Netflix UK TV review: F Is for Family
Mike Williams | On 18, Dec 2016
Another release in what feels like a never-ending array of original Netflix content flowing onto our screens, F Is for Family is the streaming service’s latest animated series that feels familiar enough to enjoy, but unique enough to stand on its own feet.
Spanning just six episodes in its debut season, the show’s a pretty accessible pick-up-and-play deal, set in 1973 around the Murphys, a quintessential 1970s household. Frank (Bill Burr) is head of the family and Sue (Laura Dern) is the dotting, repressed housewife, with Justin Long as rebellious teen Kevin, and Debbie Derryberry and Haley Reinhart as younger kids Maureen and Bill. Arguably the most entertaining side character Sam Rockwell’s neighbour, Vic, who is a mix of Family Guy’s Quagmire and The Simpsons’ Ned Flanders – Rockwell channels a distinctive Matthew McConaughey voice, circa Dazed and Confused, and it’s superb.
The show touches upon the era’s societal acceptances, such as attitudes to racism, sexism and the woman’s-place-is-in-the-home mentality of men. Yet Sue’s plight to break free and stage a mini-revolution of her own seeps through as early as the second episode and continues to do so as we progress. The patriarchal structure of family life is an interesting observation to poke fun at and pull apart in a very honest, unapologetic way.
F Is for Family feels in the mould of King of the Hill, but with more anger and bite; it’s a bit like Family Guy or The Simpsons for its obvious similarities in premise, but the formula doesn’t feel stale, because it’s sharply written. It doesn’t exactly hold back either; whenever you think Frank should drop an f-bomb as he flies into a dad rage, he does. It’s kind of unexpected for its genre; the likes of Family Guy and South Park incorporate swearing, but not within the same attempts at realism.
Season 2 may only amount to six 25-minute stories, but each is well rounded enough to tell a compelling, self-contained tale, meaning that while the entire season is under three hours in length, it feels sizeable and significant enough to matter, as our characters develop. Whether it’s an episode around buying a state-of-the-art, newly-released colour TV, or about son Kevin’s failing school grades, or even the prospect of – shock, horror – Sue getting a job of her own, the varied but mundane stories engage on a relatable level. That said, whatever takes place (whether it’s good or bad for any member of the family) tends to resolve with a degree of frivolity.
Season 2 may see the overarching narrative extend beyond a single episode and hopefully add some impetus to all the crap that befalls Frank. We’re offered something hinting towards this as the season concludes, and the idea that the show is about to evolve is an enticing prospect. Just when you think everything is, in fact, self-contained and inconsequential, the final two episodes spill over into one another and set up the start of the next season nicely.
F Is for Family isn’t going to set the world alight and doesn’t pose a particularly original spin on the family-orientated animated sitcom format, but there’s no question its scripting, style, and approach is good enough to make you want to get through the short run. There is something indistinguishably refreshing about the show, which gives it validity among its animated peers.
F Is for Family is available exclusively on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.