Lovable dirtbag families have been the core of Fox’s Sunday “Animation Domination” lineup for years, a truth further underlined by the fact that its newest entry “Duncanville” comes from longtime “Simpsons” producers Mike and Julie Thacker Scully. Along with co-creator Amy Poehler, they’ve now made a show about a family more tied to the present day than the Simpsons, but one that nonetheless plays to extremely familiar archetypes.
15 year-old Duncan (Poehler) is a basically good kid saddled by the overwhelming physical and existential angst of being a 15 year-old boy. His earnest father Jack (Ty Burrell, an expert in the field) and spirited mother Annie (also Poehler) are confused by and concerned for him daily. Lucky for them, while Duncan is prone to sneaking out to hang with his friends (voiced by comedians Betsy Sodaro, Yassir Lester and Zach Cherry), Duncan only ever really gets into trouble by clumsy accident. In fact, if his parents should be eyeing anyone in the family for rebellion, it’s Duncan’s preteen sister Kimberly (Riki Lindhome), or even their surprisingly capable baby sister Jing (Joy Osmanski, milking every welcome bit of off-kilter material she gets).
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The animation style is deliberately lowkey, sketching “Duncanville” in a way that looks as “average” (the show’s words) as its protagonist. That doesn’t make the show feel very dynamic overall, though sporadic spots of fantasy life and gushes of violence try. Still, some of the funniest animated moments are smaller and tied to the particularly award physicality of its teen characters. Duncan’s flailing, noodle-armed run and uncontrollable chortling in the face of his cool crush Mia (guest star Rashida Jones) are often funnier than his actual lines.
The first two episodes of “Duncanville” reveal a show with solid voice acting (including a surprise turn from Wiz Khalifa as a cool teacher scootering around the cafeteria) that has a decent handle on its setting and characters, especially its teen ones just trying to get through the day without literally stumbling face-first into blistering embarrassment. It’s just too soon to tell how much longevity it might have given the strength of the lineup it’s now slotted into, but hopefully Duncan and his family will find a way to distinguish themselves beyond the basics.
“Duncanville” premieres Sunday, February 16 at 8:30 pm on Fox.
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