It only makes sense that the streaming service Hulu would try for its own slice of the original-programming pie that has proven so lucrative for its chief competitor, Netflix. Unfortunately, The Awesomes – an animated superhero spoof premiering today on the service – isn’t likely to make much of an impression among viewers.
Co-created by Seth Meyers (Saturday Night Live) and Michael Shoemaker (Late Night With Jimmy Fallon), this new half-hour program has very little original to offer. Its very title sounds like a knockoff of The Incredibles, an infinitely superior animated superhero project, and its central premise, built around a team of C-list heroes, is reminiscent of comedies like the live-action movie Mystery Men, not to mention countless TV comedy sketches, including Meyers’ own SNL.
The series opens as Mr. Awesome (voiced by Steve Higgins) announces on his 90th birthday that he is retiring from his longtime job as leader of the valiant team of heroes known as The Awesomes. His son, Jeremy (Meyers), is aghast, however, when none of the other heroes is willing to take up the mantle of leadership and, when Jeremy volunteers for the job himself, the team pointedly disbands completely.
The U.S. government gives Jeremy, aka Professor Doctor Awesome (“Prock,” for short), 48 hours to put together a viable new team, but the only likely candidates are former rejects such as Frantic (Taran Killam), a speedy but scatterbrained loose cannon; the Impresario (Kenan Thompson), who can conjure hard-light images to combat villains, although those images usually take the form of his smothering mother; and Gadget Gal (Paula Pell), who can transform an everyday item like a spatula into a lethal weapon.
Prock’s most trusted ally is Muscleman (Ike Barinholtz, The Mindy Project), his super-strong yet dimwitted best friend, who tries to help Prock build popular public support for his new team in the face of more headline-friendly competition from charismatic Awesomes alum Perfect Man (Josh Meyers, Seth’s brother).
The most valuable member of the voice cast, no surprise, turns out to be the brilliant Bill Hader as archvillain Dr. Malocchio, a nefarious master of mind control, but otherwise, the actors – which also include Rashida Jones from Parks and Recreation – are at the mercy of material that seems to have been dashed off during an SNL lunch break. There are some funny performers here, but they can’t work miracles with desperately tired jokes, which are the rule rather than the exception in the two-part pilot currently available on Hulu.
It’s possible that The Awesomes will get better over time – Hulu has ordered 10 episodes for this first season – but I’m not optimistic. What I’ve seen so far is just lazy, unspired and self-indulgent, as if the show were a mere vanity project. I can’t for the life of me see what there is to be vain about here, however.
Perfect Man and Mr. Awesome