Faster than you can say “Nanoo, nanoo,” Nickelodeon’s live-action sitcom “Marvin Marvin” establishes itself as a teeth-gnashing affair, determined to test the appeal of Lucas Cruikshank — star of the web sensation “Fred” — by casting him in the creakiest vehicle imaginable. Special teenagers are a kids TV staple, but the gags for this show about an alien kid hiding in plain view are stale from the get-go. While the title E.T. mentions having five stomachs, all but the most undemanding viewers ought to have trouble keeping this thin gruel down.
Clearly, series creators Jon Ross and Jeff Bushell aspire to nothing more than silliness, which in theory for a youth-oriented project is perfectly fine. Presumably, though, the goal is for parents to be able to watch with their tykes, as opposed to wanting to flee from the room and worrying about what extended exposure to even one “Marvin” might do to depress SAT scores.
Cruikshank’s Marvin has taken refuge on Earth, we’re told via the opening credits, because of a war on his distant planet, leading to his adoption by a typical white-bread family here.
Like Disney XD’s equally awful “Lab Rats,” Marvin also aspires to nothing more than being a normal kid and attending high school. Of course, the very idea horrifies his adopted teenage sister (Victory Van Tuyl), right up until she’s about to lose the class-president vote, and guess who shows up to potentially make life more awkward, and/or save the day?
Because Marvin has all sorts of powers and biological quirks, there are limitless possibilities for sight gags and peculiar one-liners. In the premiere, though, that amounts to vomiting up cereal, sniffing the dog’s butt and mentioning that he’s “only” 580 years old.
While it’s understandable kid-oriented channels would seek to broaden their footprint, the fact their live family sitcoms tend to aim so low doesn’t speak particularly well of how they perceive the intended audience. Looking back at something like ABC’s “TGIF,” all is forgiven.
Cruikshank certainly hams it up as the wide-eyed alien, but after 10 minutes or so it’s hard not to start pining for Mork, or even ALF.
“I never get tired of that,” Grandpa (Casey Sander) says when Marvin uses a flaming finger to instantly heat up his drink.
That makes one of us.