Sep 9 - 15, 2004 
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Idiot Box

Lion Down on the Job

“Father of the Pride” on NBC

By Devin D. O'Leary

For months I've been thinking that creating an expensive, computer-animated series about the daily lives of the white lions owned by Las Vegas magicians Siegfried & Roy (one of whom tried to snack on Roy's head earlier this year) was a really bad idea. Now, however, I've seen the actual show and am forced to admit that it isn't a bad idea ... it's a terrible idea.

“Father of the Pride” is produced by a few of the button-pushing computer geeks who gave us Shrek and Shrek 2. Those films were pretty good examples of clever computer-animated cartoons that straddled the fine line between kiddy entertainment and adult amusement. They took the tried-and-true Disney formula and injected some winking asides at the parents. The result: Everybody had fun. “Father of the Pride” on the other hand displays no such subtlety. The series is laden with raunchy, sub-FOX humor.

The plot of the series premiere, for example, detailed the assorted attempts of Larry the Lion (John Goodman, hardly trying) to engage in a little “zoom-zoom in the boom-boom room” with his wife (Cheryl Hines from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”). Unfortunately, they keep getting interrupted by their weepy neighbor, a fat panda (guest voiced by Lisa Kudrow) who can't seem to get any sexual satisfaction of her own.

I fear that “Father of the Pride” has more sexual jokes per episode than “Married ... With Children” did. Which would be acceptable if any of the jokes were actually funny. They aren't. “Zoom-zoom in the boom-boom room” is as clever as this show gets. One of the show's characters is apparently a closeted gay elephant with a turkey for a “roommate.” I don't even get that joke.

Aside from the funny animal animation (OK, but not nearly as good as Shrek), this is a sitcom of the most generic sort. There's the befuddled dad, the tolerant wife, the skanky teen daughter, the dorky young son and the cantankerous grandfather (Carl Reiner, contributing the only real vocal fireworks in the show). C'mon, guys. It's a show about performing lions living in Las Vegas, and you're gonna give us just another generic living room-set sitcom with raunchy punch lines? What a waste. Assorted guest stars pop up every week (Andy Richter, Jason Alexander, Eddie Murphy), but it's too little too late.

Not so surprisingly, the show's side characters, Siegfried & Roy, are the most colorful characters in the cast. As voiced by Julian Holloway and David Herman the outrageously flamboyant illusionists become a couple of brain-addled Teutonic weirdoes. In fact, the show's second episode improves quite a bit because the campy duo are allowed to steal the show for a moment thanks to a guest appearance on the “Today” show. (Siegfried holds a long-standing hatred for Matt Lauer and his “nonthreatening good looks” for once daring to cut short an interview with German tennis great Boris Becker.) Unfortunately, it's soon back to the lions for more mindless sitcom action.

Bottom line: Real or animated, these lions bite.

“Father of the Pride” airs every Tuesday at 8 p.m. on KOB-4.

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