Sunday, December 18, 2011

TV: Tom Hayden's Animated Life

Tom Hayden showed his ass in the Los Angeles Times last week, reminding us how he'd shown his ass for weeks on Fox. And reminding us of how much he'd gotten away with for so long now. And underscoring how ignorant the commentariat is.


On Fox, Tom's called Allen Gregory (voiced by Jonah Hill) and stars in the animated show of the same name. In animated and real life, Allen-Tom is desperately unpopular, always pursuing women far out of his league, identifying with abusive personalities, practicing sexism and desperate to be seen as a one of the boys. In both animated and real life, he fails.

The show was a failure, we heard right before Thanksgiving, when speaking to a friend with Fox. That was a surprise to us and only more so when episode six (featuring a guest spot by Lisa Kudrow) would go on to set a season high for the show's ratings.

We could understand the issue of Julie upsetting people, we explained, but were surprised there was objection -- We were cut off. People were objecting to the treatment of Jeremy (voiced by Nat Faxon). That was so typical of a world that embraced Tom Hayden.

Jeremy and Richard De Longpre are Allen Gregory De Longpre's parents. Though some sippers in the Water Cooler Set felt they were defending Jeremy, in our research, we saw a lot of people calling Richard (voiced by French Stewart) Allen's father but referring to Jeremy as Richard's partner (see Robert Bianco, USA Today, for that bias).

Both Jeremy and Richard are adults. Richard has known he was gay for some time. Supposedly, Jeremy was married with kids when he met Richard and had no idea he was gay until then. This led to the Water Cooler Set lodging objections that the show was saying that people could be "turned" gay. Heaven forbid they ever have to watch an actual program before objecting to it. In episode three, Allen Gregory presents that notion at a school dance and Principal Judith Gottlieb (voiced by Renee Taylor) will take to the stage to correct him.

Allen Gregory gets many things wrong -- as episode five's exploration of racism and class makes clear. All the episodes establish that Allen Gregory's bad behavior is learned from Richard.

Richard treats Jeremy like crap. Jeremy is highly indulgent of Richard or else enjoys being treated badly. Comments made -- especially about things stretching when Jeremy said they wouldn't -- appear to indicate that Richard is the top and Jeremy is the bottom. That may be too much for the Water Cooler Set to handle. (They're rather vanilla -- which explains all their panting over sex.) If indeed that is correct, then Richard and Jeremy may be carrying over bedroom behavior outside the bedroom. May. We'll never know because the show got the axe.

But we know a great deal more than the Water Cooler Set.

For starters, Richard most likely is not Allen Gregory's biological father. Look at Richard, Jeremy and Allen Gregory. Two of them have blue eyes while Richard has brown eyes. Did no one study biology? Does no one know the difference between dominant and recessive traits? Does no one notice that Allen Gregory and Jeremy have the same chin? Or that Allen Gregory's nose should grow out, in time, to be like Jeremy's but, with that upward turn, can never grow out to be like Richard's nose?

Like Richard, Allen Gregory is horrible to Jeremy. Imagine the episode when the Richard worshipping Allen Gregory learns that Jeremy is his biological father?

Richard comes from a wealthy family and, until recently, Jeremy stayed home with the kids (Allen Gregory was home schooled). Along with supplying the money, Richard throws tantrums to get his way. Not only does he delude himself about their home life, he also deludes himself about his work life and we see Jeremy know that Richard's given busy work as opposed to actual tasks at work (Richard's father started the company Richard works for) but Jeremy goes along with Richard's lie that he's a very, very important businessman. So why is it that the Water Cooler Set never stopped to think that Richard could force Jeremy into telling a story that was false?

It happens throughout the program. For example, episode six starts with Allen Gregory yet again self-embarrassing in front of his class when he interrupts his teacher (voiced by Leslie Mann) to explain that she's wrong and that men can give birth. He will tell the class that Richard gave birth to him. At home, he will recount his day at school and Jeremy will suggest it's time to tell the truth. Richard will bring out a photo album which only further documents how Jeremy goes along with Richard's lies -- they're pretending that Richard's pregnant in one photo, in another, Richard is on a birthing table supposedly having just given birth to Jeremy.

Did the Water Cooler Set not catch that?

They don't catch much. We were informed that the show was being attacked for the mean attacks on Jeremy and we saw that reflected in the reviews.


