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July 30, 2018 | by  | in TV | [ssba]

Everything Sucks!

I really wanted to like Everything Sucks! I hadn’t found a show about teenagers that had felt real to me since finishing My Mad Fat Diary back in high school. So when it was first released on Netflix, I eagerly clicked the play button before the trailer could even start.
Ten hours later I sat staring as the credits rolled to “In The Meantime” by Spacehog. The sun began to rise behind my bedroom blinds. I swallowed my disappointment, turned over, and went to sleep.

First of all, I can acknowledge that the show in itself is relatively harmless. It means well. If you switch off the parts of your brain that relish in hating it, it’s even enjoyable. The themes and concepts advocated may be predictable, but they are nevertheless sincere. So much so that you could almost forgive the clumsiness and lack of subtlety with which they are handled.

Everything Sucks! is little more than another show looking to make bank off a recent trend that has more than proven its potential for capitalisation — nostalgia. Stranger Things weaponised the 80s, and Everything Sucks! does the same with the 90s. It capitalises off on-the-nose references to iconic pop culture of the time, while rehashing the same characters and dynamics from thirty year old shows and films in hopes that we won’t notice. I would have been willing to overlook this, and the fact that an Oasis song was used for plot development, had the makers been truly willing to create something new. To give modern youth a show that finally portrayed real teenagers talking about and experiencing the unavoidable struggle of finding out where you fit in the world. Alas, it was not to be. For all my repulsion towards the aspects that didn’t work, there were those that — when given their moments — really did. The child actors are fantastic. Kate, played by Peyton Kennedy, is a girl trying coming to grips with her sexuality with poise and heartfelt tentativeness. Moments like when she watches a lesbian couple comfortably express carefree PDA at a Tori Amos concert prove that there were some scenes done right.
Some of the more focal choices, on the other hand, seem contradictory. There’s the obligatory parent walking in on masturbation scene; depictions and descriptions of porn and sex; issues of racism and the fear of coming out; and yet the show takes place in a squeaky clean world. What worked well for 1999’s Freaks and Geeks (A clear inspiration for Everything Sucks!) was that the characters acted convincingly, and so even when certain plot elements were handled poorly it was an accurate depiction of a teenager reacting to a situation. There’s a moment in Everything Sucks! where the infamous song “Fire Water Burn (The Roof is on Fire)” by Bloodhound Gang begins to play. I thought to myself, “jeez, they’re really doing that”. Then they censored the chorus. This overt caution sums up how Everything Sucks! approached most of their half baked concepts. The show suffers from the same overly saturated filter that plagues a lot of potentially realistic film and television by glossing over a lot of the potential rawness of the narrative.
Everything Sucks! is not bad, but it isn’t great either. It hovers over the wide middle margin in the Venn diagram of shows that have potential but also lack the confidence and writing to succeed. Instead we are left with a debut series that is admittedly endearing but essentially just an off-brand version of its superior counterparts.


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