‘Little Demon’ Review: Danny DeVito and Aubrey Plaza in Animated FXX Comedy
LITTLE DEMON — “First Blood” — Season 1, Episode 1 (Airs Thursday, August 25) — Pictured: Chrissy (voice of Lucy DeVito). CR:FXX

‘Little Demon’ Review: Danny DeVito and Aubrey Plaza in Animated FXX Comedy

To get the easy joke out of the way quickly, FXX’s upcoming adult animated series “Little Demon” gives new meaning to the phrase “the ex from Hell.” In fact, “Little Demon” is a very to-the-point title, as the series revolves around the aftermath of 13-year-old Chrissy (voiced by Lucy DeVito) — an otherwise unremarkable seventh-grade girl, with no friends other than her single mother — finding out that she just so happens to be the Antichrist and more remarkable than she could ever imagine. More importantly, she learns that her mother, Laura (Aubrey Plaza), has lied to her whole life, and that the father she’s always believed to be dead is actually Satan (Danny DeVito) himself. And now he wants to be a part of her life. The series follows Chrissy’s new normal, caught in the middle of a custody battle that is also ultimately a battle for her soul.

Created and written by Darcy Fowler, Seth Kirschner, and Kieran Valla, “Little Demon” isn’t just a TV-MA excuse to have animated nudity and graphic gore — though that is very much present. It’s a story about puberty and growing up, as well as adjusting to being part of an atypical family. It just so happens that this atypical family includes a witch-slash-demon hunter as the matriarch, Satan as the patriarch, and the Antichrist as their child just trying to make it in multiple worlds. It is also a raunchy, crude, and comically hyperviolent series that really leans into the genre of smart “dumb” comedy. In fact, while the series’ animation style clearly loves to show off what it can do in terms of violence — to an extreme that works only because it’s animated — the best part of the show comes from its even more obvious intelligence in the form of its use of “blink and you miss it” moments in terms of dialogue. So many “Little Demon” scenes feature what are essentially background buttons or asides that reveal the actual depth of a show that also has no qualms about having a “pee pee, poo poo” runner in one episode. Whether it’s a “WandaVision”-esque line about the Sisyphean nature of junior high, or an aside about how weird things have gotten since Chrissy and her mother moved to town (something that’s otherwise not addressed on the show), “Little Demon’s” best moments — the ones that make it stand out in a sea of too much television — are the bits of funny dialogue that would typically be considered throwaway. A lot of the series’ dialogue in these instances is clearly very much structured in order to make the punchlines hit just right, but the delivery makes so much of it feel like effortless riffing — which is a testament to both the voice actors and Fowler, Kirschner, and Valla.

Right out the gate, the obvious comparison series to “Little Demon” is “Rick & Morty,” and that’s even without acknowledging that “Rick & Morty” co-creator Dan Harmon serves as an executive producer. (As do creators Fowler, Kirscher, and Valla, as well as stars Plaza and both DeVitos — who are also real-life daughter and father.) Because basically, what science is to “Rick & Morty” — in terms of being a jumping-off point for plot — that is what the supernatural is to “Little Demon.” And that provides plenty of plot fodder that can be used to tell Chrissy’s puberty story, as well as Satan’s story about learning to be a father, and Laura’s story about finally planting roots and accepting that her little hellspawn is growing up. Especially as they’re surrounded by characters like Bennigan (Eugene Cordero), Chrissy’s new best friend and possible love interest, who gets roped into her world of chaos; Darlene (Lennon Parham), the nosey neighbor who loves wine o’clock and inserting herself into Laura’s life; and Unshaven Man (Michael Shannon), a mysterious figure whose mission in life is to kill the Antichrist, for personal reasons.

“Little Demon” makes bold choices on a number of fronts, but in terms of the pilot propelling the series forward, the boldest choice that doesn’t work as well as it should is its perspective that “both sides” in the custodial debate kind of suck. While the series’ premise itself works, and the push-and-pull Chrissy feels from both her human (and good) and demonic (evil) sides track, in order to escalate the story’s tension, “Little Demon” attempts to argue that Laura saying that Satan ruined her life by impregnating her is the same as Satan only wanting to connect with his daughter in order to “bring about Maximus Dawnus” and take back control of Hell. Chrissy has to be mad enough at both parents in order to decide to take charge, leading to the series’ custody rules and premise moving forward, but it’s not exactly the most elegant set-up for this particular scenario. Especially as the series reveals throughout just how much Laura must have done over the past 13 years to make sure Chrissy was safe from Satan and any outside forces that would’ve wanted to get their hands or claws on the Antichrist. It’s really just a notably clunky bit of set-up when, beforehand, the specific catalyst for Satan returning to their lives in the first place — it’s worth noting the pilot is titled “First Blood” — manages to more deftly combine the things about the series that works (its violence and crudeness, along with the aforementioned “throwaway” dialogue).

Naturally, the major selling point for a series like “Little Demon” is that national treasure Danny DeVito voices Satan. Both DeVito and Plaza really serve as a perfect contrast in voice acting, as in the case of the latter, for those who still think she can only do deadpan April Ludgate, “Little Demon” adds another performance to her resume that proves the contrary. In the way that DeVito’s voice acting for Satan captures deadbeat-meets-“fun” dad, Plaza’s voice acting for Laura captures mama bear who’s seen some shit. And Lucy DeVito’s acting captures Chrissy’s combination of innocence, rebelliousness and feistiness, which shouldn’t all manage to work at the same time but somehow do.

Interestingly enough, though, despite the real-life father-daughter relationship and all the qualities that set “Little Demon” up to succeed, the relationship with Satan and Chrissy is a little hit or miss, at least this early in the series. Part of that stems from the fact that there’s less contrasting Christy’s demonic side when she’s actually around demons. So while Chrissy being a mostly good kid makes sense as the contrast and conflict in Satan’s realm, it doesn’t work as well when it’s the focus of an episode — as opposed to her embracing her demonic side on Earth, while also trying to reconcile that as a human. It’s a balance that will be interesting to see unfold as “Little Demon” goes on, which is perhaps the biggest selling point of the series altogether: its potential.

Animated horror-comedy, Half-hour-long. (6 episodes; 3 watched for review.) Premieres Thursday, August 25 on FXX.