Dan on TV: Multi-requiem

Too Soon: Tuca and Bertie

Image: Netflix, not that they seemed to care about it

“A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.”

Vision

I don’t even know where to start. Maybe some structure to this post will help…

What’s it about?

Created by Lisa Hanawalt, the mind behind the visuals of BoJack Horseman, Tuca and Bertie is… or was… similar to my beloved BoJack in a few ways: it stars anthropomorphic animals; it digs into personal traumas through characters just trying to exist in a hostile world; and it’s hilarious.

Chaotic, free-spirited, irresponsible Tuca (Tiffany Hadish) and anxious, insecure, big-hearted Bertie (Ali Wong) are lifelong best friends, and up until right about now had been roommates, but with Bertie’s boyfriend Speckle (Steven Yuen) moving in, Tuca must move all the way to the apartment upstairs. Tuca lives off the gig economy and checks from her rich aunt; Bertie has a low-level corporate job, hopes of a promotion, and is frequently reminded that despite what her anxieties tell her, what she really wants is to open her own bakery. From there… from there we go on a wild rollercoaster of growth, regression, panic attacks, sex bug trials (I can’t say it any clearer), dreams chased, betrayals, and at least one cult.

The animation style is delightfully surreal, more at home on Tiny Toon Adventures or old, 30s Looney Tunes shorts where reality frequently bends to make way for the joke. But despite that, it’s still powerfully profound in its explorations of its leads and their issues. The near-universal acclaim this show received came on a tidal wave of viewers, many women, who connected to Tuca and Bertie, feeling seen in ways other shows couldn’t provide. Even me, about as far from a cartoon bird voiced by a woman of colour as you can get, connected with both of them. Sure, some of their issues are very female-specific, things I’ve never personally faced, but still. Like Tuca, I have trouble getting my life in order. Like Bertie, I get anxious about taking up space in the world, and have trouble making myself heard (although not because my gender is institutionally marginalized). Like Tuca, I sometimes need an organized Bertie to get my world in order; like Bertie, I sometimes need an uninhibited Tuca to give me a kick out the door.

And like Speckle, sometimes I just go with the flow and try my best. I like Speckle. He’s not perfect and he underestimates when and how Bertie might need support, but dang it, he’s trying.

Why did it end?

Because some damn fool algorithm told Netflix that it wasn’t worth renewing, and the chuckleheads listened to it.

I seriously cannot think of anything on the internet that has been improved by employing algorithms. Facebook and Twitter can’t accept that we do not want some algorithm determining which posts we should see, YouTube promotes hate speech because the bots say it drives engagement, and now this nonsense.

How did it end?

It ended well, all things considered. Tuca and Bertie find themselves in okay places, overall. Sure they both have tough roads ahead of them, and Bertie and Speckle’s relationship is going to need some work, but it’s overall a peaceful and hopeful place to leave them.

After all, lives this complicated don’t hit a “happy ever after” moment. Like BoJack said, you never get a happy ending, ’cause there’s always more show.

I guess… until there isn’t.

(See, I’m not throwing these quotes around for no reason.)

Should I watch it?

Yes, definitely. They created something really special here, and even if there are and will be only ten episodes, you owe it to yourself to give it a watch. I mean, a thing isn’t– look, just scroll back up to the quote at the top, I think you’ll find it was super relevant.

Next page: Bye, Zombie

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