TV Evangelist: Allen Gregory

Panned by critics and unceremoniously cancelled after a single season of just seven episodes, Jonah Hill's first foray into animated television found little love in the US. And while it's true the show is populated almost entirely by selfish, manipulative, callous snobs and their willing doormats, that's certainly no bar to success, as evidenced by Gossip Girl, which is into its sixth season.

Perhaps part of the problem lies with our seven-year-old protagonist, Allen Gregory De Longpre (voiced by series creator Hill, who also co-wrote several of the episodes). He's a poor little rich kid who has been reduced to attending a regular public school, to which he lugs lunchboxes full of sushi and pinot grigio. He drips with contempt for others (especially the fellow dork he has pressed into service as his personal secretary and dogsbody), but he constantly fails in his attempts to ingratiate himself with the cool kids. Although he gets plenty of decent lines - mostly cruel put-downs - he doesn't have a fraction of the charm of, say, the far more monstrous Eric Cartman.


A bigger problem is that the show revolves around a particularly pernicious myth about gay people: that being gay is a choice and gay people can manipulate hetero ones into becoming gay. Allen Gregory's father, the formerly rich Richard (3rd Rock from the Sun's French Stewart), is a domineering gay narcissist who has apparently tricked the formerly ''straight as an arrow'' Jeremy into leaving his wife and kids and becoming his life partner. Their relationship is emotionally abusive and, it is implied, sexually abusive. It comes as little surprise tonight when Allen Gregory introduces Jeremy (Nat Faxon) to his classmates as ''my father's human sex doll''.

Anyway, Richard has got it into his head that the school is somehow homophobic, so he steamrolls the principal into making the school dance a same-sex affair - boys can invite only boys and girls can invite only girls. Again, this plays into the idiotic but persistent notion there's a ''gay agenda'' to recruit children by ''homosexualising'' public schools. Presumably, Hill, his fellow writers and fellow executive producers (who include former News Corporation boss Peter Chernin and former Family Guy executive producer David A. Goodman) would contend that they're mocking such ideas. If so, their intent is far from obvious.

What it mostly looks like is a bunch of hacks rehashing tired old gay jokes because they think it's edgy. And when you think it has now been nearly 16 years since the ''Homer's Phobia'' episode of The Simpsons so adroitly addressed the idea of gay contagion with humour and heart, well … But if you're just after a laugh, you might get a few.

Allen Gregory screens on Sundays at 8.30pm on the Comedy Channel.