×

Animation Domination High-Def: Axe Cop, High School USA!

Fox bats .500 with its first two animated ideas, getting primetime preview before latenight slot

With:
Voices: Todd Barry, Charley Damski, Giancarlo Esposito, Rob Huebel, Vincent Kartheiser, Ken Marino, Megan Mullally (“Axe Cop”); Ike Barinholtz, Nathan Barnatt, Rachel Butera, Kartheiser, T.J. Miller, Mandy Moore, Mark Rivers, Dino Stamatopoulos (“High School USA!”)

Taking a page from the Adult Swim playbook (including its producing auspices), Fox is rather shrewdly using its Saturday latenight slot to experiment with a number of animated concepts, under the porous-sounding umbrella “Animation Domination High-Def.” The first two, receiving a Sunday preview, highlight the hit-miss nature of modern animation aimed at young dudes, with “High School USA!” pretty badly misfiring and “Axe Cop” emerging as a wacked-out, irreverent hoot, full of colorful absurdities. Neither feels like a mass-appeal hit, necessarily, but “Axe Cop” at least deserves to carve out a cult following.

Why a sunglasses-wearing, dinosaur-riding, birthday-cake-eating, zombie-killing cop (voiced, in an inspired bit of casting, by an uncredited Nick Offerman from “Parks and Recreation”)? The obvious response would be, “Hey, why the hell not?”

Adapted from a Web comic created by a young boy, the series essentially eliminates any niggling details — like plot or story — to indulge in nonstop, highly stylized action, with no apparent limits on time or space. As such, Axe Cop doesn’t abide by any known laws of nature, and thinks nothing of flitting to another planet to thwart evil, with his trusty sidekick, Flute Cop (Ken Marino).

The martini-dry writing is full of knowing genre winks, such as when marauding zombies turn tail and run, leaving a puzzled Axe Cop to deadpan, “Zombies always fight me till I chop off their heads.”

If “Axe Cop” is disarmingly (or perhaps more accurately, beheadingly) funny, “High School USA!” flunks its admission test — an exercise in tiresome naughtiness for its own sake. Designed to resemble Archie comics, the show focuses on a group of high school kids led by Marsh (“Mad Men’s” Vincent Kartheiser), his gal pal Cassandra (Mandy Moore), dimwitted bully Brad (T.J. Miller) and the egg-headed (not to be confused with Jugheaded) Blackstein (Nathan Barnatt).

The girls make out, there’s an “It gets better after high school” dance, and the politically correct school labels Brad a bully, which of course makes him want to punch people and things. All told, the gags are as indistinguishable from a dozen other cable or Web shows as the generic look is.

Presenting two cartoons within a half-hour (running about 10½ minutes each, sans commercials), “ADHD” is really aimed at the ADD crowd; still, capitalizing on the old “Mad TV” berth is a logical way for Fox to try to inexpensively seed new animated concepts — as opposed to just asking Seth MacFarlane to keep churning out titles — and it’s tailor-made for cross-pollination with the Web.

Besides, in TV terms, batting .500 out of the gate actually isn’t so bad. Especially if you’re wielding an axe.

Animation Domination High-Def: Axe Cop, High School USA!

(Series; Fox, Sun. July 21, 9:30 p.m.)

Production: Produced by Friends Night.

Crew: Executive producers, Nick Weidenfeld, Hend Baghdady, Dave Jeser, Matt Silverstein, Dino Stamatopoulos (“High School USA!”); supervising producer, Matthew Chadwick; producer, Ethan Nicolle; creative director, Ben Jones; writers, Jeser, Silverstein (“Axe Cop”), Stamatopoulos (“High School USA!”); editors, Al LeVine, James Atkinson. 30 MIN.

Cast: Voices: Todd Barry, Charley Damski, Giancarlo Esposito, Rob Huebel, Vincent Kartheiser, Ken Marino, Megan Mullally (“Axe Cop”); Ike Barinholtz, Nathan Barnatt, Rachel Butera, Kartheiser, T.J. Miller, Mandy Moore, Mark Rivers, Dino Stamatopoulos (“High School USA!”)

More TV

  • Who Died in 'Grey's Anatomy' Season

    How 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Station 19' Approached Its Crossover Death Count

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the “Station 19″/”Grey’s Anatomy” crossover that aired Jan. 23. “Station 19” and “Grey’s Anatomy” kicked off the start of their official combined universe with a two-hour block that began with the third season premiere of the former Shondaland series. In the episode entitled “I [...]

  • An IPad is used instead of

    Following Outrage, Discovery Networks Backs Down on Composer Ultimatum

    Discovery Networks, which last month unveiled a new business model that would have all but assured series composers a drastic income drop, has scuttled that plan in response to outrage expressed by the media music community. This means that the shows on Discovery, Animal Planet, HGTV, Food Network and other Discovery-owned platforms, will continue to [...]

  • THE GOOD PLACE -- "Patty" Episode

    'The Good Place' Boss on Reaching the Titular Location, Finding It's a 'Bummer'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Patty,” the penultimate episode of “The Good Place.” The titular good place on Mike Schur’s philosophical comedy “The Good Place” isn’t a literal place at all but instead a state of mind. Sure, after four seasons (50 episodes) the characters on the show did [...]

  • obi wan ewan mcgregor

    Obi-Wan Kenobi Series at Disney Plus Loses Writer, Seeks to Overhaul Scripts

    Pre-production on the Obi-Wan Kenobi-focused TV series in the works at Disney Plus has been put on hold as the streamer and Lucasfilm look to overhaul early scripts and find new writers, sources tell Variety. Hossein Amini had been attached to write. The news follows recent talk that the entire series was being scrapped altogether. [...]

  • Zion Williamson

    Zion Williamson's Pelicans Debut Is a Ratings Slam Dunk

    With ratings in a slump so far this season, the NBA has needed someone to come off the bench and ball out. Cue the New Orleans Pelicans debut of Zion Williamson. The much-heralded number 1 pick from the 2019 draft had sat out the first 44 games of the Pelicans’ season with a knee injury, [...]

  • RuPauls Drag Race

    TV News Roundup: VH1 Announces 'RuPaul's Drag Race' Season 12 Contestants

    In today’s TV news roundup, VH1 revealed the contestants for the upcoming season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the Oprah Winfrey Network renewed several of its unscripted series. CASTING VH1 revealed the 13 queens that will be competing on the 12th season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” are Aidenn Zhane, Bria, Crystal Methyd, Dahlia Sin, Gigi [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content