Friday, January 13, 2012

Fox Mid-Season Pilot Review: Napoleon Dynamite - Premieres January 15; Sitcom Stars On Talk Shows (Week of January 16, 2012)


Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite - Sundays at 8:30PM ET/PT on Fox
Premieres Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 8:30PM (regular time) and 9:30PM ET/PT

by skees53

From the big screen to the small screen, and from live-action to animation, Napoleon Dynamite is back! The 2004 film starring Jon Heder as the title character is back, eight years later, as Fox's newest animated series. Once again, you can follow the lives of Napoleon, Kip, Grandma, and of course, Pedro, as he struggles to deal with the trauma (well, mostly the hilarity) of being a very socially awkward teenager in the heart of Idaho. The new series brings back all of the same characters and even the same actors from the original movie, but this time they're all "drawn out" instead of acting in the series.

Cast Details:

Jon Heder as Napoleon Dynamite
Aaron Ruell as Kip Dynamite
Efren Ramirez as Pedro
Tina Majorino as Deb
Sandy Martin as Grandma Dynamite
Jon Gries as Uncle Rico
Diedrich Bader as Rex

Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) plays the socially awkward teenager and the star of the series. Heder has had roles in the movies The Benchwarmers, Mama's Boy, and Blades of Glory, but clearly, he is best known for playing the movie role of the character that he plays in this series.

Aaron Ruell (Kip Dynamite) plays the role of Napoleon's 32-year-old brother who still lives with Grandma Dynamite. Besides Ruell's role in the movie, he is an accomplished director and photographer for television commercials.

Efren Ramirez (Pedro) reprises his classic role of Pedro, Napoleon's shy friend from Mexico, in the series. Ramirez has starred in movies such as Employee of the Month and made cameo appearances in movies such as Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Nacho Libre. He has appeared in TV series such as Boston Public, George Lopez, and Scrubs.

Tina Majorino (Deb) plays the role of the door-to-door sales woman who may have a crush on Napoleon. She has had regular roles in Camp Wilder, Big Love, and Veronica Mars, and also has appeared in roles in popular music videos.

Sandy Martin (Grandma Dynamite) plays the role of Napoleon and Kip's grandmother, who has the job of raising the two. Martin has appeared in movies such as 48 Hrs. and Speed, and also had a recurring role in Big Love.

Jon Gries (Uncle Rico) plays the role of the uncle who lives in a trailer, but often pops by. Gries has had roles in series such as The Pretender, Lost, Martin, and 24.

Diedrich Bader (Rex) plays the role of the local martial arts instructor. Bader has appeared in The Drew Carey Show, Office Space, and most recently, on the series Outsourced.


Pilot Plot:

For this review, we received a copy of the first two episodes of the series.

"Thundercone" (airs January 15 at 8:30PM ET/PT)
Napoleon has a serious acne problem that must be taken care of by any means necessary, and a trip to the drug store leads him to the last tube of a powerful (but recently banned) cream. Using the cream has serious consequences, but the best one for Napoleon is his ability to resist any pain. This allows him to join a local fight club, and while training for a big fight in the "Thundercone," Napoleon is noticed and admired by Kip's girlfriend (special guest star Amy Poehler). How will Kip get his girl back, and get even with his brother?

"Scantronica Love" (airs January 15 at 9:30PM ET/PT)
Professor Koontz (guest star Jermaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords) decides to use a Scantron machine to match students up romantically, but not all goes well when Napoleon is paired with a Japanese exchange student (Lauren Tom) instead of Deb. The matching, along with others, ends with problems for everybody.


Analysis:

The very first thing that I thought about this series before I even watched it was probably what many others are thinking. The movie was made in 2004 and it is now eight years later. Isn't it too late for a TV version of Napoleon Dynamite? Not necessarily. In fact, in my opinion, if the movie had that much of an impact to even be remembered eight years later, perhaps it does deserve to be a TV series, as opposed to the practice of making a TV series out of a movie just weeks or months after the movie hits theaters.

As for the quality of the series, I somewhat enjoyed the first two episodes of the series. Fox has planted some major bombs with some of their Sunday night animated series in recent years, and a lot of series that are just plain awful have made it to that lineup, almost all of which are quickly cancelled. However, when watching the first two episodes of this series, I really felt that there was a serious effort to make a realistic (to a certain limit) series that is meant to be enjoyed without any cheap shots or crass humor.

