F Is for Family improves in season 2 without changing much: it’s a bit funnier, a bit smarter and perhaps even a little bit dirtier.
[This is a review of F Is for Family season 2. There will be SPOILERS.]
For viewers familiar with the comedy of F Is for Family co-creator Bill Burr, the original animated series from Netflix certainly met expectations in its brief six-episode first season. It was raunchy, rude, crude, brutally honest, and often very funny, all while matching the dark comedic tone of Burr's on-stage voice. However, the series really thrived in its quieter, heartfelt moments, which balanced against the show's comedy in surprisingly effective ways.
Fortunately, Netflix binge watchers will discover that tonal balance remains a strong core of the series within the first few episodes of season 2. Buried beneath the gross-out gags, creatively assembled expletives, and general familial dysfunction is still an admirable endearment for traditional family values -- the kind that can persevere in the face of extreme hardships.
And the hardships the Murphy family undergo are even more daunting in season 2. Picking up right after where season 1 left off, the first episode of the show's sophomore run finds the Murphys struggling financially more than ever. With Frank (voiced by Burr) having been recently laid off, Sue (Laura Dern) is forced into the provider role while Frank anxiously waits by the phone for his former boss Bob (David Koechner) to beg him to come back. Meanwhile, the bills continue to pile up as the family has to decide which ones to pay and which they can afford to ignore for another month.
While their parents deal with the family's economic woes, the children have their own problems to contend with. Tomboy Maureen (Debi Derryberry) feels uncomfortable being pushed to do "girl things" instead of encouraged to pursue her interests in science and technology; Bill (Haley Reinhart) continues to live in fear of neighborhood bully Jimmy (Mo Collins); and Kevin (Justin Long) is trapped under what he views as an oppressive household preventing him from shining.
Like in its rookie season, one of the strengths of the show continues to be its ability and willingness to divvy up screen time, giving each character arc its due care and attention. However, the season also rightly spends much of its early focus on Frank and Sue, whose conflicting views on gender roles create one of the more interesting dynamics in the show, while also speaking to the shifting social climate of America in the 1970s.
In having Sue deal with rampant harassment and unchecked sexism after receiving a promotion at her company, the social commentary of F Is for Family serves more as an observation of the show's period setting rather than as a bold statement or stance on gender equality. And that's a good thing, because what is much more compelling for viewers is seeing how Frank and Sue's differences, along with the situation, affect their relationship.
For Sue, having the opportunity to finally be more than just a housewife and mother (which was her primary goal in season 1) is worth begrudgingly playing along with the boys' offensive banter at work. Meanwhile, Frank -- feeling emasculated and worthless in failing to provide for the family on his own, but also too prideful to take a handout from the welfare office -- is the one in need of emotional support, even though he'd rather just have his job back and the normal order of the Murphy household restored. With this reversal of traditional gender roles in effect, we then get one of the most subtle but effective character moments of the series thus far, when Sue shields Frank's fragile male ego from shattering completely by slipping some money into her husband's wallet, allowing him to feel like he can pay for a family meal at a local diner.
And while the show's better character moments seem to stand out (partly because sometimes it feels they are few and far between), we would be remiss if we didn't discuss the comedic elements of the show. As one would expect, and as we mentioned earlier, the comedy is very much in line with that of season 1. It can be crude and Frank's tirades can sometimes come off as so abrasive that they induce cringes rather than laughs, but the writing feels tighter and sharper this time around. In this new season, there are more actual jokes, but much like in season 1, many of the best come from the show's secondary characters, like Frank's hippie playboy of a neighbor, Vic (Sam Rockwell). Some of the biggest laughs also come from the show's clever time-period parodies, including Frank's favorite TV series Colt Luger.
That said, many viewers will find the harsh and hostile exchanges between the Murphys to be the biggest laugh-out-loud moments of the show. Fans of Burr's stand-up will certainly have an easier time with, and may actually be endeared by, the coarse manner in which the Murphys communicate with one another. And for many, a resemblance to their own family dynamics, the time period, and/or the household they grew up in will create humor simply from nostalgia.
Overall, F Is for Family improves in season 2 without changing much: it’s a bit funnier, a bit smarter and perhaps even a little bit dirtier. Many will find season 2 to be a straight continuation from season 1; so, if you enjoyed the show's first season, chances are very good you'll find even more to love here.
All 10 episodes of F Is for Family season 2 are currently available to stream on Netflix.
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