New Netflix sitcom 'Everything Sucks!' does not suck

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Peyton Kennedy (Kate) and Jahi Di’Allo Winston (Luke) in Everything Sucks!. (Photo: Scott Patrick Green/Netflix)

Everything Sucks!, the new sitcom now streaming on Netflix, is set in the 1990s. We know this because its teen characters listen to Alanis Morissette and Oasis albums on CDs played through Walkmans. Bill Clinton is president. Children play with snap bracelets. One parent turns to another and asks, mystified, “What does ‘All that and a bag of chips’ mean?” The show follows a group of students in Oregon attending, yes, Boring High School. Most of the main characters belong either to the high school drama club or the audio-visual club. The drama club kids are indeed dramatic, often acting out scenes while standing on the cafeteria tables at lunch hour. There’s the usual stereotyping of AV club kids as nerds, but pretty soon they start to distinguish themselves. The most distinctive pair are shy, polite Luke (Jahi Winston) and meek but intense Kate (Peyton Kennedy), the principal’s daughter.

Everything Sucks!, created by Ben York Jones and Michael Mohan, is to be praised for maintaining an atmosphere of curiosity about its characters. If too many of them are mature-for-their-years, wisecracking joke-machines, a few of them — particularly Kate and Luke — undergo adolescent changes and realizations that are poignant and convincing. There are times when Everything Sucks! feels like a smaller-scale, non-scary version of Stranger Things, and I’m sure Netflix would not mind at all that any critic is making a comparison to one of its biggest hits. But placing the new show in proper perspective, Everything Sucks! enters Netflix’s programming at mid-list, among the streaming service’s mildly funny, uneven comedies such as Grace and Frankie, the One Day at a Time revival, The Ranch, Santa Clarita Diet, and the Kathy Bates pot show Disjointed (whose cancellation was announced earlier this week).

Sucks! doesn’t hit the highs of a Netflix comedy such as BoJack Horseman, neither does it take the emotional risks of Netflix’s sorely underrated Love, which begins its final season on March 9. Sucks! has charm and will probably do what it exists to do in a context such as Netflix, which is to provide you with an easy, snackable show that can be binged without making you think too much about what you’re watching.

Everything Sucks! is streaming now on Netflix.

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