Hit or Sh**: Netflix’s F IS FOR FAMILY
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it twice, you’ve heard it a thousand times: there’s a lot of friggin’ TV to currently watch . Especially as streaming behemoths like Netflix inundate the market with original content at a frequency only properly described as staggering, things can quickly become overwhelming. Unfortunately, we as TV audiences can no longer settle for mediocrity, as we simply don’t have the time to wait for things to get better; as such, middling shows like Netflix’s new F IS FOR FAMILY should be pushed to the wayside in expectation of bigger and better things.
The premise is simple: in an animation style and tone reminiscent of the markedly better BOJACK HORSEMAN, Bill Burr stars as Frank, alpha male of the Murphy family. There’s really no overarching narrative ambition; it’s clear from the get-go that this will be a show about an angry middle-aged white man coming to terms with the mediocrity of his existence. Doesn’t sound particularly invigorating, does it? Our suspicions are only confirmed as Frank launches into diatribes about what it means to be a man, idolizing serialized television hero Luger and practically salivating at the hopes of hosting a successful viewing party for the big impending boxing match. The tired tropes of frustrated masculinity continue to manifest themselves as Frank regularly discounts the opinions of his wife Sue, patronizes daughter Maureen, laments about the stunted morals of “rebel” older son Kevin, and attempts to raise younger son Billy in a fashion of his choosing. It all leaves a rather sour taste in the mouth, a taste not alleviated by the constant onslaught of aggressive expletives and unfortunately unwinking societal asides necessitated by the show’s hardline stance on being considered an “adult cartoon.”
It’s essentially this face for 28 minutes
In addition, the 70s setting really doesn’t lend itself well to the promise of exciting and identifiable plotlines to come. Now, if you’ve read my previous Hit or Sh**s, you know I was practically already a fan of F IS FOR FAMILY once I ascertained it wasn’t set in the 80s. However, I realized the 70s only felt remotely fresh because our culture was formerly oversaturated with media waxing nostalgic about the era. After the initial “rush” of being treated to a depiction of an America pre-STAR WARS, the viewer will quickly find themselves treading in old, brackish water. You simply can’t sell a main plot line about a family being real jazzed about buying a color TV in 2015. (Well, clearly you can since the show got funded, but you know what I mean.) I guess there’s something a little nice and “good ol’ boy” about a time where a bunch of middle-aged white dudes could get together and toss back beers all afternoon on the weekend, but that’s about all the show’s aesthetic has going for it, and that pre-emptively excludes anyone who isn’t or isn’t going to be a middle-aged white dude from enjoying the tone.
Don’t this just look like the life?
Now, of course, things aren’t all that bad. First and foremost, the opening sequence is superb, and is more emotionally effective than anything we see for the remaining 27 minutes, Frank turning from excited college graduate to misanthropic patriarch. Sam Rockwell’s stint as new-neighbor-on-the-block Vic is a highlight, and the porn-y Hollywood vibes he gives off make him the most likeable character. In addition, there’s a heartstring-tugging moment wherein Kevin makes clear his hatred for Frank, but that’s about all that manages to rise above the mire over the course of the pilot. The best joke is that exceptionally ignorant TV host Jim Jeffords hosts talk shows centered on the black and feminist communities between scenes, but this is merely relegated to transitory TV channel-hopping.
With mere flashes of “this is above average I guess,” the only thing F IS FOR FAMILY has going for it is that it’s six episodes long. Unless you’re literally running out of TV options (haha), there’s no real reason to actively seek this out. But look at you, you “Netflix and chill”-ing cretin; I bet you will anyway.
F IS FOR FAMILY is available to watch in its entirety on Netflix