One potential bump that I can see for the series, though, is how well it'll actually fit into the Sunday night lineup. Admittedly, cheap shots and crass humor are what make up the core of Fox's animated sitcom lineup. And for all of the Seth MacFarlane series (and to a lesser extent for The Simpsons), this is what makes those series enjoyable and humorous. But as many fans of Napoleon Dynamite may know, the movie was known as being family-friendly fare without violence, sex, and inappropriate language, and other things along those lines. From the two episodes that I viewed, it appears that the series will be the same way, which is great for family viewing, but the question is whether or not that formula will work in a lineup where it is followed by Family Guy.

I should definitely give a disclaimer before I conclude my analysis. I have never actually seen the movie Napoleon Dynamite from beginning to end. So I really can't fully say how this series compares to the movie. However, from what I have seen of the movie, this series does seem to hold true to the core ideas of the movie.


Conclusion:

Honestly, I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed watching this series. It is something a little bit different from the ordinary, and had some great moments. Assuming that fans of the movie are interested in more, I think that those same fans will enjoy this series. Of course, the series may face challenges in recapturing that audience, and it may also suffer since it almost doesn't completely fit in with the other Sunday night series (even if it is an enjoyable series). In the days before federally mandated E/I programming, this series likely would have been made into a Saturday morning cartoon, where it would have been certain to succeed. Still, I'm anxious to see how this series develops and where it'll go, and unlike many pilots that I have seen in recent years, this is one that I would sincerely like to see succeed. So don't be a "frickin' idiot." Check out Napoleon Dynamite!


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Sunday, January 15 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • Fox.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Napoleon Dynamite Photo Gallery

    Preview:






    It's Friday, so it is time for "Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows" for the coming week. This is where we list what sitcom stars are appearing on talk shows for the coming week, the stars are both current and past sitcom stars, so this is for all sitcom fans of all eras!
    For the week of January 16-20, 2012, we have many current sitcom stars and past sitcom stars on TV talk shows! All times listed are Eastern. So get your DVR's (or whatever you use) ready! Ready? Here is all what you need to know for the coming week!

    Monday, January 16, 2012
    • Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly) - Watch Melissa on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno at 11:35pm on NBC.
    • David Cross (Arrested Development) - David appears on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 12am on ABC.
    • Giovanni Ribisi (Still the Beaver/My Two Dads) - Giovanni is a guest on Chelsea Lately on E! at 11pm.
    • Sofia Vergara (Modern Family/The Knights of Prosperity/Hot Properties) - Sofia visits The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check listings.
    • Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother/Doogie Howser, M.D.) - Neil joins the Chew Crew on The Chew on ABC at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
    Tuesday, January 17, 2012
    • Sherri Shepherd (Less Than Perfect) - Catch Sherri on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno at 11:35pm on NBC.
    • Bill Cosby (The Cosby Show/Cosby/The Bill Cosby Show) - The legendary Mr. Cosby visits Late Night with Jimmy Fallon at 12:37am on NBC.
    • Regina King (227) - Regina appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Suzanne Somers (Three's Company/Step by Step/She's the Sheriff) - Suzanne cooks recipes to keep you sexy forever on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Kyla Pratt (One on One) - Kyla stops by The Wendy Williams Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
    • Kim Coles (Living Single) - Kim visits the Chew Crew on The Chew on ABC at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
    Wednesday, January 18, 2012
    • Mark Feuerstein (Good Morning, Miami) - Watch Mark NBC's Today between 7-9am and later on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
    • Mario Lopez (Saved by the Bell) - Mario guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
    • Queen Latifah (Living Single) - Queen Latifah visits The Wendy Williams Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
    Thursday, January 19, 2012
    • Kathy Griffin (Suddenly Susan) - Catch Kathy on The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Wanda Sykes (The New Adventures of Old Christine/Wanda at Large) - Wanda drops by The Tonight Show with Jay Leno at 11:35pm on NBC.
    • Keke Palmer (True Jackson, VP) - Keke appears on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 12am on ABC.
    • Norm Macdonald (The Norm Show/A Minute with Stan Hooper) - Norm visits Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • Mark Feuerstein (Good Morning, Miami) - Mark joins the Chew Crew on The Chew on ABC at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
    Friday, January 20, 2012
    • Carla Gugino (Spin City/Entourage) - Watch Carla on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
    Leave us comments on our message board or Tweet/Facebook us to let us know what you think of this Friday feature! We do listen!

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