Not to sound like some jock-hating nerd here, but have you ever noticed how many sports-themed cartoons tend to, you know, suck? Basketball-themed Space Jam was a low point for the Looney Tunes franchise, and stuff like ProStars and Hulk Hogan’s Rock N’ Wrestling were corny even by the low standards of celebrity-based kiddie cartoons (they weren’t as bad as Hammerman though, thank God).
So maybe that was the reason I was a bit wary about ITV’s new adult animated sitcom Warren United. I mean, if it’s corny in a kids’ show, it’s bound to be even more so in an adult show? No, actually, I think I was wary because from the previews the show just looked like an attempt to make a British Family Guy (didn’t we already try that with Mongrels?) I suppose I should have been a bit more excited, given that adult animation is scarce here in Merry Old England and it had Men Behaving Badly’s Simon Nye behind it, but still, when I saw that one of the main characters was a teenage goth girl, I thought ‘I wonder if she’ll be more like Meg Griffin or Hayley Smith?’
Three episodes of Warren United have aired so far, and while they’re not as bad as I thought they’d be, they’re still a bit, as a certain other animated sitcom would say, meh. It’s not really as much about football (or soccer to you Americans) as it is being a fan of it; the show revolves around Warren Kingsley (Darren Boyd) and how his love of the game affects his family life. The first episode has him going into withdrawal at the end of the football season, the second has Warren and his family stuck with permanent face paint, and the third has Warren’s son Harrison (Morwenna Banks) becoming a football mascot.
I guess the stories are okay for what they are, but nothing too spectacular, and sometimes they even get weird. In the first episode, Warren’s wife Ingrid (Eleanor Lawrence) sends Warren to a therapist in order to help him get over his football obsession. The show had been fairly grounded to this point, aside from some talking police horses, but when Warren goes to therapy, he is sent to a Frankenstein castle where an evil German scientist shocks him every time he shows affection for football. He exchanges his football obsession for a DIY obsession and thus the story becomes a bit of a We Want Our Jerk Back plot. Pretty odd choice for the plot for a first episode; episodes where a character loses their most famous trait is common in sitcoms, but usually it’s at least the sixth or seventh episode, to get the viewers more acquainted with that certain trait.
Even worse is that the show isn’t even all that funny. Those police horse I mentioned earlier? I thought they would just be in that one episode – their appearance did feel like a rejected Family Guy “manatee gag” after all – but no, they’re recurring characters who offer occasional commentary, none of it funny. I want to say they’re a poor man’s Klaus the goldfish from American Dad, but they’re more a poor ripoff of those cuckoo clock characters from Count Duckula. Other jokes mostly fall flat, from sex jokes – Warren says he has something for Ingrid while there’s a bump under his duvet, but that bump is a model airplane – to attempts at taking advantage of the animated format – Warren goes into the stockroom of the kitchen store he works in, and finds a Flintstone-esque kitchen set complete with pterodactyl.
Of course, the animated format should lead to some possibilities live-action could not provide, but the animation style for Warren United is just so…bland. The whole thing looks it was made in GoAnimate, with the characters being created by some online character generator rather than from scratch. I’ve seen more dynamic character designs in clipart packages. It looks a bit better than Brickleberry though, thank God. Now there’s an adult cartoon you don’t want your show to be like.
I wasn’t too impressed with Warren United, but then again, this was only the first three episodes. Maybe it’ll improve somewhere down the line. Still, I just hope this isn’t the best UK adult animation can do.