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Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Grimsburg’ On Fox, An Animated Series Where Jon Hamm Is A Depressed Detective In A Cursed Town

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It’s not hard to tell when a comedy, especially an animated one, is trying too hard. It basically throws gags at its viewers without giving any of them a chance to breathe, and those gags often feel like they haven’t been thought through well-enough. A new animated series on Fox gets off to a rough start because it’s way too full of gags, most of which don’t land.


Opening Shot: An owl is perched over a car where two teens are making out.

The Gist: As the girl tells the guy in the car that he’s a really good kisser, he says he’s been practicing. Suddenly there’s someone outside, which the girl sees but the guy is oblivious. In fact, he’s still blathering about how resistant she is even after a chainsaw has cut off his head.

Marvin Flute (Jon Hamm), who used to be a detective in the Grimsburg PD, but he’s currently staying in a flophouse of a hotel, wearing a duckie inner tube for underwear and punching his image in a mirror. That’s how his old boss, Lt. John Kang (Greg Chun) finds him; he’s the only one that can solve this case. He gives Flute a temporary badge so he can come back to Grimsburg — a town which promotes its cursed status on its welcome signs — to investigate.

He meets his new partner, the mostly-cyborg Detective Greg Summers (Kevin Michael Richardson) at the scene. As he envisions himself witnessing the murder, the theorizes the girl, the daughter of the town’s mayor (Jaime Camil) has been abducted and is still alive. When they find the head in a block of ice with a note about the girl, signed by “The Killer,” Marvin is impressed with the penmanship.

One of the things he has to face when he’s back in Grimsburg is his ex-wife Harmony Flute (Erinn Hayes), who is a local TV news reporter. He’s still in love with the woman, who was raised by bears and eats that way, and wants to put his family back together. One obstacle is that he has to be present for his son Stan (Rachel Dratch). He promises to go to the father-son dance at Stan’s school, and Stan promises that he no longer sees the vision of a fire-laden skeleton called Mr. Flesh (Alan Tudyk), when he absolutely still does.

After the medical examiner finds a flute stuffed up the butt of the murder victim, Flute tries to get guidance on the calling card from his music teacher mentor Dr. Rufis Pentos (Tudyk), who is still teaching despite serving a life sentence for a horrific murder. What Dr. Pentos says is that “parents truly block out the sun,” which flummoxes Flute. Summers finds evidence that points to police chief Patsy Stamos (Wendi McLendon-Covey), a flat-earther who is damn near MAGA in her views, but she’s got her own parent-son issues to deal with.

Photo: Fox

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Grimsburg has the pacing and tone of an animated series like Chicago Party Aunt, but with broadcast-network standards.

Our Take: Hamm is an executive producer of Grimsburg; the show was created by Catlan McClelland and Matthew Schlissel, and the showrunner is Chadd Gindin. There’s not a ton of animation experience here and it shows; it feels like, rather than try to give us an idea of who Flute is, they just try to stuff one gag after another down all the characters’ throats, even if the gags aren’t all that funny.

They seem to be operating on the notion that Hamm can be wickedly funny, but instead of giving him actually funny lines to say they just have him mess up easy words and do goofy voices instead of having him play Flute more straight. It’s as if they never learned the lesson that everyone who saw Airplane! 44 years ago learned: Funny lines that are stated with a straight face are much funnier than when they’re said with silliness. There were moments that Hamm could have taken Flute in a goofy direction, but there were definite moments when a more straightforward line reading would have been funnier.

There are funny moments in the first episode, but they’re so swamped by a tsunami of gags that don’t land that the overall effect is that we barely chuckled. The ineffective gags are the ones that are the most labored and wordy, overplaying its hand to the point where whatever point the writers were trying to get across became decidedly unfunny. It’s a problem we’ve seen in adult animation dating back until at least the early days of Family Guy, but it seems to be a trap too many animation creators fall into.

We’d rather get less gags and more of the story of how Flute is trying to reconnect with a family that’s not sure they want him back in their lives. If the writers figure that out, they might have a good show on their hands.

Sex and Skin: None in the first episode.

Parting Shot: In a voice over, Flute says that the final shot, of the new casino made possible by “God’s gift to Grimsburg”, the mayor, is a good one that must have had some budget behind it, “which is a really good sign.”

Sleeper Star: Tudyk has two main roles, as Mr. Flesh and Dr. Pentos, and he’s funny in both.

Most Pilot-y Line: “Don’t fall for it Stan,” Harmony says about Stan’s dad, “He’s just coming back to face-fudge this family again.” Stan responds, “I wouldn’t say no to a little face-fudging.”

Our Call: SKIP IT. Grimsburg is a comedy that suffers from too many jokes, which seems to be impossible, but this show proves that it can happen.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon,,, Fast Company and elsewhere.