Since the tumultuous journey of the NBC-turned-Yahoo sitcom “Community,” showrunner Dan Harmon has steered clear of the constraints of network television. His unique blend of cynicism and meta references never quite meshed with mass audiences, and “Community” teetered on the brink of cancellation even when it was on the air. As the television landscape evolved rapidly during the 2010s, Harmon found a more comfortable home in cable and streaming platforms. Despite the departure of “Rick and Morty” co-creator and star Justin Roiland amid allegations of sexual assault, the hit show is now embarking on its seventh season on Adult Swim. Earlier this year, Harmon ventured into adapting the web comic “Strange Planet” into a series for Apple TV+.
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With the animated half-hour series “Krapopolis,” Harmon makes his official return to network television, airing on Fox. “Krapopolis” brings a sense of stability that “Community” never quite achieved; even before its premiere on September 24, the show has secured a renewal through Season 3. Interestingly, due to ongoing strikes, “Krapopolis” is now one of the key pillars of Fox’s fall schedule, with new live-action series postponed indefinitely.
This places a substantial burden on “Krapopolis,” a show that takes a lighthearted, high-concept approach to the family sitcom genre, set in an imaginative version of ancient Greece. The protagonist, 29-year-old Tyrannis (Richard Ayoade), is physically feeble but intellectually overconfident. He recruits his warrior sister Stupendous (Pam Brady) and scientist half-brother Hippocampus (Duncan Trussell) to help him build a modern city-state. One citizen aptly describes Tyrannis as someone who convinces powerless people of their own power, leading them to relinquish their power willingly. However, Tyrannis faces the daunting task of persuading even the most skeptical individuals, including his own parents: the vain goddess Deliria (Hannah Waddingham) and Shlub (Matt Berry), a manticore-like hybrid creature.
In the three episodes reviewed by critics, “Krapopolis” leans into a few recurring comedic themes. Characters often exhibit a “20/20 hindsight” perspective from millennia in the future. For instance, when Tyrannis retreats to a “reading nook,” his scene partner humorously points out the absence of a written language, rendering books non-existent. The show also enjoys playing with the idea of “inventing” modern concepts, such as forensic science and sports commentary, within an ancient Greek setting. Familiar figures from Greek mythology, like Athena (Amber Stevens West), Hermes (Michael Urie), and the Trojan horse, make entertaining cameo appearances. While these legendary beings may not surprise those well-versed in Greek mythology, Harmon and his writers derive amusement from recasting them in new, often humorous, roles.
The greatest strength of “Krapopolis” undoubtedly lies in its voice cast, which breathes life into these recurring comedic setups, preventing them from growing stale. Fans of “What We Do in the Shadows” will delight in Matt Berry’s portrayal of yet another chronically amorous immortal character. As Deliria, Hannah Waddingham departs from her tightly-wound “Ted Lasso” persona, fully embracing the role of a Jenna Maroney-esque delusional diva. Her entrance, in which she proclaims, “Prepare to disappoint the goddess Deliria!” sets the tone for her character’s flamboyant personality. Tyrannis’ quest to modernize Krapopolis seems more like a rebellion against his mother, who has a penchant for transforming her enemies into snakes, than a principled endeavor.
Three episodes may offer a limited view of a show guaranteed several seasons. In today’s landscape of early and frequent cancellations, “Krapopolis” appears poised for a lengthy run. The show’s flexible setup, reminiscent of the “Simpsons” town of Springfield, allows for a wealth of supporting characters to be introduced over time. Moreover, the core cast, handpicked by Harmon, shows great promise. In the realm of Fox’s long-standing animation lineup, Harmon’s return feels more natural than his previous stint on NBC primetime.
The first two episodes of “Krapopolis” are set to debut on Fox on September 24, with subsequent episodes airing weekly on Sundays at 8:30 pm.