Every once in a while, something unusual comes along on television. This year it’s “Moe’s World,” which blends street smarts with saccharine, live action with computer animation, to tell the story of a little boy who’s, well, dead.
This year-old pilot starts with a kid (Deon Richmond) telling his little brother Jerome (Kenneth A. Brown) that he shouldn’t be playing basketball until he finishes his paper route.
Oddly, however, Jerome pays absolutely no attention to Moe. Slighted, Moe takes his own ball to the other end of the court, where he shows off some amazing, soaring moves that not even Air Jordan could perform.
Just when the audience is beginning to wonder what’s going on, Moe explains: “Dying really helped my game.”
Seems that Moe was hit and killed by a truck five months ago when he dashed into the street after a ball. Upon reaching Purgatory (the standard filmic blend of Greek columns and fog), he was told to take a number. Rather than wait around , he returns to his old Avenue B neighborhood, where no one can actually hear or see him, but his influence is definitely felt.
“Moe’s World,” from the fertile imagination of writer/director Kevin Rodney Sullivan, incorporates many visual styles.
When Moe tells Jerome a bedtime story, it’s illustrated with Metrolight Studios’ exotic computer animation. And when Moe introduces us to Steve (Duane Martin), a basketball player who refuses to acknowledge that he’s soon to be a father, viewers are suddenly in a gladiator allegory, complete with togas.
However, the bulk of the action is realistic, or as realistic as it can be when narrated by a dead kid, and cinematographer Hanania Baer offers straightforward portraits of the black working-class neighborhood where Moe’s family lives.
The two subplots concern Moe’s mother’s (S. Epatha Merkerson, wonderfully sympathetic yet tough) and her date with a mystery man (Carl Lumbly, saddled with an odd but decent Jamaican accent), and the pregnant Jiwanda’s (Tisha Campbell) efforts to get Steve to deal with the impending baby.
As family drama, “Moe’s World” is tops. Its lessons are strong and explicit, but not preachy. It’s not a show for young children–at least not without parental explanation (little kids may not be ready to deal with some of the subjects tackled here, such as death and teenage pregnancy) — but “Moe’s World” takes a realistic and fascinating look at some of the hard choices and situations facing kids today.
ABC bought the pilot for “Moe’s World” but didn’t pick up the series. There is talk that Fox is taking over production of the show, which would add valuable depth to its teen-oriented sked.