The best network on television is FX, hands down. Its track record isn’t spotless — the last few seasons of both “Rescue Me” and “Nip/Tuck” were slogs, and “Wilfred” is only middling-to-good depending on the episode and your intoxication level — but on a percentage basis, FX succeeds far more frequently than it fails (even if is too quick to pull the cancellation trigger on some of its better series like “The Riches,” “Terriers,” and the amazing but short-lived “Thief”). That is to say: A network that airs “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Justified,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “The League,” and “Louie” has no business even putting a show like “Unsupervised” on the air. It is atrocious, and FX would be wise to take it out behind the woodshed and put two in its head before the show causes further damage to the network’s otherwise sterling reputation.
The best way to describe “Unsupervised” is as “Beavis and Butthead” without the music videos (or “Jersey Shore” segments) or any of the humor. If Seth MacFarlane and Mike Judge had a baby, beat it until it was brain-damaged, and gave it an animated series, it might look like “Unsupervised.” Its failure is inexplicable, as it comes from David Hornsby, (“It’s Always Sunny’s” Rickety Cricket), who also wrote, created, and starred in the abysmal “How to be a Gentleman,” which was canceled earlier this year on CBS. Still, without the restrictions of network television, and with exec-producers Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton, “Unsupervised” seemed a much better bet for Hornsby’s comedic style. However, after the first episode, you can’t help but think that the “Sunny” guys did it as a favor to Horsnby, and FX greenlit it as a favor to the “Sunny” fellas. Somebody along the way should’ve had the testicles to say no.
Justin Long and David Hornsby voice the two main characters, Gary and Joel, two coming-of-age teenage virgins attempting to transform themselves into “cool” kids. The wrinkle here is that they’ve been all but abandoned by their parents, so they’re given free reign (but little income opportunity) to do anything they want. The problem, at least from a comedy perspective, is that the characters seem to lack self-awareness: They are Beavis and Butthead without any of the cynicism. Instead of bucking the high-school system in an effort to get laid, they try to play into it. But the show fails to provide much in the way of friction or conflict (no parents, no real Ted McGinley character), and the premise gets bogged down in its own over-eager earnestness.
It doesn’t help either that — with the freedom of basic cable — Horsnby takes Seth MacFarlane’s brand of comedy to its logical extreme and just does away with jokes all together. There are only profanities and references to boners and the number 69 (Really? 69?) without any effort to provide context, and unless you’re George Carlin and it’s 1972, stringing together a series of swear words isn’t funny. In fact, nothing in “Unsupervised” is. It’s a crater of fail, and the voice work from Kristen Bell, Romany Malco, and Fred Armisen does nothing to improve it.