Son of Zorn is the new live-action/animated comedy from Phil Lord and Chris Miller – the genius minds behind the brilliant The Lego Movie from 2014. The half hour comedy airs on Fox and stars the voice of Jason Sudeikis as Zorn, an old school, animated He-Man type hero, returning from a faraway animated island in the Pacific Ocean to Orange County in an attempt to re-connect with his son.
The overall premise is just simple sitcom schlock, but the twist of Zorn being from the animated world of Zephyria provides the higher concept comedy that helps set Son of Zorn apart. Unfortunately, the 22-minute runtime puts an extremely difficult task on the premiere episode, titled Return to Orange County, to explain just what the heck is going on while introducing all of the main characters.
Zorn is your typical meathead father-type to his 17-year old son Alangulon (or Alan, as he likes to be called), who is more of a sensitive intellectual than a warrior like his Dad. Normally this would make the son an outcast, but in a modern genre twist, Alan is actually the normal one in Orange County and Zorn is a meat-eating, brutish jock-type that annoys and offends all those around him.
Sudeikis is a great choice in the role of Zorn and his cocky, absent-minded demeanor overshadows all his good intentions when it comes to his family. Zorn is so caught up in his own warrior mentality that he’s oblivious to things like accepting his new boss Linda (It’s Always Sunny‘s Artemis Pebdani) is not actually a man, and refuses to believe a woman could be his boss. Many of Zorn’s jokes in the first episode sadly fall flat, to no fault of Sudeikis, but it’s obvious Son of Zorn will need a few episodes to find its footing.
Cheryl Hines is Edie, Zorn’s ex-wife, and does her Cheryl Hines-y thing that she’s known for as the “straight man (or woman?)” to her partner’s neurotic craziness. Edie is currently in a relationship with Craig, played by the great Tim Meadows, a psychologist who is the anti-thesis of Zorn – he is both caring and nurturing – if not a little awkward. The biggest laughs in the episode come from Craig’s character and how he interacts with Zorn along with the extremely funny animated scenes with Zorn and his fellow warriors in Zephyria.
The live-action/animated style of the show is one of the better selling points, providing some great visual gags and some pretty cool interactions between the real-life actors and the animated characters. Hopefully subsequent episodes will dig deeper into this fun dynamic and get a little more creative with comedy, but visually the show looks great.
One other aspect that threw me off was the total lack of any characters addressing that there are animated people and creatures walking around our real world. Perhaps that’s the joke, or perhaps that will be explained in a subsequent episode, but as a viewer tuning into the premiere it might be a bit confusing. The episode does end in an interesting twist that could signal this idea being fleshed out, but at very least the reveal provides some interesting potential to be explored in the remaining episodes of the 13-episode first season.
Son of Zorn premieres Sunday, September 11 following the NFL doubleheader on Fox.
The show's unique premise and production values give the talented comedic cast a fun world to play in, but the first episode never really finds its funny groove while trying to set up the series. There's a lot of potential and fun ideas to play around with, so hopefully subsequent episodes will get to spend more time developing some bigger laughs.