When you think of the words “Netflix original series” what usually comes to mind? Daredevil? Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? Jessica Jones? Basically, it isn’t far-fetched to say you’d picture a show of high quality, whether it’s from providing plenty of laughs or gut wrenching moments to keep you fixed to the television.With these expectations in mind, it’ll only drive you mad wondering how F is for Family slipped through the cracks and undermined the Netflix “seal of quality.”
From the mind of comedian Bill Burr and executive producer Vince Vaughn, F is for Family follows the dysfunctional, low-income Murphy residence as they try to accept both each other and the changing times of the 1970s. There’s Frank the short-tempered, alcoholic father, Sue the depressed housewife, Kevin the stoner, Maureen the spoiled brat and Bill the wimp. Looking for deeper insight into who these characters really are and what drives their actions? That’s a shame, because that’s really all this show is going to give you, bland individual archetypes. In between that, you may have a few chuckles, but it isn’t even remotely enough to offset the show’s vulgarity, mean-spirited tone and terrible pacing.
Let’s get one thing clear, there’s nothing wrong with a sense of “mean spirit” in television shows, fellow animated programs like South Park and Archer do it very well. However, F is for Family completely ignores the one aspect required to make mean-spirited characters work: relief. You need a reason to get behind these characters, it’s absolutely vital to have a break from the anger and the bitterness to understand them better and show off their aspects we can relate to. You don’t have to like the character as a person, you just have to “get” them. Take the lovable jerk Bender from Futurama. He’s robbed, murdered and forcefully taken his best friend’s kidney, just to name a few of his misdeeds. He should be considered unlikable to fans, but what prevents that from happening is the relief in between those moments. He’s also stood by the ones he loves in times of need, even sacrificing his life at one point (and reviving later, mind you). What prevents Frank Murphy from ever achieving “lovable prick” and just settling into “prick” territory is how little of a reason you have to get behind him. Rarely does the feeling that Frank cares for his family occur, instead he simply gets drunkenly pissed and apathetic to everyone around him. The only real moment of relief is in the final episode, the lousy Christmas special. Not only is it so forced that it bleeds into cliché, but it’s so brief and meaningless that it only reminds you of how much this show screwed up its concepts.
The supporting family is no better either. The wife serves little to no purpose other than to fulfill the “depressed housewife” stereotype and does absolutely nothing new or original with it. The children, apart from a few dramatic moments between themselves, are unmemorable and heartless. Bill Burr’s character Frank is the only one that really stands out, but even that’s mostly for the wrong reasons. Burr’s personality would make for a great “anti-sitcom” father figure, but this show completely squanders it all on the jokes. Not only is it almost entirely unfunny, save a few chuckles, but it’s the worst kind of humor to rely on: crude. As obsessed F is for Family is with feces, vomit, urine, and testicle jokes, you’d think it was written by a group of 12-year-olds. Lacking is Burr’s mean-spirited comedic act with just the right amount of heart, but replaced with plenty of abusive parenting and drugs to go around.
If you want an educated guess as to how this show came to be, it’d probably be “celebrity endorsement.” It isn’t hard for a terrible program to be successful as long as there’s a familiar name behind it (just look at Adam Sandler’s track record). After all, even if each television episode or Hollywood film gets worse and worse, as long as there’s money from a celebrity backer to be made, the show will go on. That’s really all this show will become as time moves along, a blemish on the Netflix name, and a second season that few will look forward to. In the end, you’ll be left with nothing more than a sick feeling in your stomach from an overwhelming sense of disappointment. Ultimately, F is for Family wastes the talents of Bill Burr on juvenile humor and unsympathetic characters, creating an outright abysmal experience overall.