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TV Series Review

Just press the “mute” button, and NBC’s animated prime-time series Father of the Pride appears rather harmless. Furry white lions look like plush dolls. Cute monkeys, tigers and zebras act like humans. Even the lovable donkey from Shrek (both are created by DreamWorks) makes a cameo. Turn up the volume, though, and the innocence disappears. “Great nipples,” Larry the lion says to a pig. “This gal’s easier to get into than Florida State,” crows Larry’s father-in-law, Sarmoti, boasting about his sexual prowess. “Hey kids, what if I buy you some beer? It’ll be our little secret,” Sarmoti coos to cubs he’s babysitting.

Families expecting wholesome cartoon fun have been blindsided by homosexuality, alcoholism and other objectionable elements in this series about the offstage lives of Siegfried & Roy’s exotic performing animals. In one episode, Siegfried himself beds a 70-year-old grandma. (The after-sex shot was so risqué, NBC cut it before re-airing the episode.) Two lesbian gophers make out, complete with sound effects. A cat licks between Larry’s legs and smirks, “What? Your wife ain’t doin’ it. ... I’m all you got, sunshine!”

Equally insulting is Pride’s Homer Simpson-esque guide to raising children. Larry (voiced by John Goodman) and his mate, Kate (Cheryl Hines), lie, cheat, steal and even get stoned to earn their kids’ respect. Sarmoti (Carl Reiner) distracts his young grandson with a bottle of vodka and cigarettes so that he can make out with a lioness. The cub proceeds to get drunk. Sarmoti later sleeps with a feline instructor in an attempt to further his granddaughter’s education.

DreamWorks founder and Pride creator Jeffrey Katzenberg is comfortable crossing the line between kid-friendly looks and crude content, in part because NBC tagged the show with “not your kids’ cartoon” and “adult animated comedy” disclaimers. Others strongly object to it. Pride’s ratings have dropped each week since its premiere. Critics have clobbered it. And the Family Friendly Programming Forum withdrew $50,000 it had allotted to support the show.

Sent on hiatus during November’s sweeps, Father of the Pride still has six unaired episodes waiting in the wings. Considering that each cost $1.6 million and took nine months to produce, they’ll surely hit prime time soon, even though they’re not expected to capture the lion’s share of ratings.

Episodes Reviewed: Aug. 31, Sept. 7, 14, 21, Oct. 12, 2004

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Marcus Yoars

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