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TELEVISION REVIEW

'Lucy'? She's a little devil

September 14, 2007|Robert Lloyd | Times Staff Writer

If there were no Devil, the people who write books and movies and television shows would have had to invent him -- and perhaps they did. Old Scratch or Lucifer or whatever you like to call him is -- for anyone who has not met him personally -- by necessity a literary construction, the ever-changing end product of millenniums of stories and songs, pictures and plays. Mostly we think of him as red and horned and bearded, or as a man in a really nice suit, as in "Damn Yankees" or that movie with Al Pacino, or the fall TV season's upcoming "Reaper." (He almost always dresses well, like the salesman he is.) He needs to be charming, in his way, to get any work done.

Though, of course, he does not always get his work done.

Although he is generally reckoned the baddest cat in the whole of creation, we have no difficulty imagining the Devil as a comic figure. Given that he is traditionally the great cosmic loser, forever knocking his head against heaven's great glass ceiling, it's not inappropriate, after all. He's been played by Bill Cosby, John Ritter, Rodney Dangerfield and Peter Cook -- and now by H. Jon Benjamin (Ben of "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist"), the Olivier of the semi-improvisational animated cartoon set, who gives him a voice in Cartoon Network's appealingly cheerful new Adult Swim series, "Lucy: The Daughter of the Devil." (The series premiered last Sunday, two years after the network aired its pilot.)

Created by Loren Bouchard (of "Home Movies," which also featured Benjamin, along with current fellow cast members Melissa Bardin Galsky and Sam Seder), it bears the mark of Adult Swim, a peculiar aesthetic in which the extremely grand and the extremely trivial are forever entwined. The story, such as it is, concerns the titular Lucy (Galsky), also known as the antichrist, a sparky but not apparently evil young woman living in San Francisco; her father, Satan, who has a taste for ugly sweaters; and her friend DJ Jesus (Jon Glaser). Jesus, pronounced as in Spanish, is a "humble DJ" whose divinity is kept ambiguous, but who nevertheless plans on "incorporating miracles into my set." ("I want to push DJ'ing -- I want it to be more than DJ'ing and also less than DJ'ing.") He calls Satan "Lucy's Dad."

Satan's work is abetted by his skeleton lawyer (Becky, the devil's advocate, played by Galsky again) and a pair of skeleton "interns." Meanwhile a nun and two priests -- that's the beginning of a joke right there -- are looking for the antichrist, though they can't seem to recognize her even when she's taking their order at the Mexican restaurant her father has just bought. (On the menu: something called "Atacolypse," and a diet margarita Satan has dubbed a "Diarita.")

It isn't so much a show about the banality of evil as it is about the attractive banality of popular culture -- the theme, perhaps, of most Adult Swim original productions. ("How can you justify this? How is this evil?" Becky asks of Satan's "unholy move into the casual after-work-style bar and grill business.") The joke here is that although DJ Jesus has the ability to stay on task, Satan is easily distracted and continually drawn away from his business, whether to sing karaoke or give DJ Jesus -- whom he has unsuccessfully tempted in the desert with teriyaki bites and home electronics ("Pick out anything you like, 75% off") -- a lift to Burning Man, where Jesus is to perform before a "144-ton giant scented candle slash DJ booth slash dance floor slash actual working candle."

It suggests in some oddly comforting if ultimately nonsensical way that, at their highest levels, good and evil can get along. Especially after a few Diaritas.

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robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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'Lucy: The Daughter of the Devil'

Where: Cartoon Network, Adult Swim

When: 12:15 a.m. Sunday

Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children younger than 17)

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