FOX's 2011-2012 comedy first impressions: Familiar premises and faces draw laughs

fox-alan-gregory.jpgIn choosing its comedies for the 2011-2012 season, FOX didn't venture too far from the familiar. The network made a clear effort to stick to what's been working for them thus far, choosing shows with reliable themes and actors with proven staying power.

Zap2it
was on the scene at the 2011 Upfront Presentation in New York on May 16 to get a first look at the new comedy line-up. Here are our first impressions.

"I Hate My Teenage Daughter"

This season, FOX met success with "Raising Hope," a comedy about hilariously bad parenting -- and they're sticking to it with "I Hate My Teenage Daughter." "That's a title, not a statement," jokes FOX entertainment president Kevin Reilly. Don't worry... the show looks to be much funnier than he is. For the coveted post-"X-Factor" Wednesday spot, Reilly says that they sought out a sitcom with a "relatable hook, with a strong female appeal at its core, and a live audience to match the energy coming off the X-Factor."

The show features sitcom fave Jaime Pressly and Tony Award winning Katie Finneran as moms who have accidentally raised their teenage daughters to be... pretty awful. Their overindulgent approach to parenting is now blowing up in their faces. The preview shown at the Upfront presentation relied heavily on physical comedy - giving the old "pie in the face" gag a new twist as Finneran's character dives in to eat her feelings - but we're intrigued by the romantic tension between Pressly's character and Kevin Rahm, who plays her daughter's father's brother. It's awkwardly adorable.

"Allen Gregory"

Who knew Jonah Hill is as great as a writer/producer as he is as a geeky teenager with a one-track-mind? Hill is behind the latest addition to FOX's "Animation Domination" Sundays with "Allen Gregory," about a kid genius who is forced to mingle with the commoners go to elementary school with his peers after his father's partner decides to bail on the "stay at home dad" gig.

Allen is a kid who brings Pinot and sushi to the school cafeteria and has fallen in love with his school principal, who is voiced by Renee Taylor and strongly resembles Ursula from "The Little Mermaid." We weren't expecting to love this as much as we did - on paper, the character resembles Stewie from "Family Guy" without the fascist slant - but there were several laugh-out-loud moments in the preview. We're especially loving Allen's relationship with his dad's partner.

The show definitely matches the tone of the animated comedies that have proven reliable for FOX over the years, which is no surprise given the fact that Hill has, according to Reilly, grown up on FOX comedies before deciding to create one of its own. The "smart subversive tone" Reilly promises certainly seems to be present in the footage we've seen.

"The New Girl"

Smartly, FOX has decided to stay in the Deschanel sister business. Emily is a revelation on "Bones," and little sister Zooey seems poised to make her own unique mark on TV in "The New Girl." In a Lucky Magazine feature this spring, Zooey complained about always being referred to as "quirky" in the media, so we're going to hit the thesaurus and refer to her performance in "The New Girl" as eccentric, idiosyncratic, zany, and wacky. But not quirky.

Zooey was at the top of a list of "like three actresses" who Reilly felt could play Jess, a girl who moves in with three guys after a catastrophic break-up. (The "naked in front of your boyfriend's other woman" kind.) She's a bizarre character - she sings to herself, she gets hysterical frequently, she's got dance moves that would make your awkward uncle weep - but she's endearing. We worry that she might go a little too over the top, since we got that second-hand embarrassment shiver a few times during the presentation, but we're willing to give it a shot.

The pilot also features Max Greenfield, a favorite guest star from "Veronica Mars," "Greek," and "Happy Endings," so we're excited that he may have finally found a regular gig that suits his charm. Damon Wayans, Jr. is in this one, too, but since his show "Happy Endings" was unexpectedly picked up by ABC, we're guessing that he'll be replaced before the show airs.

"Napoleon Dynamite"

Set for a mid-season premiere, "Napoleon Dynamite" brings back the vocal talents of the entire cast from the 2004 film. They easily reinhabit their characters for the familiar tone, and animators have done a spectacular job of capturing the strange gestures and posturing that made this - ahem - quirky character such a cultural phenomenon. This one seems pretty cut and dry - if you loved the movie, you'll probably love the cartoon. We laughed out loud hearing Jon Heder sing Wilson Phillips' "Hold On" in character.

"Family Album"

Staying in the FOX family, "Glee's" Mike O'Malley steps into the spotlight in "Family Album," but we're sort of hoping that he'll just go back to "Glee." This midseason show uses the concept of a family album to visit documented occasions in a family's life... but the clips we saw in the presentation fell a flat.

"Little In Common"

Rob Cordry and Kevin Hart star in this midseason show about three families with - you guessed it - "Little in Common." They all find themselves forced to associate because their kids share a little-league team. We haven't seen enough to make a judgment call on this one, but the premise feels rather unoriginal, so it'll rely entirely on the performances.

 
Photo/Video credit: FOX