Thursday, January 19, 2012


The first episode of Unsupervised is not a particularly auspicious start for FX's new animated comedy, and certainly will look pretty poor in comparison to Archer, which airs right before it. It comes off like an uninspired Beavis & Butt-Head knock-off, with its focus on two aimless teenage losers who try to be cool but fail. Unsupervised's Gary and Joel aren't as stupid as Beavis and Butt-Head, but they're just as pathetic, and their world full of off-kilter friends and neighbors is overly reminiscent of Mike Judge's Highland (as well as the world of the inferior Napoleon Dynamite animated series, which premiered just a few days ago).

The big difference, though, and one that becomes clearer as the show goes on, is that Gary and Joel are relentlessly positive optimists who make friends with virtually everyone they know, including parents, teachers and other authority figures. They have a boundless enthusiasm for life, even if that enthusiasm extends to wanting to get laid and be part of the in crowd. The show's funniest moments (which are admittedly infrequent) come from the contrast between Gary and Joel's absolute certainty that what they are doing is awesome and great for everyone and the reality that they are just acting like complete idiots. No other ostensibly edgy show would have its characters get so genuinely pumped up about going to the dentist, doing laundry or joining the school baseball team.

The problem is that the weird earnestness of the main characters doesn't really fit with the raunchy tone, and their enthusiasm wears as quickly on the audience as it does on the other characters. The jokes also just aren't very funny, failing to take advantage of the characters' unique perspective and instead going for cheap, obvious laughs, which often fail to materialize. At best, this could be a funny show about the contrast between the culture of blind self-confidence and the reality that most people's lives are full of drudgery and disappointment. Co-creator and voice of Joel David Hornsby embodies this idea in an exaggerated, absurd way via his character on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but Unsupervised doesn't have that show's over-the-top excess. It doesn't approach the more low-key sweetness of something like King of the Hill, either (a problem that Napoleon Dynamite shares), so it ends up awkwardly in the middle. Unlike Napoleon, though, it has enough promise and enough jokes that work that it might find the proper balance eventually.

Premieres tonight at 10:30 p.m. on FX.

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