No 'pride' at NBC

Posted: Sep 17, 2004 12:00 AM

Most parents naturally squirm at the TV concept of an "adult cartoon." That goes double for shows with simplistic animation or cute cuddly animal characters, which are low-hanging fruit for the littlest children to pick. The first show of this kind was "South Park," which looks like a kindergarten art project but sounds like a bad day at a juvenile delinquency center.

Now NBC has unveiled "Father of the Pride," which looks like "Shrek" but sounds as sad and horny as last year's failed Whoopi Goldberg sitcom. The concept behind the show -- a cartoon about the lions in Siegfried and Roy's Las Vegas lion-tamer act -- could be adorable with a family theme. Just how difficult would that be? For NBC, it's apparently impossible. They've found a way to sewagize even this.

 But this show is all about getting what they call "zoom zoom in the boom boom." In this new show's first episode, Larry the Lion heads home to have sex with his wife because she's in heat. He roars, "Hey, Big Daddy's home, and he's ready for loving! It may be 9 o'clock in New York, but right here, it's mountin' time!" When his wife declines, he tries spray-painting a happy face on his nipples and belly with whipped cream.

 Later, Larry hears a slurping noise and looks down to find a cat licking his crotch area. The cat, in a male voice, says, "What? Your wife ain't doing it. I'm all you got, sunshine." If that's not enough, Larry's daughter says, "I'm on my way to a party by the reptile house. I probably won't take drugs, but I won't really know until I get there." Still focusing on getting the love life going, Dad dismisses his daughter with: "That's fine. See you later." The first episode's sophisticated dialogue lines included "don't look at my ass" and "I got stuck with this bitch."

 NBC's avalanche of ads during the Olympics mentioned that this cartoon was an "adult comedy," and they scheduled it at 9 p.m. Eastern time, which NBC thought would send a message that it was not appropriate for children under 14 (and it was rated TV-14, as if it's appropriate for 14-year-olds). But the avalanche of ads during NBC's weeks of Olympics coverage also mentioned that the show comes from Dreamworks, "the same guys who brought you 'Shrek.'" That's no idle message. "Shrek 2" was the monster box-office smash of the summer, seen by millions upon millions of American children. Unsurprisingly, "Father of the Pride" came in second for the week -- among children aged 2 to 11.

 Many parents find the entertainment that's most appealing to pre-school children -- Barney, the Wiggles and even the Rugrats -- so cloying they feel the urge to run from the room. But if that kind of soft, safe and cutesy entertainment is what those little ones really enjoy, how much of a culture shock are they getting when the family TV turns to NBC for some cartoon crotch-licking and drug humor?

 The episodes following the premiere were more of the same. In the second episode, the Roy character says, "Magic, you fickle bitch." He says to the Siegfried character: "Don't be an ass of jacks." When guests surprise Larry, he suggests sarcastically it's pleasant, "like when the gas wears off early and your dentist is buckling his pants." The show had a "Today" show subplot, complete with an animated Matt Lauer. Larry's dad exclaimed, "Katie Couric's got that good-girl-but-probably-wild-in-the-sack thing going on." But perhaps the most unique moment of the night were the lesbian gophers kissing, moaning and rubbing each other while the males took pictures.

The third episode had more drug humor. The plot surrounded Larry's belief that his daughter was doing "catnip." After jokes about how Larry enjoyed passing around the "catnip" to attract the girls in his youth. There are more jokes about the sad lions who use "catnip" as a "gateway drug" and they end up loving being shot by tranquilizer darts. The daughter slips out of the house. In her room, they find instead their son, who says, "she said if I didn't pretend to be her, she'd kill Santa." In another sign of the show's attitude toward childhood innocence, Larry replies: "Aw, don't worry, buddy. There's no Santa." Relief unfolds when the teenage daughter announces she only has a new adult boyfriend, and they're going on a camping trip together.

 This show is not cute, and it's certainly not funny. It merely demonstrates that Hollywood can't stop fixating on tawdry sex and drug use, not even when they're making cartoon shows about lions. "Father of the Pride" shows there is no pride at NBC.