Lisa Hanawalt’s the creator of this latest Netflix animated comedy and she was also the designer for Bojack Horseman so it’s perhaps no surprise that they look similar, to the point that they could exist in the same universe if it weren’t for a few differences like the fact that there’s sentient plants with human bodies walking around. It’s louder and more out there than Bojack though, fairly sexualised and more cartoon-ish, what with the way it opens a crazy sequence with Tuca (Tiffany Haddish) stealing an ice cream from a bully, the characters are introduced with a selection of cutaways showing what they’re like, and a couple of parts are animated as if they were a computer game.
This first episode takes a little while to get going as well, about ten minutes in I was wondering if I was going to be something I just didn’t click with but then it became far more enjoyable. It’s understandable that the opening episode doesn’t start with fireworks as it has to set up it’s concept and introduce everyone, which it does efficiently if not with a great deal of hilarity, but I had concerns as initially Tuca seems a bit too irritating as she’s something of a hyper character, as we learn that she used to be flatmates with Bertie (Ali Wong) but now she’s moving out so that Bertie’s boyfriend Speckle (Steven Yeun) can move in. Speckle doesn’t seem to be like the best of characters either as he’s a bit of a twat to the already quite insecure Bertie, saying how if they split up everyone will hate Bertie and blame her for the collapse of the relationship, but both he and Tuca thankfully come good by the end of the episode.
After Tuca moves out (though only to the flat above Bertie’s) she nips back to borrow some sugar and it’s here that the plot kicks off a proper as it’s quickly revealed that Speckle had been storing his grandmother’s ashes in the sugar jar and Tuca has already lent them to another neighbour, and before you know it the two of them are off on an adventure which involves a stoned plant lady with a bizarre collection of turtles, the bully from the opening sequence and his pastry chef uncle, and a croissant bake-off. Once out of the apartment building we get to see just how crazy and surreal the world they live in is too, this is a universe where you can turn off the sun by flicking a light switch, a cloud blows a love heart at a dog who’s in love with it, a giant snake wraps itself round parts of a building, you can buy “Bully nets” from vendors on the street and by the end Speckle’s grandmother is haunting a cake and forcing him to eat it. Which is all to the show’s benefit, and once it becomes crazier it’s consistently funny material and much much more likeable.
There’s also a nice bit of depth added when Tuca confesses her frustrations over the fact that Bertie doesn’t want to have fun adventures anymore, and their friendship is examined in a bit more detail, while Speckle stops being a dick before the credits roll and tells Bertie just what she means to him. Pleasingly it doesn’t stop being laugh out loud stuff during these times, and the second half of the episode is packed with very funny moments from a brief interaction with Bruce, a sleazebag turkey who lives in the same apartment building and is the reason why Tuca’s sober, to the turtles with mad things on top of their shells and the ghost cake is fantastically amusing stuff too, with “Eat the ghost cake! Eat the ghost cake!” and “Oh Gamby, you’re actually really delicious” being my favourite lines in the episode. Plus like Bojack there’s plenty of great sight gags throughout, which is never a bad thing, and like that show they’re impressively inventive, it’s the kind of thing you’ll want to watch a second time just to catch up on what you may have missed.
So I’m glad to say that my initial worries were proven wrong, Tuca won me over fairly quickly and the jokes got better and funnier as it went along. Yes, it takes a little while to get going but by the halfway point it steps up several gears and becomes pretty damn great and it’s certainly a lot better than Bojack Horseman’s first episode which was surprisingly weak, that series took about five or six episodes to turn in to the gorgeous thing of beauty that it is to this day. It’s too early to say whether or not Tuca & Bertie is capable of attaining those heights but if it comes even close, which I think it has the potential to do, it’ll be essential tv and Netflix will have another amazing show on their hands.