‘Krapopolis’ Review: Dan Harmon’s Sitcom Spin on Greek Myth Is a Bit Too Earthbound Early On
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Tv ‘Krapopolis’ Review: Dan Harmon’s Sitcom Spin on Greek Myth Is a Bit Too Earthbound Early On

‘Krapopolis’ Review: Dan Harmon’s Sitcom Spin on Greek Myth Is a Bit Too Earthbound Early On

‘Krapopolis’ Review: Dan Harmon’s Sitcom Spin on Greek Myth Is a Bit Too Earthbound Early On

Reviewing an animated comedy based on only a few initial episodes is a herculean task — you know, by TV critic standards. There’s so much to set up and so little room for experimentation. Audiences need to understand the rules of the narrative, while also receive reasons this new show is special. Pile on the typical constraints of broadcast television — 22 minute episodes, broad accessibility, etc. — and suddenly, three entire episodes fly by within the span of an hour, and it can feel like you’ve barely scratched the surface of the show’s true self.

Knowing how hard it is to gauge success after seeing three full episodes of “Krapopolis,” it’s hard for me to imagine how Fox executives already ordered three full seasons of it. Perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning: In early 2021, “Community” and “Rick & Morty” creator Dan Harmon signed on to create a then-untitled animated comedy for Fox. Roughly 20 months later, Fox ordered a second season of the series, now dubbed “Krapopolis,” before tripling down five months after that with a third season renewal. Finally, this Sunday, everyone can see what spurred the network’s extraordinary confidence, when the half-hour sitcom set in mythical Ancient Greece debuts.

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OK, maybe they can’t quite see the full picture — at least, I can’t — but there are laughs to be had and glimpses of largely unrealized potential. Harmon’s thematic preoccupation with how societies are ruled and regulated is perhaps the brightest beacon, considering what he was able to accomplish under similar guideposts with “Community” and “Rick & Morty,” but what’s immediately rewarding comes courtesy of the cast, namely Hannah Waddingham and Matt Berry. With those promising attributes already in place, it’s hard to dismiss “Krapopolis” so early in its (guaranteed) run.

Fox’s latest Animation Domination entry is centered on Tyrannis (voiced by Richard Ayoade), a smooth-talking, frail-bodied king who dreams of organizing mankind’s first civilization. His warrior sister, Stupendous (Pamela Murphy), would prefer to let only the strong survive, and his fishlike brother, Hippocampus (Duncan Trussell), is a (partially) mad scientist all too happy to spend his life making WMDs instead of creating the ABCs. Also favoring war over peace are Tyrannis’ parents, Deliria (Waddingham) and Shlub (Berry) — both of whom are immortal gods with their own set of priorities.

Deliria aims to be worshiped. In the pilot, it’s revealed she’s fallen out of favor with her fellow deities, making her a social pariah on Mount Olympus. If she ever hopes to rejoin the favored ranks on high, she needs people to praise her, so she strikes a deal with her son, the king, to protect Krapopolis in exchange for her very own temple. Shlub has far more basic ambitions. Like an offshoot of Berry’s “What We Do in the Shadows” character if you only laughed at the sex jokes, Shlub only cares about chowing down and getting off. He eats, he has sex, he makes jokes about eating and having sex, repeat. Berry’s good humor elevates the redundancies beyond irritation (he is simply too delightful to be a burden), and there are sparks of dynamism in the third episode (when he worries his youngest son is a serial killer). But Shlub needs more to care about — and thus, more to comment on, more to do, and more reasons to hear Berry.

Krapopolis animated series Fox show
“Krapopolis”Courtesy of Fox

So far, “Krapopolis” is more of a mother-son story, which is a welcome shift from animated sitcoms that lead with the dads (a la “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “Bob’s Burgers,” and sort of, kind of, “The Great North”) although similar to what “Duncanville” tried to do. Tyrannis is similarly one-note, despite the spotlight. He complains about his mom constantly, often because he’s irritated by her omnipresent overshadowing. I’m sure it’s hard to be the son of an actual goddess, and I get that an Oedipal Complex is thematically on point, but it’s also pretty grating to spend so much time with a character who can’t look beyond his mommy issues. Even Tyrannis’ passion for a peaceful society seems secondary to his petulance.

And frankly, his mom is… kind of awesome? Maybe it’s just Waddingham’s freewheeling performance — it’s refreshing to hear the “Ted Lasso” star so clearly relish being bad — but I found myself often siding with Deliria, even when she’d rather see an entire city pillaged than risk her reputation among the gods. (“You’d let your entire family die to boost your Olympian social status?” Tyrannis asks. “Mortal family,” Deliria says. “You die no matter what. (…) The social stakes are higher when your social status is forever.”) With her haughty aplomb and immortal life filled with intrigue, Deliria is a starlike figure relegated to second fiddle. Perhaps that’s where she works best amid Harmon’s long-term plans for “Krapopolis,” but her cohorts need to up their game pretty soon.

Colorful palettes reminiscent of “Rick and Morty” and character design not far removed from other Fox animated titles are pleasant, if unremarkable. Jokes are delivered at a rapid clip with a low-to-medium hit rate. The humor itself is winkingly out-of-date, like the repeated references to what hasn’t been invented yet (like clocks), or knowingly self-aware, like when Tyrannis lists “refusing to move” as a benefit of civilization. (“Planting your food next to your bed, eating it whenever you feel like it, and pooping it right where you buried your parents.”) Plenty of bodily humor is mixed in (as you can see), which should help “Krapopolis” reach its wide target audience. But accessibility isn’t everything, and once the dust settles on this developing city, here’s hoping it builds from its strongest pillars — not its basest appeals.

Grade: C+

“Krapopolis” premieres Sunday, September 24 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

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