To quote FOX’s series description, Son of Zorn (Sundays, 8:30/7:0C) is a hybrid live-action/animated comedy about an animated warrior from a faraway island in the Pacific Ocean who returns to Orange County, CA, to win back his live-action ex-wife and teenage son.
In tomorrow night’s special preview – following the NFL doubleheader (8/7C) – we meet Zorn (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) as he and his animated companions thwart yet another attack on Zephyria before heading back to Orange County for his son’s seventeenth birthday. The fun begins almost immediately and never lets up through the entire half-hour.
First off, think of Zorn, Defender of Zephyria (who is animated in the flat 2D style of an old Saturday morning cartoon), as a much dimmer He-Man brought into our live-action world. He can’t understand why his ex-wife, Edie (Cheryl Hines, Curb Your enthusiasm, Subagatory), would give up the excitement of Zephyria (‘Remember that fivesome we had with those mountain trolls?’) for a boring suburban life engaged to Craig (Tim Meadows, Saturday Night Live, The Colbert Report), a professor for an online university.
Neither can he understand how and why his son Alangulon (Johnny Pemberton, Family Tools, Superstore), who wants to be called Alan, is a vegetarian – and why he’s ashamed to tell a pretty girl he rides the school bus.
Nope! Zorn is all about the big gesture and epic adventure – which makes his adjustment to life in Orange County an epic adventure in fish-out-waterness – he can’t understand why the guy who’s his boss (Artemis Pebdani, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Scandal) dresses like a woman (she can’t be a woman and be his immediate superior, can he?).
Then there’s the matter of controlling his passion and trying to be considerate – something for which he is clearly unsuited. His birthday present for Alan is high mark in right idea-totally wrong execution…
Sudeikis voices Zorn with just the right mix of witless arrogance and confusion – the big guy is going to have to work to make it in such an alien environment.
Hines makes Edie a determined defender of her son and fiancé – and not one to put up with Zorn’s boneheaded efforts to a) win her back by playing on memories of their good times back in the day, and b) make Alan something he’s not.
Meadows’ Craig is the butt of some jokes, but he’s kind and intelligent and has a tendency to call attention to moments when he’s metaphorically emasculated by Zorn.
Pebdanis has the task of playing straightperson to Zorn – and, in a way, a second counselor to help him adjust to his new life (at least while he’s at work). She’s appropriately and wonderfully dry.
Creators Reed Agnew and Eli Jorne have clearly watched way too many sword & sorcery movies and the complete run of He-Man and Dungeons & Dragons – not to mention a host of Very Similar Sitcoms. They break so many conventions/tropes of these shows that one might think they couldn’t make the series last. (Instead, they didn’t last – both left the show and its showrunner is now Sally McKenna.)
Like other shows FOX has scheduled on Sunday nights, Son of Zorn is unique. By mixing, matching and subverting tropes from sitcoms and animated fantasy shows, it has achieved a level of originality and innovation that makes it worth checking out – and if succeeding episodes match the wonderful weirdness of the premiere it could be another hit for FOX.
Final Grade: B+