Reviews

Father of the Pride: The Complete Series

Will Harris

Beyond the Roy factor, the likely reason for Father of the Pride's failure is that it's just a really odd show.


Father of the Pride

Distributor: Universal
Cast: John Goodman, Cheryl Hines, Orlando Jones, Carl Reiner
Subtitle: The Complete Series
Network: DreamWorks
First date: 2004
US Release Date: 2005-06-07
Amazon affiliate
Amazon

An animated series based on the animals in Siegfried and Roy's Las Vegas show probably seemed a great idea at first. Imagine the studio execs going ga-ga at the pitch. "NBC teams with DreamWorks -- the folks who brought you Shrek and Shrek 2? It's a sure-fire hit, baby!"

Perhaps it would have been. Father of the Pride was certainly shaping up that way, with John Goodman performing the voice of a lion named Larry, and Carl Reiner speaking for Larry's father-in-law, Sarmoti. If nothing else, there was comedic potential. Unfortunately, after Friday, 3 October 2003, otherwise known as the day when Roy was mauled by one of the tigers in the duo's act, it was magically transformed from a sure-fire hit into something that's... frankly, it's a little creepy at times.

One would think that, given the circumstances, someone would've said, "Maybe we should put the kibosh on this show. Roy's in the hospital, and, c'mon, no one's gonna be able to watch this without thinking about that!" Someone probably did say that, but there was a great deal of money already tied up in the show's preproduction and they'd already started recording sessions with the actors. Add to that the fact that, even from his hospital bed, Roy demanded that the show go on, and there was no chance the plug would be yanked.

No, that wouldn't happen until it actually got on the air.

Getting beyond the Roy factor, the likely reason for Father of the Pride's failure (only 10 episodes aired), is that it's just a really odd show. In no way does its look match its content, a fact clear to the show's writers and producers. During "Possession" -- an episode where Larry reminds his wife Kate (Cheryl Hines), "You know I pitch a tent when I fancy-dance" -- a writer comments, "That might've been the brilliance of what we tried to do, or the reason it was an absolute failure, because we had cuddly animals talking like this."

The brilliant part was surely helped by the voice actors, including Goodman, Reiner, and guest stars such as John O'Hurley (a fine fancy-dancer in his own right), Garry Marshall, and John DiMaggio (a.k.a. Bender on Futurama), it's hard to get past the fact that it looks like a show for kids. NBC might've tried to play the "primetime animation" card with the show -- a placard that reads, "If an animated series is on between 7-11pm, then it's not for kids and parents shouldn't let them watch it" -- but nobody was buying that load of malarkey once Eddie Murphy reprised his role as Donkey, from Shrek.

The animals are definitely the stars of the show. The actions of the animated Siegfried and Roy are a bit too surreal, so they seem more like a 21st-century version of the Festrunk Brothers rather than illusionists extraordinaire. Invariably, their wild and crazy activities are relegated to B-story status, and rightfully so. The relations among Larry, Kate, and daughter Sierra and son Hunter, all living with Sarmoti, drive the series. There's an extremely funny bit where Hunter is singing Tori Amos' "Silent All These Years" in the bathtub, resulting in a dead silence from Larry and Kate, only broken by Sarmoti asking, "Are we still pretending he's not gay?"

The show is not shy about presenting "lifestyle" options. Orlando Jones voices Snack, a gopher who has a decidedly sultry-looking gopher girlfriend. An elephant shares a pad with a turkey, but they swear there's nothing going on, and that they're just "splitting the rent" (Suuuuure they are). Larry and Kate go to a rave where they end up getting dosed with catnip. There's also a hysterical moment when, during a "road trip" through the desert, a coyote has what appears to be a bad acid trip, with a toad trying to talk him down: "How long has it been since you last licked me?" It's no Family Guy, but not a kids' show either.

The release of the series' short run on a dual-sided DVD might help all involved recoup some of the lost investment. In addition to the inclusion of 14 episodes (three never aired, plus a second version of the pilot), Universal has upped the must-buy quotient by adding such bonus features as a script for a never-animated episode of the show and commentary by writers on three episodes. For the TV-on-DVD fans who take the time to listen to such things, head writers Jonathan Groff and Jon Pollack, and staff writers Rob Cohen, Cheryl Holliday, and Jon Ross demonstrate they had a vision for the characters, including the relationship between the lions and tigers in Siegfried and Roy's menagerie. (The tigers are the nouveaux rich to the lion's middle class, if you were wondering.)

Some would say the show's failure was ensured by Roy's injuries, but by the time the show aired, he was on the mend. Unfortunately, many viewers wrote it off as an exercise in poor taste nonetheless. This, coupled with the gradual realization that, despite its look, the show was certainly not "Must-See TV" for the pre-pubescent set, ensured cancellation. Perhaps the DVD will allow fans of the semi-subversive Adult Swim school of animation to rediscover the joys of Father of the Pride.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.