequently seen with Helen. Loved Kroll's performance as this character. Catch-phrase: "Speak up."
**MUHANNAD SABEEH "HAPPY" FA-ACH NUABAR (Tom Kenny): The custodian, who speaks in his native language (with some moments of English). Catch-phrase: "I am fond of America!" He is translated by an English translator, also voice by Kenny. Which brings me to negatives on this show.
You thought I was only going to blow this show, calling it perfect? Not quite. The show had its flaws. First off: Happy's narrator. At first I liked the idea of him being a translator. It was kind of funny. Then I see that it's not just a translator, but a narrator. As if he's an animal being studied in an Animal Planet documentary. Once it became a translator, this did kind of make me go "huh?" It felt kind of out of place. Secondly, as mentioned before: the names. I wonder why they went with such weird names for these characters, like "Larry Littlejunk" (I hate alliterated names), "Miracle Grohe", "Sezno" and "Deutschebog." I remember in its early development, there were different names for most of the characters. Larry was originally given the last name "Slimp". In the video, Bateman read the line "today's the day you notice Larry Slimp" and it was much funnier than "...Larry L. I say Larry L because I don't like to use my last name." The joke was never used again, thank God, but it still sticks out. From the beginning, I never liked Willard's last name. Great character, but the last name was kind of a lame joke. Reminds me of something a 7th grader draws on his notebook during a bad class. Also, with three episodes that were strong and funny, episode four (spoofing 80's films) was a pretty big misfire.
A early look at the development of the show, featuring Bamford at Miracle, and some great jokes not seen in the show (especially the "Google" joke):
Having said this, this was a funny show. I never thought it would last long, though. I thought of it as something to hold off my fellow Development fans while the Arrested Development movie is made. Most animated shows not created by Matt Groening, Seth MacFarlane or Mike Judge don't last very long. I see as another addition to a list of animated shows that didn't last long, but were entertaining nonetheless. I hope this show finds its way onto DVD soon and builds a following. It sucks the show was never given a fair chance. They barely advertised it on Fox, and after the first episode it wasn't even advertised at all. Fox just sucks at marketing television shows, and Hurwitz should just look elsewhere to develop a show. At least he can spend all this time working on the movie now.
So Rest in Peace, Sit Down Shut Up. We hardly know ye, but we will meet again soon...on DVD. It wasn't as brilliant or intricate as Arrested Development, but it was still a fun show to watch, and the show had a great cast that was clearly having a blast recording the voices. And that's what most of Fox's animated primetime shows are: just a fun way to kill a half hour.
Still a shame it lasted only four episodes. Episode five will not be airing as scheduled.