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Sunday, 18 February 2018

REVIEW: Everything Sucks: A charming Netflix comedy set in the 90's

Everything Sucks on Netflix is a comedy drama set in the nineties. You know that because the first couple of episodes (there are ten) beat you over the head with references to the decade. There's a discussion on why Ironic from Alanis Morissette is anything but and it uses Two Princes by the Spin Doctors in a montage. Some reviewers I've read have said they've found this a turn off, and I'll admit that it was a bit much in the early episodes, but very quickly the music died down and I found myself falling in love with the show.


There are no familiar faces here and although the initial plot of three young freshman joining the audio visual club in order to impress the girls may seem reminiscent of things you've seen before Everything Sucks goes in a direction that surprised, and dare I say melted my heart a little. Every familiar High School stereotype is present and correct but writers and creators Ben York Jones and Michael Mohan cleverly sidestep the tropes we're used to to present us with three dimensional and real people who you quickly care about. It's hard to review it properly without spoiling the more surprising elements of the plot so if my first few paragraphs have intrigued you I highly recommend you stop reading here and start your binge.


We follow Luke O'Neil (Jahi Di'Allo Winston) and his friends as they start at Boring High School. The 'Boring' in the title is a reference to the shows setting of Boring Oregon which is a real place the show is based in. Luke and his friends love the AV Club and join in the hopes of impressing women. Luke quickly falls for camera operator Kate (Peyton Kennedy). Keen to know more about his first crush Luke offers to go round to her house and fix her camera lens. He learns this shy and unassuming girl he's fallen for is the principal's daughter, loves Tori Amos, lost her mum at a young age and the pair bond over a mutual appreciation of (What's the Story) Morning Glory from Oasis. There's something about Kate the audience learns about his crush that Luke doesn't and it changes the direction of the show and the story you assume it's going to tell.

If I've intrigued more stop reading here and start your ruddy binge!


Kate thinks she's a lesbian. In a scene in the second episode her dad (Patch Darragh) walks in on her looking at the girls in playboy. It's a quick and awkward exchange between the father and daughter but it's not overly played and is the first example of how delicately the show manages to tackle the trickier stories it is telling. As Luke sets to work making a music video parodying everything from Smells like Teen Spirit to Ironic to ask Kate out, she questions her sexuality. When Luke shows his video to the whole school as part of the morning announcements you get another genuinely sweet moments as everyone in the school reacts with genuine excitement rather than the distain we've seen from lesser developed teen dramas in the past. As Kate is on camera when Luke asks her she reluctantly accepts his invitation and the pair become a couple. It's not that Kate is leading Luke on she does like him and even she's really uncertain about how she really feels. When Luke pulls Kate aside in the school auditorium it looks like the pair's first kiss is on cards. As their lips begin to touch a nervous Kate pulls the fire alarm triggering the overhead sprinklers to destroy the auditorium and the theatre group's sets for their latest production.  It's here the show really kicks into gear and reveals it's main story.

The furious and initially stereotypical theatre group are distraught and take out their wrath on Luke and his friends (Luke having taken the blame so that Kate doesn't get in trouble). In one of the show's funnier moments Luke and his fellow AV Club members think quickly on their feet convincing the bloodthirsty theatre group to convince them that although their production is ruined if the two groups worked together they could produce a movie and screen it for the school. The groups reluctantly join forces on a project about aliens who come to earth in a movie pitched as a cross between Star Wars and Romeo and Juliet.


Meanwhile Principal Mesner (Kate's dad) asks to meet Luke's mum to discuss his punishment for pulling the fire alarm and the pair strike up a rapport. It's a show that knows its characters so well. It's impossible not to root for them from the off. It's a rare thing to have a programme of this type where the younger cast are the leads but the adult cast are just as engaging and fun to be with. Luke's mum (Claudine Mboligikpelani Naako) had him when she was very young and mother and son share a trust and a believable bond that made a change from the teen/parent relationships we've seen time and time again.

As it progresses the continual 90's references that other reviewers have criticized die down and it becomes a story of finding your place in the world. Characters you first believed were one thing turn and become something very different. Emaline (Sydney Sweeny) is perhaps the best example of this. Initially humiliating Kate in an early scene and almost playing the role of antagonist or bully slowly and believably transforms into someone who you care about.

I appreciate this all sounds very familiar but it really does manage to avoid the cliches we've seen done to death. The characters are upbeat, positive people who are a pleasure to spend time with. It's a refreshing take on a world you been in before but not with this spin. There's so much more I could comment on like Luke's friend Tyler (Quinn Liebling) who fades slightly into the background as show goes on but as an interesting arch as he struggles with reading and writing.  To Luke's feelings towards the dad who abandoned him at a young age. It's a perfectly bingeworthy show but it's also one I wish I'd savoured more as I blasted through the ten episodes in a weekend feeling somewhat bereft now that I don't have these people in my life.

If I had one bugbear it's the daft title. It makes it sound like a far more immature than it is. This isn't a show about teens in trouble or teenage angst. It treats its characters like adults and you understand them and their world a lot better for it. Whilst I'll admit it's not 100% perfect it is one of those unexpected gems that comes out of nowhere to delight and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Nothing it about it sucked at all. 





Everything Sucks is available on Netflix Now.

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