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The Awesomes

Seth Meyers' animated superhero spoof is filled with 'SNL' alums but less than super

After being pulled off the sales block, Hulu told the New York Times its intent was to focus on upcoming original programs, beginning with “The Awesomes.” Maybe it’s time for Plan C. Not that this animated series from “Saturday Night Live’s” Seth Meyers and “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon’s” Mike Shoemaker is bad, but neither is it particularly interesting — feeling like one of those animated sketches from “SNL,” without the wit or bite of something like Robert Smigel’s “The Ambiguously Gay Duo.” Beyond the project’s auspices, in fact, there’s little to distinguish this lackluster effort from scores of cheeky animation on cable and the Web.

Meyers also provides the voice of Prock, the leader of a disjointed team of superheroes he inherited from his father. Only when dad left the most valuable members quit, leaving the son to recruit new ones, each of whom has oddities and quirks, from Impresario (Kenan Thompson), whose magic doesn’t quite work; to Sumo (Bobby Lee), a small boy who, when angry, morphs into a sumo wrestler.

The previewed episode (already available via Xbox), in what amounts to a slightly bluer “Futurama” riff, focuses on Muscleman (Ike Barinholtz), whose penchant for alien sexual conquests (the show uses, and repeatedly bleeps, a more colorful term) gets him into hot water. That thread produces the one genuinely funny gross-out moment, which simply isn’t enough to sustain the whole enterprise.

Visually uninspired and stiffly animated, the show indulges in lots of talk and little action. And while there’s plenty of mediocre Adult Swim-style animation characterized primarily by its naughty streak, the idea of dysfunctional superheroes is such a worked-over premise as to seem less torn from the zeitgeist than cut and pasted from other shows. In that respect, instead of spoofing “The Avengers” or “Fantastic Four,” this feels like the sitcom version of “Watchmen,” in watered-down form.

As the Times story illustrates, Hulu is getting some mileage out of the “SNL”-heavy creative  pedigree, which is perhaps half the battle. Yet Web series can only go so far when their main selling point is buying pet projects from name performers, principally because nobody else wanted them.

Granted, the title was intended to be ironic, but to borrow one of Meyers’ “Weekend Update” gags, “The Awesomes?” Really? Why not just call it “The Vaguely Tolerables?”

The Awesomes

(Series; Hulu, Thurs. Aug. 1)

Production: Produced by Broadway Video and Bento Box Entertainment.

Crew: Executive producers, Seth Meyers, Mike Shoemaker; supervising producer, Mark McJimsey; writers, Meyers, Shoemaker, Judd Winick, Josh Weinstein; animation producers, Janelle Momary-Neely, Craig Hartin; music, Michael Tavera. 22 MIN.

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