Like Netflix and Amazon, the streaming service Hulu has been edging into the "original and exclusive series" biz. So far, they've fared best with imports. Last summer saw an original Seth Meyers/Michael Shoemaker animated comedy, "The Awesomes," launch to tepid reviews, while a few months later Hulu's pick-up of Sky1's Irish comedy "Moone Boy" became what might be considered the service's first critical hit.
History may be repeating itself this month with the debut of the animated "Mother Up!" (co-produced with Canadian broadcaster City), followed a few weeks later by the British series "Wrong Mans." Based on the single episode made available for review, "Mother Up!," which features the vocal talents of Eva Longoria, appears much stronger in concept than execution.
Created as a female, if not feminist, response to "Family Guy," "Mother Up!" is an HD family comedy (HD standing for Highly Dysfunctional) in which characters put their cartoon shoulders to the line that separates funny from offensive and shove.
Longoria plays Rudi Wilson, a tough-talking, curvaceous and completely narcissistic music executive who Has It All — as in a husband she continually fights with, two small children she never sees, and lots and lots of stuff. Caught on tape hunting small South American children for sport with one of her top clients ("we were using tranquilizer darts," is her explanation), Rudi gets in front of the scandal by announcing that she is taking time off from her career to raise her two children in the suburbs. Which she then has to do, single-handedly, as her husband quickly bails.
So "Mr. Mom," only without the "Mr."
Some funny moments involving the media and the real needs of superstar clients flash bright but fade too quickly as the pilot devolves into a takedown of suburbia and all those Haughty, Controlling and Generally Objectionable Mothers who seem to populate every fictitious school, neighborhood and coffee shop in America. (Seriously, the communal anxiety dream of Americans today is not about terrorists or even high school, it's the attack of the Mama Queen Bees.)
Happy to pit city against suburb, Rudi goes toe-to-toe with the inevitably blond Super Mom over, what else, a child's birthday party. Disaster and life lessons ensue and we see a small shadow of maternal feeling begin to emerge. Yawn.
Though far more R-leaning than a live-action comedy (see above mention of child-hunting), "Mother Up!" appears, on first glance, a bit kinder and gentler than "Family Guy" (with which it shares writer Michael Shipley) and certainly more family-friendly than, say FX's "Archer." And, as those two shows make very clear, there is a definite need for a female voice in creating adult animation.
"Mother Up!" was created by two actual mothers — Marnie Nir and Katie Torpey — and there is certainly much comedy to be mined from the difficulties of adjusting from a career to full-time motherhood, or the juggling of the two. Unfortunately, after going to the trouble to create a new kind of comedic anti-heroine, the creative team took the easy way out, relying on tired tropes and manufactured scenarios to make its point. Which seems to be that women can be just as terrible at parenting as men.
Frankly, I'd rather see an animated comedy about how hard it is to be a female music executive, with or without kids.