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Little Demon Struggles to Fulfill on Potential of Its Concept and Cast

Adult animation is an incredibly difficult art form. For every hit like “Archer” or "Rick & Morty," there are a few disasters like “Hoops” or “Farzar.” The team behind FXX’s latest grown-up cartoon, as well as its notably interesting premise, led me to believe that "Little Demon" would fall into the former category more than the latter, but too few laughs in the three episodes sent to press made me wonder if a deal with the devil explained why I was watching it in the first place.

You know the old-fashioned cliché about puberty turning angelic children into demon spawn? Imagine that taken to an actual premise. When Chrissy (Lucy DeVito) gets her first period at school one day, she discovers that she’s not your average teenager. While being bullied by some horrible fellow teenagers, she basically develops demonic superpowers that lead to gory carnage in the middle school bathroom. What is going on? Has Chrissy been possessed? Not exactly.

Her mother Laura (Aubrey Plaza) knows instantly what’s happened—the literal spawn of Satan has reached adolescence. Yes, Laura was impregnated by the Prince of Darkness himself, and has been fleeing his control ever since. The problem is that Laura’s ascendance to her powers have alerted the Demonic Powers That Be, and Satan (Danny DeVito) comes to claim his parental rights. 

“Little Demon” is a show about a troubled teen caught between her human mother and demonic father, but it’s mostly a chance for creators Darcy Fowler, Seth Kirschner, and Kieran Valla to go nuts with the freedom that FX animation allows. Trips to the underworld itself are like ‘80s heavy metal album covers come to life, and the design of “Little Demon” is easily its greatest asset. There are times when the visual ingenuity of “Little Demon” carries the show, and that could be enough for some viewers. Let’s just say it’s the kind of trippy experience that might be enhanced by a not-entirely-sober state of being.

Sadly, the plotting and dialogue never match the visual creativity of “Little Demon.” It often goes for the extreme joke but too rarely finds the funny one, mistaking chaotic for comedic. The voice work is inconsistent—although the great Lennon Parham deserves some love for finding some of the funniest scenes as Laura’s bizarrely supportive neighbor—which is particularly surprising given the comic talents of Plaza and DeVito. Through three episodes, they just haven’t found the right tone for these characters, although the problems are likely more attributable to writers who have given them too little to work with and can't balance the bizarre shifts between WTF insanity and earnestness.

I will say that reviewing a show like “Little Demon” after only three episodes feels a bit foolish, but we play the cards we’re dealt in the TV critic game. The concept, the cast, and the visual ingenuity here mean that “Little Demon” could easily find its footing in future episodes. There’s so much potential in this show that it might be considered a sin to dismiss it before it really grows up.

Three episodes screened for review. Premieres August 25th on FXX and streaming the next day on Hulu.

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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