As you grow older, it’s easy to look back on your younger years and forget about the hard parts. In hindsight, everything seems easier than the hardships of the present. That’s why it’s easy for your parents to scoff at you when you struggle with addition in kindergarten or tell you to “just wait until you get to the real world” when you muster up the courage to tell them that high school’s been hard. But just because you’re older doesn’t mean that you’re smarter, wiser or better than someone younger than you. In fact, HBO Max’s new adult animation “Ten Year Old Tom” proves that some adults can be even dumber than kids.
Created by Steve Dildarian (“The Life & Times of Tim”), “Ten Year Old Tom,” like many other recent adult animations about being a kid like “Big Mouth,” is full of dry humor and the cringe-worthy horrors of childhood. Each episode is split into two vignettes, enough for audiences to come to the conclusion that adult supervision is overrated, at least in Tom’s case. With questionable authority figures, Tom proves that, sometimes, he would be better off on his own instead of listening to the ridiculous adults who don’t have his best interests in mind.
Voiced by Dildarian himself, Tom is an awkward 10-year-old boy going through the motions of his youth. Like most kids his age, he trusts the grown-ups in his life to be, well, grown-up. He lives with his neglectful mother (Edi Patterson, “Vice Principals”) and has a “philandering rat” of a father who abandoned the family for a life of debauchery. Tom’s best friend Nelson (Byron Bowers, “No Sudden Move”) is just as reckless as the adults, often giving him unwarranted advice, albeit with good intentions. Yet, through the thick of it all, Tom is constantly being led astray by the corrupted adults he runs into each day just by leaving his home.
In the first episode, Tom’s principal (Todd Glass, “Those Who Can’t”) tells him to stop playing the bassoon and join the baseball team instead. Unfortunately, Tom sucks at baseball. Instead of helping him, Tom’s bus driver (Ben Rodgers, “Star Trek: Lower Decks”) brings him on a drug deal for steroids. In times of need, the adults fail Tom in every instance. Through his blank, almost worrisome, facial expression and anxiety-inducing interactions with the adults around him, Tom is aware that they may not be as smart or dependable as he once thought. He’s just doing his duty as a 10-year-old because he doesn’t know any better.
In most cases, the show thoroughly draws out the assumption that adults are more immature than they appear, particularly by presenting the adult-like child and the child-like adult dynamic. At first, the emergence of childish adults is not improbable to the average adult in real life, yet it becomes more evident throughout the show that lacking maturity as an adult can be damaging to adults and the children around them who look up to them for guidance.
By the end of each episode, the show’s point can be comprehended more clearly: Age isn’t synonymous with maturity, and adults who are clearly “stuck in a child’s place” simply cannot be trusted with children. In a way, the show portrays the fallacy of the “I’m older so I know better” trope in the most comical way.
Regardless, the series completely refutes the idea that humans reach full adult maturity at age 25. After all, age is nothing but a number. Some adults simply say and do the darndest things, perhaps because they’re still young at heart. Unfortunately, children are often caught in the middle. Despite that grim reality, “Ten Year Old Tom” attempts to bring some levity to the blurry line between growing up and being full-grown.
Daily Arts Writer Jessica Curney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.