Unlike a lot of animated shows, “Allen Gregory” has a logical reason for employing the medium: Building a series around an insanely precocious and pretentious 7-year-old boy wouldn’t only be difficult to cast, but just imagine the production limits that would impose. So co-creator Jonah Hill voices the title character — a kid with two gay dads, an adopted Cambodian sister he deeply resents and a preference for Pinot Grigio with lunch. Deeply absurd but only fitfully funny, “Allen” will probably be loved by a small group of people, but not especially liked by many.
Allen is introduced at a lavish party thrown by his father Richard (French Stewart), during which pop berates partner Jeremy (Nat Faxon) and simultaneously celebrates Allen as the world’s youngest Tony winner. The bespectacled tyke, in turn, expresses gratitude “to everyone here whose fantasies are fueled by my achievements.”
Ah, but there’s trouble in paradise. Until now home-schooled by Jeremy, the seemingly well-heeled Richard needs his much-maligned partner to reenter the workforce, for reasons he won’t specify. This turn of events forces Allen to attend school, and naturally, the pampered boy is an awkward fit in his new surroundings — informing the teacher he’s fine with her, provided she understands her authority doesn’t exceed his.
“Allen Gregory” is certainly strange, and a little risky in its mix of sexual content with a child protagonist in an animated format. Sure, “The Simpsons” gets away with murder, but it’s still surprising to see a second-grader presented as being infatuated with his sixtysomething teacher, and the eager-to-please school board urging her to indulge those fantasies. (Don’t look now, but your boycott campaign from the Parents Television Council is doubtless already in the mail.)
Mostly, though, like many a prodigy, “Allen Gregory’s” over-the-top characters don’t promise to age very well. That’s a shame, really, since the show has a cool look and actually the potential to be about something in dealing with how a pretentious egghead tries to fit in.
As constituted, “Allen” offers viewers little foundation to latch onto, other than the fleeting diversion of hearing Hill playing a child who speaks like an NPR morning host.
Practically speaking, being sandwiched between two established series ought to provide this newcomer sampling. Moreover, in addition to creators Hill, Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel, the show has “Family Guy’s” David A. Goodman to oversee its continuing education and counts former News Corp. chief operating officer Peter Chernin among its brain trust.
Still, if “Allen Gregory’s” pilot is an accurate preview of what’s to come, this talented tot’s graduation out of primetime might come sooner than any of his many fathers would welcome.