The holiday season brings excess, whether it’s food or arguing against your uncle’s insane conspiracy theories. There’s a threshold on the amount of holiday ham and government secrecy someone can indulge in before regretting all of his or her life decisions. However, there’s a treatment: retreating to an empty room to watch television.
With the holiday season wrapping up, and as the New Year creeps in, one series eases this break from the holiday chaos. Comedian Bill Burr and Michael Price (writer-producer of The Simpsons) have created a new animated Netflix series, F Is for Family, and it should be the last show you binge-watch in 2015.
The six-episode season is Burr’s raunchy take on life in a lower-middle-class family living in the rust belt. It’s 1973, and middle-aged Frank Murphy (Burr) is maneuvering through his life as a airport baggage handler. Frank is a family man, married with three kids—but this isn’t your standard Norman Lear depiction of life in the 70s. F Is for Family is a dark and hilariously vulgar tale of family and social woes, one that takes place in the decade following white flight and the promotion of gender appropriation.
Unlike other animated series, like The Simpsons and King of the Hill, there is a linear progression to Frank’s story, in which he plays peacekeeper to union members and his fat-cat bosses. When Frank isn’t being yelled at by union members and his morbidly obese boss, he’s threatening to throw his kids “through a fucking wall.” The narrative establishes character development in a short period of time. In just six episodes, the viewer understands each member of the Murphy clan.
None suffers a bigger crisis than Sue Murphy (Laura Dern) as she attempts to find meaning in her life through selling storage tubs. Sue, a onetime softball star, put her life aside to become a stay-at-home wife. Now, with three kids causing havoc every day, she begins to wonder what her life really means. She expresses doubts about her life to her only confidant: Major, the family dog.
Frank is too caught up in his own life—and with what he thinks it means to be a woman—to see what his wife is going through. He’s a man who only expects a few things from women: his wife must have dinner ready, keep the house tidy, and attend to their children. When forced into a situation where he needs to do all those things, he fails miserably—yet he continues to assign these roles to others.
Frank’s daughter, Maureen Murphy (Debi Derryberry), and son, Bill Murphy (Haley Reinhart), also feel the plight of what it means to be assigned gender roles in the 70s. Maureen is talked down to when searching for the perfect Halloween costume, as Frank feels anything with the slightest implication of being for boys is damaging for her future—even if it is an inanimate object, like a coconut. Bill feels the pressure of being a boy in grade school: he’s teased in the schoolyard when his sister defends him, and even Frank thinks he is spineless. As Bill tries to assert his masculinity, he finds himself in deeper and deeper trouble.
Life as a Murphy is rough, but it leads to many laugh-out-loud moments. What better way to end 2015 than by watching Burr’s crude and indecent take on life growing up in the 70s? Anything is better than listening to your uncle’s political spiels.