Review – Everything Sucks! (2018)

By Armando Vanegas

I don’t usually review TV shows, but I wanted to try something different and Netflix’s Everything Sucks! was something that really stuck with me, so much that I was inspired to write about it and hopefully those of you who read this might want to give it a shot. Everything Sucks!, in a lot of ways, is the show that the trailer sells you with its very 90’s aesthetic, due to the fact that it’s set in 1996. It’s evident in the first two episodes, which are also its weakest. However, they do a good job setting up for the tone, the characters, and the story. But once it figures itself out, it becomes quite an engaging and charming show. The show is about a group of high school kids in Boring, Oregon and how they’re dealing with growing up.

Luke is an optimistic young kid (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) who’s obsessed with film. He’s also into a lot of alternative music even though he’s black, which I appreciated as a detail because not every black kid listens solely to R&B and Hip-Hop, and I speak from experience. He loves Oasis and Wayne’s World, which was also very cool. He’s a very likable presence and even at his most off putting, there’s some vulnerability there. Seriously, I could see a lot of myself in him and the unrealistic views he has towards certain things, but that’s fine because he’s still a kid and kids don’t always find the most logical solutions, or answers to things. Sometimes, this would be annoying in a lot of child character, but he plays it very real and believable. It could have also had a lot of do with having some solid material to work with. I even love the relationship he has with his mom, Sherry, played by Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako, and their closeness. This is also something I can relate to with the relationship that I have with my mom. But a lot of what I find effective isn’t just effective just because it’s relatable, but their relationship feels organic and believable thanks to the actors’ chemistry. Sometimes, things just feel right and that’s the best explanation. Luke’s also a big movie fan so that was a nice detail to add to the story-line. The way they tie this into his relationship with his estranged father and the VHS tape lessons he leaves for Luke was something I also appreciated, because it brought some color to what could have been a black and white idea of Luke hating his father. This plays a big part in the season half of the season and results in one of the bigger emotional scenes throughout the show.

When Luke’s not watching his dad on VHS, he has the same typical story as the guy who falls for the girl and needs to get the girl but thankfully, this plot-point doesn’t get stretched out out for the entire season. The love interest in this case, Kate (Peyton Kennedy), who’s also the principal’s daughter, decides to take a chance on Luke. But there’s a twist as Kate starts to question her sexuality without anyone else’s knowledge. I felt bad at times about how she’s getting herself into all these crazy situations just to avoid expressing how she might feel about herself. It comes off more endearing than devastating as it continues and as it’s not just dealing with the panic of how her sexuality will be dealt with by the others. It’s more about her just trying to discover how she feels about things and what she might like that worked well enough. Her chemistry with Luke worked to a reasonable degree and makes for some funny moments in which he still attempts to court her. They also have great chemistry with each other and their relationship had a lot of interesting layers to it. Kennedy’s performance was very sympathetic in her portrayal and the show does a good job at showing how she’s going to try to find herself during these difficult teenage years. Her father, Ken, played by Patch Darragh, is very charming and sweet in the way a lot of TV dads are portrayed, but even he has some moments where he has to stand his ground and act as the adult. Also, acting as the principal of the school, he’s not the typical hard assed disciplinarian that we’re so used to seeing in these types of shows. He’s more down to earth, but they show that he doesn’t come across as a wimp or a pushover when Kate gets herself into some sticky situations. His relationship with Sherry is an interesting aspect of the show and helps to present more of who they both are as characters. Sherry isn’t in it as much, but her spontaneity gives weight to the relationship and makes that arc feel more like a fun adventure than I expected, while bringing Ken out of his shell.

Emaline’s the quintessential hot girl you would have on these kinds of shows. Played by Sydney Sweeney, she’s got the look of a girl that someone who drool over in a movie while watching her walk down the street in slow motion. In a perfect world, this would be a breakthrough performance on looks alone, but she does hold her own as an actress. But it also doesn’t hurt that she’s drop dead gorgeous and probably the fact that she looks like a girl I once knew helps not only in her favor, but the show’s favor as well. It’s unbelievable how hot she was, but we realize how she’s trying to find herself as she deals with her relationship with her fellow drama club boyfriend Oliver (Elijah Stevenson). She comes across as pretty shallow and even if she changes as the show goes along, I was doubtful of how serious she was with the transformation of her character, or if it was just a convenience for her. I kinda don’t want it to be but if it is, then she’s a fantastic actress and she probably has more depth to her than I first realized. Otherwise, I really liked where it ended as far as the story goes with her character because it was such a sweet and cathartic moment. Oliver was pretty cool and he made quite the impression. He’s obviously overdoing it by nature, but it worked for me, and brought laughs along the way thanks to how much he’s overdoing it. The little monologues he does with Emaline are pretty funny as well.  Luke’s friends, McQuaid (Rio Mangini) and Tyler (Quinn Liebling), primarily come off as pretty Freaks and Geeks knockoff characters, but they get better developed as the show progresses. McQuaid kind of has a Martin Starr vibe with his character and I liked that his character started breaking out of his shell, once the movie they’re filming starts to get going. Tyler is pretty funny and finds his place as he always has the right lines at the right time.

The first 3 episodes are honestly just okay. But it was interesting enough for me to keep going and my interest for this show eventually became love. I was really into the story of how Luke was going to charm this young girl because that’s what movies and TV shows tell us should happen, but the show is clever enough to find more than that. The dynamic between The AV Club and the Drama Club was an interesting and refreshing direction for the show to put the main focus on. As most high school shows usually focus on the good looking popular people doing things like playing football, being cheerleaders, wearing leather jackets, or having cool cars. This isn’t that at all. They’re just kids being kids who look like regular kids, so that made it feel more realistic to me. A lot of the relationships, whether they’re platonic or romantic, are entertaining to watch and feels organic to the world that the show sets up. Yeah, the plot is pretty simple, but it just gets the feelings of being a teenager and being in high school as right as you could get.

I think this show might up there next to Freaks and Geeks and here’s why. It has the same kind of tone and sensibility that really gelled for me. The characters are pretty engaging and relatable. The soundtrack is filled with lots of great licensed tracks. It’s not like a lot of high school shows that are out there, but that’s probably the strength of the show, and what helps to make it stand out. It sets up some things for season 2, which is intriguing considering where they leave certain things. Co-creators Ben York Jones (who also plays Mr. Stargrove, the AV Club teacher) and Michael Mohan have crafted a nice portrait of 90’s high school life with some interesting story arcs and some intriguing characters. There’s also something about the show’s style in which it presents it’s ideas along with some endearing performances, that makes this show an addictive watch for all 10 episodes.

I am giving Everything Sucks! a 4 ½ out of 5 Hairpieces!

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