Whether Jeremy was married or this is just another lie Richard's vanity needs, Jeremy is a grown man. If Richard and Allen Gregory are disrespectful to him, that's not nice but our hearts aren't going to break.

You know who else Richard and Allen Gregory are disrespectful to?

Julie (voiced by Joy Osmanski) is Allen's sister. Supposedly she's adopted, supposedly she's Cambodian. "Supposedly" because Richard's not really a trust worthy source and it wouldn't be at all surprising to us if Richard were Julie's biological father.

But Julie is a child and she's left alone in the home during a family outing ("No one woke me up!" she will explain). She's targeted with racist remarks by Richard while eating dinner. She's dismissed and insulted non-stop.

And no one in the Water Cooler Set found that worth objecting to in any of the 15 reviews we read. Again, when we were on the phone with a Fox suit, that's what we thought the complaints were about. But apparently -- Tom Hayden must be thrilled -- abuse towards young girls is so common that no one bothers to object.

Nor do they object to the way Allen Gregory treats Gina Winthrop (the teacher Mann voices). Among other things, Allen Gregory constantly insults his teacher ("Jean, sweetheart, think we could button up that blouse all the way to the neck? Catching those weird bumps from the saline bags."; "Let's see how this goes and then we'll probably need to have a little chit-chat about you losing what? 75, 80 pounds mostly around your ass and face." ), calls her by her first name and sometimes by a variation on her first name ("JY-nah" or "JYn") that sounds like slang for vagina, interrupts her constantly and undermines her to the superintendent Stuart Rossmyre (voiced by Will Forte). And did we mention that Rossmyre's very glad that he got off (in court) after slipping a date rape drug to Gina Winthrop?
The treatment of women on this show is very, very ugly. Not unlike the way Tom Hayden attacks and demeans women. Think of his slams on Hillary Clinton in 2008 or, during his Rocky Mountain News interview in 2008, his stopping his young, female intern as she walked through the room and ordering her to slowly turn around. He's not a designer, it's not House of Hayden. That young woman could have had him up on charges of sexual harassment. And, of course, sexism is what got Tom kicked out of the Berkeley commune back in the early seventies.

The Water Cooler Set managed to register an objection about women in one way. Over and over, they complained about Joel's attraction to Principal Gottlieb. That attraction made perfect sense. Richard's instilled in him a love for power. Which adult is the most powerful at an elementary school? The principal. But the Water Cooler Set registered their disgust over the attraction often noting Gottlieb's weight (she's overweight) and declaring it unrealistic that a young boy would know about sex.

But Allen Gregory doesn't know about sex. Did they miss episode two? Where he insists he has a sex tape of himself and Gottlieb but it quickly becomes obvious that he doesn't have the first clue about sex (this will also be clear in episode six).

Last week, Tom Hayden was lying furiously in an attempt to make Barack look good. The hero worship there is disgusting not only because Barack is a War Hawk (see the illegal Libyan War) and Tom likes to self-present as a voice of peace but also because Barack first began publicly insulting Tom when he mocked what he termed "Tom Hayden Democrats." Tom's desperate pursuit of Barack is akin to Allen Gregory's forever attempting to become best friends with classmate Joel Zadak (voiced by Jake Johnson). Allen Gregory never looks more pathetic than when chasing after Joel, just as Tom never looks more pathetic than when chasing after Barack.

Had the show stayed on the air and lasted season after season, we could see Richard writing off Allen Gregory over some disappointment and Jeremy getting sick and coming to live with Allen and his spouse. But while Allen made his spouse care for Jeremy, he spent Jeremy's last days busying himself with extra-marital affairs, running for public office on his spouse's money and deciding that he needed to sign up for baseball camp. We could picture Allen Gregory being just that selfish to the only parent that ever loved himbecause, again, it's the animated life of Tom Hayden.

Maybe because our eyes are wide open, we can laugh loudly at Tom Hayden. And possibly that's why we thought that Allen Gregory had many strong points. Yes, the sexism bothered us but is there a Fox animated program not trafficking in sexism currently? Leaving aside the sexism, the show had much going for it. One critic raved over the Warhol look -- again reminding us just how stupid the Water Cooler Set is. While Allen Gregory does have a portrait that looks like a Warhol, the show's animation is nothing like Warhol but could be said to owe a debt to the work of Margaret Keane and its visual was probably the show's strongest point.
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