Darndest Things


If Dilbert is mainly just tedious, Eddie Murphy’s new animated series The PJs, which premiered on Fox January 10, is flat-out stupefying—and not just because it’s an eyesore, though that helps. While I don’t believe that any technique should be rejected out of hand, I might make an exception for claymation—whose laborious look undercuts the very free dom animation is good for, and whose golliwog aspects come unpleasantly front and center when it’s used to depict non whites, as here. With exec producer Murphy providing the voice of a cranky, lazy housing-project super whose hobgoblins include a skeletal crack head who’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys on your back along with a gallery of uppity females out to make our hero’s life hell—nagging, dumpy wife, grotesquely obese neighbor, cranky old biddy, voodoo-priestess ball breaker—and a pair of tykes doing the darndest things, this ghastly show makes Amos ‘n’ Andy look like Amistad. According to TV Guide, the show is supposed to be impudent topical satire, so here’s a sample: Murphy’s shiftless character is named (are you rolling on the floor yet?) Thurgood.

Instead, with Matt Groening’s Futurama not due ’til March, the animated show I’d advise you to check out is Family Guy, premiering January 31—which I can’t properly re view, since Fox didn’t have the complete pilot available. But the half-episode I’ve seen has giggles galore. Yup, it’s that good old middle-class dysfunctional homestead getting sent up again—but this time mostly for the hell of it, in a spirit of oddly equable glee. Tanked but genial Dad treats his buds to a screening of porn classic Assablanca, Jan Brady gets tossed into the Chamber of Fire, and a seething infant snarls in Basil Rathbone accents from his high chair at the inoffensive mother he’s sworn to assassinate “since the day I escaped from your wretched womb—that cursed ovarian Bastille.” Then Dad got told he’d been fired, and answered with a genuinely chagrined, “Aw, geez. For how long?”