Preoccupied with impressing teens, the show should possess scant appeal outside that demo.
“Sit Down, Shut Up” is an odd hybrid, and not just because the series places animated characters against photographed backdrops. Mixing social satire with a relentless array of kinky sex jokes, the early episodes limbo beneath the bar of bad taste set by Seth MacFarlane’s animated fare, feeling more suited — mostly for ill — to Comedy Central or Adult Swim’s latenight menu than primetime on Fox. Despite a pedigree that includes “Arrested Development” creator Mitch Hurwitz and many of that program’s stars, “Sit Down” seldom rises above sniggering double entendre. Seemingly preoccupied with impressing teenage boys, the show should possess scant appeal outside that demo.
Focusing on an eccentric group of teachers at a Florida high school, the series is actually derived from an existing Australian show, although it’s difficult to understand why anybody would need to import an idea this basic and banal.
The various faculty members’ punny names neatly summarize the fifth-grade level of the comedy, along with the fact that the school, Knob Haven, comes complete with a conspicuously phallic mascot. Then there’s the purring bisexual teacher, the lonely one that purchases nasty porn and our ostensible hero, bumbling phys-ed coach Larry Littlejunk (Jason Bateman), who harbors an unrequited crush on Bible-thumping single-mom science teacher Miracle Grohe (Kristin Chenoweth) even though he thinks she’s a moron.
“Arrested” chums Will Arnett and Henry Winkler join Bateman in the cast, to little avail. The opener’s wince-inducing premise can perhaps be blamed in part on animation’s long lead time, with acting principal Sue Sezno (a woman, but voiced by “Saturday Night Live’s” Kenan Thompson) informing the staff that someone’s getting fired unless they raise money fast. Given the job cuts strafing education and the workforce in general, this set-up is not exactly a laugh riot.
Like MacFarlane’s “Family Guy” and “American Dad,” gags whiz by rapidly and contain plenty of winking, fourth-wall-breaking references, such as a character pleading for a flashback of Miracle, er, flashing, or someone saying, “This better be another misleading dream sequence.” In a subsequent installment at a school carnival, the producers throw in the “Sanford and Son” theme, and one attraction — along with Bean Bag Toss — is called “Salad Toss.” If you don’t get it, see Chris Rock’s first HBO special — or never mind, you’re probably better off.
The one consistently amusing (if wildly politically incorrect) bit involves the Arab custodian, nicknamed “Happy,” whose unintelligible mutterings are translated, sort of, in a crisp British accent by Tom Kenny of “SpongeBob SquarePants” renown.
Mostly, though, “Sit Down” is simply off-the-charts silly — a disappointingly blunt instrument from creative collaborators associated with better. The development here is arrested, alright, but unlike their last Fox foray, there’s nothing thus far to stand up and shout about.