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TELEVISION REVIEW

Creativity takes a back seat to crass humor

Fox's new animated series, ''Sit Down, Shut Up,'' follows a group of unconventional teachers at a Florida high school. Fox's new animated series, ''Sit Down, Shut Up,'' follows a group of unconventional teachers at a Florida high school. (Fox)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / April 18, 2009
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If there were a new Emmy category for penis jokes, and if the Golden Globes decided to honor the stalest bisexual humor of the year, "Sit Down, Shut Up" just might stand a chance at winning some acclaim. Until that day, though, Fox's new animated comedy is probably not going to stir up much enthusiasm. The series, premiering tomorrow night at 8:30 on Channel 25, is completely hackneyed, a dull dropout from the Adult Swim school of looney 'toons.

And it's disappointing, too, since "Sit Down, Shut Up" has a lot of impressive names behind it. Based on a live-action Australian sitcom, the show has been remade into a cartoon by executive producer Mitchell Hurwitz, the guy who created the fantastic "Arrested Development." And the vivid voice cast includes Kristin Chenoweth, "Arrested Development" alums Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Henry Winkler, and current and former "Saturday Night Live"-ers Will Forte, Kenan Thompson, and Cheri Oteri. Talk about your waste of talent.

The show is set in a Florida high school, but, as in the sitcoms "Teachers" "Miss Guided," and "Eastbound & Down," the focus is on the childish teachers and not the children. Bateman is the token average guy, a physical education coach named Larry Littlejunk who's awkward with women. Arnett is doltish English teacher Ennis Hofftard, Thompson is no-bull principal Sue Sezno, and Chenoweth is New Agey science teacher Miracle Groh.

Yeah, the names are really, really stupid, but they make my life easier, since they so thoroughly capture the lameness of the show's humor.

Hurwitz adds in some weak meta-quips, such as when Larry Littlejunk is telling a story and says directly to the animators, "Can I get a flashback on this?" The characters are also self-conscious about developing catch phrases, with Will Forte's assistant principal announcing that his catch phrase is "I need a catch phrase." But mostly, "Sit Down, Shut Up" stays busy with genitalia-based gags, including the male drama teacher who hides in a gym locker and spies on the naked boys and the German teacher who buys porn magazines.

Aren't we years and years beyond finding politically incorrect situations funny simply because they're taboo? Comedy writers need to go one step further and twist the jokes, milk them for more than simply shock value; that's one thing "South Park" does so brilliantly. These days in animation, shock-value humor is merely quaint.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. For more on TV, visit boston.com/ae/tv/blog/.

SIT DOWN, SHUT UP Starring the voices of: Will Forte, Kenan Thompson, Henry Winkler, Kristin Chenoweth, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Cheri Oteri, Nick Kroll

On: Fox, Channel 25

Time: Tomorrow night, 8:30-9