THE SHOW “Son of Zorn”
WHEN | WHERE Previews Sunday at 8 p.m. on Fox/5, then moves to its regular time slot, Sundays at 8:30 p.m., on Sept. 25.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Zorn (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) is the Defender of Zephyria, conqueror of the tribes of Agon, decapitator of the dark herdsmen of Grith and . . . he’s got a birthday to go to. His son, Alan (Johnny Pemberton), is turning 17 back home in Orange County, California. So Zorn leaves his animated island realm of Zephyria to return to the OC. What’s unique here is that Zorn remains a cartoon figure amid real live humans, who include his ex-wife, Edie (Cheryl Hines) and her fiance, Craig (Tim Meadows). Seven or eight feet tall — clad in a loincloth — Zorn reluctantly decides he must fit in if he has any hope of reconnecting with Alan — short for Alangulon. So he rents an apartment and gets a job in industrial soap sales. His boss, Linda (Artemis Pebdani), is cautiously optimistic about his potential.
This live action/animation is brought to you by the people who created the unlikely Fox success “The Last Man on Earth” — Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
MY SAY “Son of Zorn” sounds like a radical proposition until you realize this radical proposition has been around for just about as long as there have been TV shows and movies. Mixing live action with animation is nothing particularly new — 1988’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” as Exhibit A — but what’s new here is the impulse to turn the gimmick into an ongoing series. Reasons abound why live action/animation has yet to invade prime time, with expense topping the list. Besides, this is a gag, or a party trick. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should, week after week (after week).
Gimmicks do have a way of getting old, and even over 21 previewable minutes of Sunday’s episode, both “Zorn” and Zorn do test, then strain, patience. He’s a dad who just wants to reconnect with his son, but manages only to embarrass him. Even as a sitcom trope this is antediluvian.
But assuming you do have those 21 minutes to kill Sunday, consider that this is called “Son of Zorn,” not merely “Zorn.” The focus here is as much on the human cast as the cartoon counterpart — their reactions, or spit takes, to Zorn and his crazy ol’ Zorn-ish antics. For the most part, they treat this boisterous interloper as just another human, whose physical presence is as real as if he were carved — the right word, as you will see — from real flesh. Hines, Meadows, Pebdani and Pemberton are seasoned comic actors who know their way around a joke — even a one-joke series — and expertly deadpan their way through this one.
But back to that critical question — a 13-episode series? Already, “Zorn” has undergone a production team overhaul. Some — either producers or Fox — aren’t seeing eye to eye on the future. Maybe there’s a bright one here, or a short one. Sunday’s preview barely indicates which.
BOTTOM LINE Either clever idea or one-trick pony, the “Son of Zorn” pilot can’t entirely decide which it is either.