Son of Zorn: “Return to Orange County” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Fox has made some strange decisions in it’s time. Firefly, Arrested Development, Family Guy—all very strange, funny shows. It took a lot of guts to put these shows on the air. There were no guarantees these shows would succeed, just inklings that they were unique and powerful voices mired in beautiful monotony. These shows were different. They were also all cancelled. No, they didn’t just fizzle out or reach their inevitable conclusion, they were canceled violently and with extreme prejudice. With the same brash attitude and seemingly illogical decision-making that got these shows on the air, the shows were dismantled without regard to the creators and fans alike.

What does this have to do with Son of Zorn? Nothing, potentially. This series looks different. This series combines animation with live action in a way that comedians have reserved for indicating a drug-induced hallucination. This series could be brilliant enough to be canceled.

Or this series could be another monotonous voice with a pretty face.

The Characters

Today we’ll start with the title character: Zorn (Jason Sudeikis). Technically, Alan (Johnny Pemberton) is the title character, being the son of Zorn and all, but Zorn appears to be the main character. I mean, he is animated. Zorn appears to be your typical alien barbarian warrior—think He-Man, if he were your likable boss—who has a son and an ex-wife back on earth. A son he loves. In fact, his love for his son seems to be his key redeeming quality.

Alan, previously named as Zorn’s son, resents his father a bit. Alan exhibits traits that are antithetical to the very being of his father. Alan is a vegetarian, Zorn eats his meat while it breathes; Alan doesn’t excel at sports, Zorn can crush the skull of a foe in one hand while wielding a four hundred pound sword in the other; Alan doesn’t like the idea of killing, Zorn murders with the ease of an uncaring god. Alan is basically Michael Cera, if Michael Cera resented his father.

The final piece of this broken family, Edie (Cheryl Hines), has the full time job of tempering Zorn’s barbaric habits, while smoothing relations between her son and her ex. I think that might be about it for her. She was a bit of a wild woman in her younger days, before she settled down to raise her child. Her character, insofar, seems like the traditional voice of reason.

The Conflict

The entire episode, and I could only assume, the show revolves around the relationship between Zorn and Alan. Edie has a new husband, Craig (Tim Meadows), but he may be the least antagonistic person in a television show right now—I can not fathom actual conflict coming from him. I am certain Zorn will make some kind of pass towards Edie every episode, but who cares? Craig doesn’t.

Of course, there’s a good chance this whole family dissonance is an excuse to produce a fish-out-of-water story. Look at the giant animated man try to conduct business in a workplace setting! Watch as Zorn interacts with the police who take exception to his many weapons! Marvel as the barely clothed hulk misunderstands social media!

The Criticism

I was bored.

I laughed. I enjoyed the good jokes. But I was bored. This episode did very little to challenge its audience. The scenes were predictable, and I found myself lost in my own thoughts—more than once.

This is not a fresh idea, putting animated characters in a live-action world. Who Framed Roger RabbitCool Worldeven Spongebob Squarepants has dabbled in this art. If your interest in Son of Zorn is purely cosmetic, turn your attention to most of Adult Swim. Their kinks are through and through; if an adult swim show looks strange, it has the oddball writing to back it up.

I don’t understand Alan’s feelings. This complaint might be very specific to me, but Alan’s emotional state seems unmotivated.

Honestly, I wish I had more to criticize about this episode, but I was so bored I can’t think of anything else.

The Conjecture

Oh, they’re going to be one big, happy, boring family.

The Conclusion

Sometimes, here at Tonight’s Watch, we write about our three episode rule: we must watch at least three episodes before we decide to leave a show forever, condemning it as not worth our time. We built that rule for this exact reason. This episode bored me, but I laughed. Pilots can be boring. Yes, I sense intrinsic failings in the overall character arc of the show. Yes, I worry the comedy element might become tired and stale before the season finale. Yes, I might bet that the inevitable cameos will be squandered on a dwindling audience. But this is only a first impression. A pilot episode is the proverbial cover that should not be used to judge the entirety of the book.  Fox series’ tend to incorporate pivotal changes during their freshman season. For better or for worse I expect Son of Zorn to alter course. Sadly, I don’t believe I’ll see that happen.

If you’re interested in the series, Son of Zorn resumes airing Sunday, September 25th, at  8:30PM PST on FOX. If you’d like to see what else Cody is watching, you can check his Trakt page to keep up-to-date with all of his shows.


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