Last night I finished watching one of the latest Netflix original shows, Everything Sucks! and I enjoyed it. I watched all ten episodes in three sittings, it is very easy to binge through, the episodes are a half hour a piece and the whole season moves at a pretty good clip.
The series is set in the mid nineties, I think it is meant to be 1996 but thats one of my critiques of the show; it never feels firmly in a specific time, it is very much trying to encapsulate ‘the nineties’ in general. I knew just from the trailer that even if the show sucked I would be on the hook for it, the soundtrack is awesome, I’m exactly the right age to not only remember each and every song choice in the show but know them all so well that I can almost predict the cues based on whats happening on screen. I loved it, I’m actually listening to a ’90’s Alternative’ playlist while writing this. There was a lot of shit in that decade but there was also a lot of amazing music and some of them are forgotten gems.
My biggest problem with the show is it’s over abundance of references, they really try and shove the time frame down your throat, especially early on. We get it, it’s the nineties, we don’t need a character pulling out their Tamogotchi in the middle of a scene just in case we’d forgotten. A little more subtlety would have helped.
The story follows Luke a freshman nerd in high school and his friends, both old and new. He and his friends are keen film makers and join the AV club and meet Kate, a shy, quiet, outcast girl and Luke builds up the courage ask her out by making a montage video of a ton of classic nineties music videos. The only problem is around this same time Kate is discovering a lot about herself, most notably the fact that she may very well be a lesbian. She’s trying to come to terms with this while Luke is doing his best to woo her.
Both kids are being raised by single parents, Luke’s mom is a flight attendant and is away a lot, she is very loose with Luke but the two of them are bonded and a good team. His father ran out on the family when Luke was a baby so he has never known anything else.
Kate’s single father is the principle of the high school which makes life difficult for her but her and her dad get on and she wants him to be happy again, her mom died some time ago and her dad has struggled with the responsibility of parenthood and work and hasn’t had any luck finding another woman.
While other kids in the cast might get a higher billing than the parents, for me it is these four who are the clear stand outs and where the story really takes place. They’re all really good too, the parallel romance stories going on are interesting and ultimately both very sweet.
The supporting cast all have some story moments but few are really given any time to have fully fleshed out stories. Plots are raised and dropped very quickly without any real set up or pay off.
I think they could have benefitted from being given more time to breath and develop a little more naturally. Maybe they’re setting things up for potential future seasons and wanted to focus on Luke and Kate this season, who knows.
On a technical note the show doesn’t seem to quite know what it wants to be. Most of the time it is shot like a standard high school drama/comedy but occasionally there are handheld looking shots and punch in zooms to characters that feel more like they belong in a documentary/mockumentary style show such as The Office or Parks & Rec. I found it jarring and would have rather them stay more traditional, it didn’t work for me and I can’t see why they did it. Shows with that sort of aesthetic always cut away to a talking head interview style scene and are very much a product of the last ten/fifteen years, not the nineties.
I did find it funny that they stuck with a modern episode count though, they packed a lot of story into ten episodes. There was enough there that in the time a show such as Dawson’s Creek would have dragged this story and these plot lines out over twenty two episodes. Is it a sign of the times that this show did it all in a much more condensed time frame? Do people really have such short attention spans or is it a case of they stuck to the core story and themes for the show and cut out any potential fluff and filler? I guess that is a matter of opinion, personally I’d have liked maybe five more episodes, with that sort of count things could have been given more time to develop.
I feel like I’ve been quite negative toward the show but it isn’t my intention, I really did enjoy it I could just see its flaws too. It was Freaks & Geeks - lite. That show was great, it captured the early eighties but didn’t ram it down your throat, it just used it as a backdrop to tell heartfelt stories. Everything Sucks! is relying a bit too heavily on the nineties crutch to tell it’s very sweet and fairly progressive story.
I hope it does come back as I can see a lot of potential for it to continue to be really enjoyable even if it never becomes and amazing show. At the very least we’d get more awesome soundtrack.