It feels like we’ve been hearing about Krapopolis since the days of ancient Greece, doesn’t it? Fox first ordered the animated comedy from Dan Harmon more than three years ago, and after multiple delays, it’s now quite possibly the only TV show ever to have been renewed for three seasons before even airing a single episode. So now that it’s finally arrived, was it worth the wait? Actually, to my pleasant surprise, it was. Krapopolis — debuting this Sunday, Sept. 24 at 8/7c; I’ve seen the first three episodes — is a very worthy occupant of Fox’s vaunted Sunday night animation block, with a delightfully twisted take on ancient history and a solid arsenal of sharp one-liners.
It’s set in ancient Greece, a world of gods and monsters where mermaids and centaurs walk the earth and crack jokes along with everyone else. The newly founded city of Krapopolis is run by King Tyrannis (Richard Ayoade), a gawky intellectual who wants to bring his primitive people into the civilized world. (“Cities are going to be huge,” he predicts.) He’s saddled, though, with a pair of nosy parents: the all-powerful goddess Deliria (Ted Lasso‘s Hannah Waddingham), who made her son king; and Shlub, a party-loving winged centaur with a scorpion tail played by What We Do in the Shadows‘ Matt Berry. Tyrannis also has to contend with his hulking cyclops sister Stupendous (Pam Murphy), who lets her muscles do the talking, and his brother Hippocampus (Duncan Trussell), a lab nerd who’s half-fish because Shlub mated with a mermaid.
Harmon has won a loyal following from his years on Community and Rick and Morty, and Krapopolis also bears his slyly subversive sense of humor; he brings a playfully modern sensibility to ancient mythology, like a class clown fooling around during history class. (The sea god Poseidon has an egotistical jerk of a nephew named… Broseidon.) Despite all the mythical creatures, though, the family dynamics here are oddly relatable: a domineering mother, an embarrassing father, siblings who annoy you one day and then fight to the death for you the next. (The action does get a bit gory at times, I will say, with lots of severed heads and limbs. This was an especially brutal era in human history, after all.)
Even when it stretches into the absurd, though, Krapopolis has a sturdy foundation, thanks to its exceptionally strong voice cast. Ayoade (best known for his work on UK comedies like The IT Crowd) brings a delicate dignity to Tyrannis, with his high ideals inevitably being crushed at every turn. Waddingham lends her trademark sass and glamour to Deliria, and with his impossibly rich and suggestive voice, Berry was born to play a jolly bearded centaur with a taste for orgies. They’re backed up by a bevy of fun guest stars, including Keith David as the fierce barbarian King Asskill — he has a tender side, despite his name — and Michael Urie as Deliria’s gossipy pal Hermes.
Through its first three episodes, Krapopolis provides enough giggles to put it right at the top of Fox’s recent animation efforts, a cut above the likes of Bless the Harts and Duncanville. It’s not a moment too soon, either: Fox’s animation staples are getting awfully long in the tooth. Krapopolis’ fellow Sunday night shows — The Simpsons, Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers — have run for a combined (gulp) 68 seasons, so Krapopolis could provide the fresh blood this animation block so badly needs. It’s a little funny that Fox had to look to the ancient past to find its animation future, but by Gods, I think they’ve done it.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Fox’s new animated comedy Krapopolis finds plenty of laughs in ancient history with a divine voice cast.