I learned in my intro psychology class in college that people are good at remembering 7 plus-or-minus-2 things, so Nickelodeon’s new animated series The Loud House is taking a big risk by fielding a show with a central character backed by 10 supporting cast members, and ensuring that all 11 of them will end up in most 11-minute episodes. The limitations of human memory are perhaps acknowledged by ensuring that most of that supporting cast gets a single, visible, defining character trait, and the earliest episodes of the show suggest that The Loud House is playing a longer game, spending a bit of time introducing us to the cast members before diving into them in more depth. The episodes provided thus far are certainly encouraging, since The Loud House is a warm and funny family comedy that gets off to a solid start and starts building on its strong foundations almost immediately.
The central character in The Loud House is 11-year old Lincoln Loud, a middle child growing up in a house with 10 sisters, from the teenaged Lori all the way down to the 15-month old Lily. Like many modern cartoons, The Loud House opts for two 11-minute vignettes in each televised half-hour episode. The press kit provided the series pilot of two episodes. “Left in the Dark” starts with Lincoln’s efforts to make sure he can get at the TV for the evening, and leads to an unexpected moment of family bonding; “Get the Message” centers mostly on Lincoln and Lori and a message left in the heat of passion on Lori’s phone that Lincoln is desperate to delete before she hears it. Honestly, both episodes are solid without leaving much of a mark; “Left in the Dark” is cute but a little predictable, while “Get the Message” hinges on a scenario that only seems to exist on sitcoms. They’re both amusing more than laugh-out-loud funny (though I did quite like the creative use of Luna’s rock-and-roll guitar in “Get the Message” as an animated equivalent to a comic strip grawlix).
However, Nickelodeon has also released two more full half-hours of The Loud House, viewable on Nick.com, the Nick app, and assorted digital on-demand services, and both put the show on firmer footing. In the first half-hour, “A Tale of Two Tables” details Lincoln’s efforts to graduate to the grown-up table in his house, while “The Sweet Spot” involves his machinations to secure the best seat in the family van for an upcoming road trip. Both stories manage to exploit the large cast more effectively, with the first contrasting the older vs. younger sides of the house and delivering a moral in being careful what you wish for. The second gives all his sisters a bit more time to make an impression, and even if we can see where the episode is going fairly quickly, it seems that this is by design. Most of the fun is in watching Lincoln painstakingly build his house of cards knowing that it’s going to be knocked down by the end of the episode. The second half-hour is probably the show’s best: “Hand-Me-Downer” involves Lincoln borrowing his sporty sister Lynn’s bike rather than the pink hand-me-down bike that came from Lori, while “Sleuth or Consequences” sends Lincoln on a search to find out who clogged the toilet. Both episodes seem pretty conventional from a plot perspective, but “Hand-Me-Downer” gets an interesting moral on making the best of what you have and manages to deal with being to be an individual in a crowd on multiple levels. “Sleuth or Consequences” manages to sustain itself mostly on poop jokes that are much more clever and less crude than they could have been, with a surprise ending that’s genuinely warm, sweet, and enormously satisfying. It’s also probably the funniest of the six episodes released to press and public, thanks to those clever poop jokes and some amusing physical comedy.
Visually, The Loud House is inspired by classic newspaper comic strips, with the homage becoming very explicit in the four-panel title cards for each episode. The look sets The Loud House apart from other animated series, reminding me of the way Peanuts got adapted for the small screen. The visual design immediately communicates which sister is which, ensuring that we always know which sister Lincoln is dealing with even if we can’t immediately remember all their names. In fact, I’d normally ding the show for defining Lincoln’s siblings so simplistically, but the sheer number of characters means it’s less a problem and more a shorthand to ensure we can distinguish his sisters even if we can’t remember whether that’s Luna or Lucy. Grant Palmer’s performance as Lincoln also echoes those classic Peanuts TV cartoons, as a genuine child actor voicing a child on TV. The Loud House show often needs Lincoln to be charming and bone-headed in equal measure, and his performance is more than up to the challenge. His sisters are played by a panoply of voice actors, with only Grey Griffin pulling the three roles that actor’s union rules allow for voiceover (as the polar-opposite twins Lola and Lana, and as baby Lily), and Jessica DiCicco doubling up as the jock Lynn and the mopey Lucy.
The Loud House is a show is worth following for the long-haul. On consideration, it probably reminds me most of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, where the deceptively simple premise and very broadly defined characters masked surprising depth and subtlety, and earlier simpler episodes served to establish the characters in ways that would only really pay off later in the season. The Loud House is plenty of fun now, but I expect the Loud family will really make its best impression over time.
The Loud House premieres on Nickelodeon on Monday, May 2, 2016, at 5:00 PM (ET/PT), with new episodes premiering weekdays in the same timeslot through May. Don’t forget to check out our interview with series creator Chris Savino, too!