THE CHARACTERS Season One Review
In its never-ending quest to ruin lives and monopolize weekends, Netflix has released what feels like its one-hundredth original series this month alone. Luckily, THE CHARACTERS is risky and innovative enough to stand out from the rest of the streaming juggernaut’s recent barrage of programming. The eight-episode sketch comedy gives up-and-coming comedians total control and freedom for 30 minutes, and the results are predictably mixed.
THE CHARACTERS offers only sporadic laughs, which may seem problematic for a comedy, but that is somehow made up for by how genuinely fascinating it is to see each comedian tackle their blank canvases. Lauren Lapkus is perhaps the most experimental, as her various characters inhabit the same worlds, while her contemporaries opt for more traditional, blocked sketches, with characters occasionally crossing over into other sketches.
Orange is the new basic white, apparently
However, despite her unique take on format, Lapkus (binge-aholics will recognize her from ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK) fails to deliver any refreshing or funny characters; her turn as a ditzy pop star looking for love on a reality show is easily rivaled by anybody’s uninspired impression of a drunk sorority girl. Thankfully, the other comedians fare better. Tim Robinson opens his episode as a rat pack high roller who loses his cool at a casino and Natasha Rothwell plays a homeless woman who threatens to spoil GAME OF THRONES to subway riders if they don’t make a generous donation.
The self-contained nature of each episode is the show’s strongest element. Each comedian’s voice commands and controls their half-hour set, for better or worse, with an opening dressing room motif being the only unifying factor stringing the episodes together. Rothwell’s episode truly emphasizes the “variety” in “variety show,” giving us the perfect blend of THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW and INSIDE AMY SCHUMER, while John Early delights in creating cringe-worthy characters and putting them in excruciating situations, which makes for a slightly uncomfortable viewing experience.
Personally, this is where I tapped out
It goes without saying that not every episode will work for every viewer, and that certainly speaks to the variety of voices and styles the show offers. Netflix deserves major props for taking a chance and giving a platform to young talent, but it’s hard to be too excited or passionate about this grab bag of a show. Still, THE CHARACTERS is easy and enjoyable enough that it’s worth the gamble.
THE CHARACTERS is available in its entirety on Netflix