Netflix drops plenty of comedy on subscribers today, with the familiar in new seasons of “BoJack Horseman” and “American Vandal,” and a talk show hosted by Norm Macdonald. Let’s take a look.
The fourth season of “BoJack” ended on a more positive note for the titular character. He found family that at the very least liked him (and shared his distaste for honeydew). He didn’t alienate everyone around him. And he found consistent work.
Yet the line “You say you want to get better, but you don’t know how” is repeated throughout the fifth season trailer. Self-sabotage seems inevitable.
The show has become less funny, if more affective, as it’s aged. It’s also developed a curious and unfortunate tendency of offering “message” episodes that add little to the show itself. Season four’s “Thoughts and Prayers” episode on gun control and season three’s “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” episode on abortion added little to the conversation other than serving as lessons in how to tell instead of show.
I’m worried the show’s become too aware of its own importance, too proud of its Hollywood insider status, its “messages,” and its metanarrative. But it’s still a world worth inhabiting, even if it means fewer laughs.
“American Vandal’s” first season was probably my favorite piece of culture in 2017. At first glance, it was an easy and puerile parody: True crime with penis graffiti. But co-creators Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault successfully managed to satirize the genre, offer a genuine mystery, and present one of the most accurate portrayals of high school in what could have easily been the documentary version of “Disaster Movie.”
It so excellently balanced drama and sophomoric humor that a follow-up feels unnecessary. But we’re getting a second season anyway.
It would have been easy for the show to continue with the characters we know, especially the star Dylan Maxwell. Fortunately, Yacenda and Perrault aren’t coasting on the world they built in the first season. The new documentary takes place at a Catholic school in Washington state. The focus has shifted from phallic crime to… the fecal acts of a school prankster known as “Turd Burglar” (can’t stray too far from the formula, of course).
Reviews so far have suggested a new season that’s less funny but just as interesting as the first. The laughs won’t matter as much if the show continues to deftly present such silly topics in such dramatic fashion.
‘Norm Macdonald Has a Show’
Norm Macdonald’s new Netflix show looks to give audiences a different kind of talk show: one that avoids Trump jokes and celebrities simply promoting a product. Fans of the SNL alum, especially of his podcast “Norm Macdonald Live,” should feel right at home as Macdonald riffs on whatever he feels like. It’s Macdonald engaging in conversation with celebrities he’s as likely to amuse as flummox.
Netflix’s talk shows have mostly failed to move the needle other than a few viral bits. And the streaming giant has been ruthless recently, quickly canceling both “The Joel McHale Show With Joel McHale” and “The Break With Michelle Wolf” this year. Hopefully, Netflix will give “Norm Macdonald Has a Show” a fair shake (and won’t be unduly influenced by the reaction to his Me Too comments). We need more interesting talk shows.