Picks and Pans Review: Father of the Pride

updated 09/06/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/06/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

NBC (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

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One thing a comedy doesn't need is a cloud hanging over it. But I simply can't watch Father of the Pride, which gives human personalities to the animals in Siegfried & Roy's Las Vegas spectacular, without remembering that Roy Horn was nearly mauled to death by a tiger last October. I know the positive spin: Horn is slowly recovering, and the TV series keeps the stage show—closed down since the horrific incident—alive in the public mind. Still, only viewers in a state of denial will fully enjoy Father's cheeky humor.

Are there good jokes here? More than a few, and most are geared to an adult audience. NBC publicity likens this Dream-Works entry to the studio's animated movie hits Shrek and Shrek 2, but Father is more than hip--it's downright racy. The Aug. 31 premiere starts with Larry the lion (voiced by John Goodman) panting for a daytime delight with wife Kate (Cheryl Hines) and segues into the sexual desperation of Foo-Lin (guest star Lisa Kudrow), an overweight virgin panda hoping to mate with nervous newcomer Bong-Bong (Andy Richter). "Your ovaries are turning to concrete," Larry's rude father-in-law, Sarmoti (Carl Reiner), snarls to Foo-Lin. Now there's something I never expected to hear from a cartoon animal.

Siegfried (Julian Holloway) and Roy (Dave Herman) are portrayed as a preening, relentlessly upbeat pair who are all Vegas glitz. Showbiz references, as well as NBC self-promotion, abound in the second episode, when they appear on the Today show. But Father does best in the Sept. 14 episode, which takes a standard situation—Larry and Kate fear their teen daughter is hiding drug use—and gives it a clever, cat-family twist. This show might be funny enough to get by if it weren't toting so much baggage.

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