In a midseason inundated with new, animated series, “Home Movies” manages to set itself apart, offering clever dialogue and sharp social commentary. With its patented Squigglevision, the UPN series, from the creators of “Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist,” may not be the prettiest on the block, but at least it’s in the running for one of the funniest.Brendon Small (voiced by Brendon Small) is an asthmatic 8-year-old who routinely corrals his bespectacled baby sister Josie, best friend Melissa and snot-nosed neighbor Jason to star in his ultra-low-budget movies, like “The Dark Side of the Law.” Filled with every movie cliche, recurring themes include imprisonment, betrayal and heartbreak — all reflective of Brendon’s outlook on life. The atrocities of Brendon’s life are more or less a figment of his overly dramatic imagination, although his is a less-than-perfect life. Small for his age, Brendon makes a valiant attempt at team sports, but prefers hiding behind the lens of his video camera. Brendon’s mother Paula (Paula Poundstone) is a recent divorcee who proudly wears a big chip on her shoulder along with her trademark baseball cap and sweat pants. Along with silent baby Josie, who spends much of her time in a bouncy seat, the Small world features a revolving door of underdogs and misfits. The first episode deals with Paula’s first foray back into the world of dating, which, much to Brendon’s horror, involves his soccer coach, Mr. McGuirk (H. Jon Benjamin). McGuirk (rhymes with jerk) is a Neanderthal type whose best attempt at any real coaching boils down to “Don’t get a tattoo, play soccer.” The lonely McGuirk is excited about the prospect of dating Paula, but she’s decided to reveal her bitter side early in the date, so as not to promote false advertising. Brendon, a smarter version of Bart Simpson, is just as conniving and fallible; making studied remarks to unnerve McGuirk before the big date and taunting him unmercifully the next day at soccer practice. Put together by a tight-knit group, all of whom double and sometimes triple up on various production duties, the show has the frenetic energy born of heartfelt dedication. Squigglevision, a distinctive brand of computer animation that is the brainchild of executive producer Tom Snyder — no, not the former latenight host — gives a certain malleable quality to the characters that director Loren Bouchard uses to great effect, especially in the case of the squirmy Brendon. The voices have the natural rhythm of everyday conversation, the result of what the producers call “retroscripting” — the stars ad-lib during readings. Talent here is up to the task. Small is a virtual gold mine of material, providing a distinctive voice and hilarious dialogue as Brendon, as well as the catchy theme song and episodic music (penned with the help of Bouchard). Poundstone’s gruff voice and wry comedy are a natural fit for the show, and H. Jon Benjamin, as McGuirk and Jason , also proves to be versatile. Tech credits are fine.
Monday, April 26, 8:30 P.M., UPN
Originated in Los Angeles and Boston by Tom Snyder Prods. in association with Burns & Burns Prods. Executive producers, Tom Snyder, Loren Bouchard, Bonnie Burns, Mary Catherine Tucker; creator, Bouchard, Brendon Small; director, Bouchard; writers, Small, Jon Benjamin, Bouchard, Paula Poundstone, Melissa Bardin Galsky; art director, Chris Georgenes.
Editors, Chris Georgenes, Damon Wong; music, Small, Bouchard. Running time: 30 MIN.
Voices of: Paula Small - Paula Poundstone Brendon Small - Brendon Small Coach McGuirk - H. Jon Benjamin Melissa - Melissa Bardin Galsky Jason - H. Jon Benjamin
Data provided by:Nielsen Media Research (Preliminary Results)