Late 2010s animated series, starring Bill Burr, Laura Dern, and Sam Rockwell.

Bill Burr is an interesting comedian. The feisty shaven-headed redhead has really come into his own recently, riding a great comic talent with an interesting and contrarian voice. He's sort of the anti-PC Lewis Black, except that his material isn't hateful, just curmudgeonly old-man mystified by a world that he no longer psychologically fits into. 

His standup has been killing recently - as a commentator on recent politics no less. Especially as he contextualizes why he can't stand the Clintons ("They go to those secret Eyes Wide Shut meetings where they wear elk heads and lie around getting blowjobs"/"She's standing there dressed like a real estate agent pretending she can relate to people who drive snow plows") and excoriates Trump ("The guy who decided if Bret Michaels or Cyndi Lauper would make a better CEO for a company that doesn’t exist is going to be running stuff.”)

He's hinted during his standups at needing and getting therapy for his anger issues and for growing up with a father who was a very old-school blue collar Boston curmudgeon. We're starting to see glimpses of why with this latest animated series.

It takes place somewhere in Pennsylvania in the early 1970s, as evidenced by the ambient music (the oldest kid is into a prog rock band by the name of "Shire of Frodo"), the "avocado green"/"pea soup gold" color schemes and touches of 1970s cringe like macrame. The character of paterfamilias Frank is beautifully introduced by the opening animation, which shows a young Frank at high school graduation flying through the skies to the sounds of "Come and Get Your Love". He's hit in the face with a draft notice (for the Korean war) and as he pulls it off he has a buzzcut. He's hit in the face with a baby bottle, and wedding related items start flying by (implying a shotgun wedding) . He's struck in the face by glasses, which stick there, as "past due" notices, checkbooks, and various articles of adult responsibility fly by - and his hair evaporates from the crown of his head and his midsection spreads, as he suddenly loses all momentum and plummets out of the sky, to land on a couch right in the middle of suburbia.

"Frank" (voiced by Burr) and his wife Sue (Dern) have three kids: eldest juvenile delinquent Kevin, supposedly sweet but actually manipulative and conniving middle sister Maureen, or "Princess" as Frank calls her, and finally young Bill, a redhead with freckles who is constantly being beaten up by the school bully. 

As 1970s kids, they're generally left to their own devices as Frank comes home from a baggage handler job at the airport to crack open a White House beer and watch his favorite show, Charles Bronson parody "Colt Luger", complete with portly turtlenecked action hero. So as a result the eldest is either listening to symphonic prog rock or smoking marijuana underneath a bridge, and the younger ones are playing with the "weird kids", one of whom is wearing a (usually full) diaper at the age of about 9 or 10 - doing things like playing baseball with found light bulbs with a 2X4 as a bat and pieces of discarded waste fiberglass insulation as pads. 

The series isn't like most animated ones - where anything that happens in one show "resets" at the beginning of the next, and each show is self-contained. Frank is promoted from baggage handler to junior manager, and then loses his job entirely. In series 2, he is working part time as his wife becomes the breadwinner, having to deal with sexual harassment and prejudice against women in the workplace. 

As the series moves on, we learn more about some of the cracks inside the family. Kevin is flunking school - and Frank's response is to drag the boy out of classes under the ruse of sending him to Vietnam, which frightens him to tears. Meanwhile in a heartbreaking montage, Bill is hiding under the bed listening to his parents at first fight, but then have sex to make up - we're not sure which scars him more emotionally.  But in it the mother reveals that Kevin was left unattended by Frank as a child and spent two minutes at the bottom of a swimming pool. So if there's someone to blame for Kevin doing so poorly in life, maybe Frank should stop riding Kevin so hard and look at himself, while Frank argues that kids are resilient at that age. Dark stuff indeed. 

Frank is, at the bottom of it, a man who loves his family, even as he hurls four letter words at his kids and threatens neighborhood children with violence. He lives in a world where he's supposed to just "go down to the plant", earn the family's living (as it is the early 70s, he can support a family of five on a baggage handler's salary), and come home and put his feet up on the coffee table and watch the game, like his father did, and get away with telling his boss to "go fuck himself".  Think Red Foreman of That 70s Show... on steroids. If Bill's own father was anything like Frank, who Bill says is "an amalgam of the fathers of him and his friends growing up" then it truly explains a lot.

It doesn't just focus on Frank and his brood: there's nods to the plight of African Americans in the 1970s ("Frank, your floor is six floors above our ceiling"), the oil embargo, and some of the obscene amounts of money going around in some circles back then.... as evidenced by the next door neighbor, a single playboy with a Corvette who works at a radio station and has a desk drawer full of stacks of hundred dollar bills, and cocaine.

It's funny, and it's dark. And it's darkly funny. And anyone who spent any time in the 1970s will be curiously nostalgic for the decade, and all of its ups and downs as expressed in this series. Series 3 has been commissioned, as Series 1 and 2 have done very very well already, being a hit for Netflix.


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