In “Allen Gregory,” a coy but limp attempt at a new Sunday night cartoon show on Fox, we meet yet another animated character whose sole purpose is to inspire contempt. Voiced and co-conceived by movie actor Jonah Hill (“Moneyball,” “Get Him to the Greek”), Allen Gregory De Longpre is a tiny, off-puttingly precocious 7-year-old in Swifty Lazar-size glasses, who is being raised and home-schooled in a trendy Manhattan loft by his upper-income gay fathers.
After learning that he has not, in fact, been nominated for a Tony Award (“Apparently they don’t nominate plays staged only in our living room,” one of the dads says), Allen Gregory is served another whammy: His parents have decided to send him to a regular elementary school.
Where, it seems, Allen Gregory will fail again and again to recognize that the universe does not revolve around him. At suburban Feldstein Elementary, Allen Gregory’s bloated ego is met with confused scorn. “Please find a seat,” his new teacher tells him when the bell rings.
“Sure I will,” Allen Gregory tells her. “Directly after I do a brief Q&A.”
“We don’t usually do that,” the teacher says.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”
“It’s Miss Winthrop.”
“We’re not in court, sweetheart. What’s your first name?”
“Gina, but you should never call m —”
“Gina, Gina, Gina. Can I see you in the hallway for a second?” Allen Gregory asks, where he informs her, in the dripping coo of middle management and high maintenance: “Look, here’s what’s currently happening? You’re being difficult? And I see the whole situation going a lot better if you choose to cooperate.”
Later, Allen Gregory sidles up uninvited to the cool kids’ table at lunch, unpacks his bento box, uncorks a chilled pinot grigio and asks if anyone caught “Charlie Rose” the other night. “The two heavyweights finally meet,” Allen Gregory tells the school’s most popular boy. “I’m sure you’re tired of all the buzz.”
It ends with Allen Gregory in the principal’s office (she’s a large, 60-something woman for whom he is filled with an instant, inappropriate lust), where he defecates in his pants and waddles home crying.
Although “Allen Gregory” might have worked as a sardonic, sideways blow to the gifted-child culture, it is so thoroughly coated in a single flavor of sourness that it is difficult to view it as anything but pointless and quickly repetitive.
Hill has performed a variation on this theme before, when he hosted “Saturday Night Live” and tried out a distastefully precocious child character there. There is potential in it — the notions seen in “Allen Gregory” are at least partially indebted to “Family Guy’s” Stewie Griffin, whose highbrow misanthropy is at least confined by the fact that he is a baby, whose outbursts are understood literally only by the family dog and the audience. “Allen Gregory” also faintly genuflects in the direction of Bart Simpson, who was able to bend the adult world to his own delusions, but within limits, and while remaining utterly believable as a child.
The only kid in school who seems to like Allen Gregory is squeaky-voiced Patrick, whom Allen Gregory regards as a hapless rube, but who would actually be a better cartoon character around which to base a show. Too quickly the viewer understands that Allen Gregory will never learn any lesson, except in that brief scene near the end of such cartoons-for-grown-ups, where some sort of penitential moment arrives, as if by network fiat. Everything else here is cheap jokes — at gays, at Asians, at the elderly.
I’m not sure exactly when all-out repugnance, which is what I feel toward Allen Gregory, became the requisite personality trait for cartoon characters. In ancient times, even the most irritating, ill-mannered or vain characters (Daffy Duck, Donald Duck — what was it about jerk ducks?) served as foils to bigger, titular characters (rabbits, mice) who, it turned out, represented some ethical firmament on which to rely. That’s a long way of saying cartoons used to give you someone to root for.
Here, all you do is hope that Allen Gregory will meet some horrible demise. Something stronger than an anvil plummeting from above.
(30 minutes) premieres Sunday
at 8:30 p.m. on Fox.