“Sit Down, Shut Up”
Sundays at 8:30 p.m.

Courtesy of FOX

4 out of 5 stars

The day FOX aired the series finale of critically acclaimed “Arrested Development” — opposite the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics, adding insult to injury — was among the saddest days in television history. After incessant complaints from die-hard fans, FOX realized their mistake and has come up with a way to fix it. It has once again teamed up with “Arrested Development” creator Mitchell Hurwitz to bring us the new animated comedy series “Sit Down, Shut Up.”

While most shows set in high school focus on troubled teens and their social problems, “Sit Down, Shut Up” follows the sad existence of the teachers at Knob Haven High School and their even sadder tribulations. The faculty battles hemlock poisoning, homelessness, unrequited love, porn addictions and, of course, budget issues.

In one episode, the new acting principal must either raise money or fire a teacher. The panicked faculty formulates bizarre schemes to earn money, including digging for a time capsule that may contain a bottle of wine valued at “hundreds of pre-George Bush dollars.”

“Sit Down” parallels “Arrested Development” in many ways, except for one huge difference: it’s animated. The animation allows for wacky and unrealistic characters that would be too unbelievable to portray in real life. It certainly would’ve been more difficult for Kenan Thompson (“Saturday Night Live”) to pull off his female character if the show were live-action.

Although the characters of “Sit Down” are animated, the background is often live-action. This creates an interesting aesthetic and makes the animation stand out, focusing the show’s attention on its crazy characters. The only downside to the animation is that the outstanding cast can’t show off its their physical acting talents, which would’ve been a great addition and is certainly missed.

Otherwise, Hurwitz’s touch is definitely evident. The series’s self-referential humor echoes that of “Arrested Development” with characters frequently saying things such as “We need to win this thing! This is the pilot!” and “This better be another misleading dream sequence!”

Adding to its allusory nature, the cast of “Sit Down” contains many familiar faces, including “Arrested Development” veterans Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Henry Winkler, while adding some newbies to give fans some variety. This blend of new and old cast members works brilliantly together.

Each “Arrested Development” actor clearly pulls from their successful previous character. Bateman’s portrayal of P.E. teacher Larry Littlejunk is strikingly similar to Michael Bluth. Both characters are rational and caring compared to the insane people surrounding them. When Larry’s coworkers land themselves in sticky situations, he bails them out just as Michael Bluth did for his family. Though this personality isn’t new, its past success comined with a new mixture of characters and scenarios keeps things from getting stale.

“Sit Down” is in a risky position. It will inevitably be compared to the overwhelmingly acclaimed “Arrested Development” and it has to compete with powerhouse animated comedies like “Family Guy.” Naysayers may be quick to label it as a knock-off of trendy television rather than appreciate its unique blend of styles. One thing’s for sure: With the show’s impressive cast and the strong reputations of “Arrested Development” and its creator Hurwitz, “Sit Down” won’t go unnoticed.

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