Tv Review: Duncanville Season 1 Episode 1

duncanville s1e1 index

Duncanville is the latest addition to Fox’s “Animation Domination” Sunday night line up, joining long running stalwarts The Simpsons, Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers. Created by Mike Scully, Julie Thacker Scully and Amy Poehler, but only written by the first two, it’s yet another family sitcom where two parents have to deal with their wayward son, smart daughter, and a second very young daughter who never speaks. And okay, okay, though I lied about the last part as the youngest does chat away a great deal, it can’t be denied that it has a lot in common with Matt Groening’s famous show.

Mike Scully’s currently a producer on The Simpsons too, while Julie Thacker Scully has written for it in the past, so you might wander why there’s a need to create a brand new animated sitcom apart from the ridiculous sums of money that might be made. But Duncanville is just about different enough for their to be a valid reason for it to exist, if only because it feels much more real and believable than Homer and co’s antics, less cartoonish than (the lovely) Bob’s Burgers, and it’s not shit like Family Guy.

The best thing about it is the lead character Duncan, voiced by Amy Poehler (who also doubles up as Duncan’s mother, Annie) who unlike far too many other animated teens seems a decent enough sort. Sure he’s occasionally a bit angsty but he seems to care about his family most of the time, best represented by his sweet relationship with his adopted sister Jing (Joy Osmanski) who he promises to marry because when he considers denying her dreams she wells up and looks adorably heartbroken.

The script is sharper than you might expect as well, and quite adult in places without feeling crude, there’s an amusing element where Duncan’s penis talks with a British accent but which isn’t as coarse as that sounds, the cutaways are strong (the Batman one pictured above especially) while there’s some refreshingly original jokes, like how at one point Duncan complains to his mother that “You’re so over protective, you always think I’m going to get hacked to death or wind up in the middle of a human centipede”, only for to (correctly) point out “That’s the worst spot”. Duncan’s needy Dad (Ty Burrell) comes across well too, desperate to be liked but smart enough not to be annoying, and only sister older sister Kimberley (Riki Lindhome) seems a little under developed so far, a snarky character who seems to exist only to mock Duncan, but I’m sure they’ll develop her role in the show as the series goes on.

Plot-wise this isn’t the most original of storylines however, it’s the kind of tale we’ve seen variations of in The Simpsons many a time as after starting to learn to drive Duncan wants to borrow the car to go to a music festival, only for his parents to refuse to allow him to do so. To stop this being a dull affair he of course takes it anyway and it inevitably goes wrong when he accidentally demolishes Ol’ Oakey, the town’s beloved oldest tree, but then Duncan makes up for it by showing how much he cares for his parents. The ending is a tad weak (and questionably unbelievable), but as this is the pilot I’m prepared to let it slide as the main thing it needs to do is introduce all the characters, and be really funny too, and most of the time it does manage that.

Whether it’ll have the legs to last for over a decade like a fair few other Fox animated sitcoms is open to question, and the plots will need to be a bit more original than the one seen in this opening episode to make me a regular viewer. But the characters are at least engaging and endearing, who won me over pretty early on in to the running time when I wasn’t convinced the world needed another mainstream animated family sitcom, and it manages to offer up a fresh outlook on what it’s like to grow up in America right now, so even if you’re as sceptical as I was I’d recommend checking it out at least the once.

★★★3/4

Alex Finch.
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Related Link:
Our review of Duncanville Season 1 Episode 7.

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