Perhaps the most striking element of “Son of Zorn” – Fox’s live-action family sitcom with an animated disruptor tossed in – isn’t the giant, He-Man-esque “Defender of Zephyria” with the body of a Greek god and the voice of Jason Sudeikis. It’s Tim Meadows.
Now, stick with me here: Tim Meadows plays Craig, the online psychology professor engaged to Edie (Cheryl Hines!) and the man set to become the de facto father of Alan (full name: Alangulon). Much to the fury and mockery of Zorn, Alangulon’s birthfather, Craig is a weak, self-effacing authority figure, even when compared to people less stereotypically masculine than Zorn himself. I mean, Zorn has to be animated in order to fully capture his Schwarzenegger-ian male prowess.
But what makes Craig so impactful isn’t how he exemplifies the vast difference between modern masculinity and Reagan-era machismo. It’s that his self-awareness is so grounded in reality, it makes the absurdity of Zorn’s behavior all the more unbelievable — and I’m talking about an animated character living in a live-action reality who murders a falcon the size of a small jet at the end of the first episode. That’s how important Craig is, and that’s why “Son of Zorn’s” success is sitting squarely on his sagging shoulders.
While the pilot of “Son of Zorn” scored easy (yet deserved) points for the jarring integration of Zorn into a world without currency-filled severed limbs, some of the best moments remained those rooted in familiar family dynamics. Alan’s attempt to flirt with a neighborhood waitress was best when his father was confused by his vegetarianism — before Zorn started swinging around his bracelet blade (though that, too, was pretty funny). Equally clever was when Zorn threw the reins for the aforementioned giant falcon to Alan, who ineptly dropped them, claiming, “You never taught me how to catch.”
And the best line of the night came from, yes, Craig, when Zorn spilled blood all over the driveway by brutally slaughtering his intended gift to Alan. When his fiance went to get the hose, Craig quipped, “Edie, the drought!”
Brash jokes to the opposite extreme are good for a quick chuckle, but deeper laughs came from the above comparisons many of us find in day-to-day life. Still, what makes “Son of Zorn” an exciting new series is that it can go to both ends of the spectrum with consistency. We’ve gotten a few glimpses of Zorn’s world, first in the opening sequence and later in Facetime communications with friends. That opens up narrative possibilities unlike other live-action/animation hybrids, even if the real world seems more conducive to laughs right now.
Tonight’s episode, “Defender of Teen Love,” didn’t quite live up to the pilot, but it did illustrate the kind of storytelling executive producers Sally McKenna and Eric Appel want to showcase in the series. They’re committed to building relationships: between Zorn and Alan, Zorn and Edie, Edie and Craig, and, hopefully, Zorn and Craig.
This hybrid series deserves a hybrid family, and Craig is just the man to hold it all together.