“Son of Zorn” is a fun idea done with such bland execution that requires the old critical cliche of comparing something to an overlong “Saturday Night Live” sketch. In this case, “Son of Zorn” feels like a half-hour “CollegeHumor” sketch, one that would likely have a title like “He-Man is a Horrible Father” or “He-Man and the Masters of the Suburbs.”
The pilot revolves around Zorn who has returned from a magical fantasy land where everyone looks like an 80’s cartoon character. After a heated battle with the forces of evil, Zorn returns home to his ex-wife and son, who find him just as embarrassing as any normal person would find a walking-talking, male-power fantasy to be.
The foundation of the plot is based around one excruciatingly redundant premise, that a “He-Man” type character would be an embarrassing jerkwad in the real world. Right away, it becomes evident that the furthest the pilot is willing to go with it’s premise is typical sitcom hijinks. A character so over-the-top animated, both in personality and in physical manifestation, should be in a world that doesn’t feel caricatured. It belittles the strength of the concept.
How stiff and overly clean looking Zorn looks is almost immediately off-putting and not in a way that helps to validate the show’s point. Zorn never feels like he inhabits the same space as the live actors, leading to some stilted line delivery that instead of feeling ironic and comical, lacks comedic timing. This is likely due to a lack of spontaneity, because the shots have to be modeled around how the animated character will interact with his environment. Meaning, improvisational moments between actors have to be dictated on what Zorn is going to do.
One stand-out performance is that of Artemis Pebdani as Zorn’s boss. It speaks to her ability as a performer that she really feels as though she is talking to him, something which would not be worthy of note if the rest of the cast didn’t feel as though they were responding to dead air.
The one incredibly draul shock gag, where Zorn murders a giant hawk in the driveway of his ex-wife, had been so overly exploited in the show’s marketing campaign that one has to wonder if future episodes will be lacking in quality gags. It appears as if the show is already scraping at the bottom of the barrel.
What is perhaps most disappointing about Zorn is that it is very comfortable in being written like a generic sitcom. The humor of seeing a cartoon in the real world quickly wears off as soon as you realize that it is going to be all of the typical situations one can find in any number of sitcoms.
“Son of Zorn” just feels lazy. Any kind of animation takes a lot of effort on the part of the artists responsible for it, which makes how cringingly weak the show’s debut is even more of a let-down. With the right writers, and some showrunners who could bring some energy to the proceedings, “Son of Zorn” could be saved.
For now, it feels like it is already out of jokes. It has only been on TV for 30 minutes.