When school began at the end of the summer of ‘96 I was a 14 year old Freshman braving Junior High at a new school, intimidated by girls, and generally unsure what to make of the world around me. If Netflix's show "Everything Sucks" is even semi-autobiographical, it's safe to assume the creator shares my exact same age because it's story revolves around a Freshman experiencing all those very things in, you guessed it- 1996.
Now knowing that I’m the exact target audience of the show, it's not surprising that when I first saw the teaser I instantly thought "Yep- I'm going to watch that". In retrospect, my immediate commitment is mostly to blame on the use of an all-time great song- The Cranberries' "Linger" playing over the main character reenacting popular music videos of the day (so many feels!). The teaser certainly did it's job reeling me in, but with all 10 of the season's episodes now behind me, I learned a valuable lesson; there is a big difference between a reflexive "I'm gonna watch it" and a reflexive "Hey, that looks great!".
I'm sad to report that "Everything Sucks" turned out to be not much more than 'nostalgia porn' of the highest order. The first 40 seconds of episode 1 alone manage to shoehorn in slap bracelets, skateboards, troll dolls, neon colors, a walkman, playing hacky sack, and one of those folded paper "Cootie Catcher" games.
Subtlety is not a concept the makers of this show are familiar with.
Neither is pacing.
Within a minute after the opening sequence ends it's quickly established that our main character Luke is ”Kind of a nerd”, his two best friends vary slightly on the nerd spectrum, and the tie that binds them together is a passion for movies and A/V club. Less than a minute after that Luke is head over heels for a girl that happens to be Principal’s Daughter (Kate).
Anything sound familiar yet?
Like someone cherry-picked Freaks and Geeks, The Goldbergs, Netflix's own hit Stranger Things, or any one of a host of other underdog coming of age, "reminiscing" shows. Today's TV landscape may be littered with shows that shamelessly prey on the "'member berries" of my demographic; (I’ll even go so far as to admit that when done well, “keep em’ coming”) but “Everything Sucks” never stops feeling like simply a vehicle for surface level 90’s pop culture references.
"Everything Sucks" achieves the difficult task of simultaneously being completely unbelievable and highly predictable. A contradiction best explained by giving one (of many) examples: Upon meeting, Luke's single mom and Kate's Principal Dad start secretly dating despite knowing their children also are. Their second date is instigated by the otherwise goody-goody Principal suggesting they smoke some pot together that he confiscated from a student. This event is completely out of character, out of left field, and becomes even more glaring as they proceed to smoke pot in the very parking lot of his school (in the daylight, no less) which eventually results in their traipsing through the school in search of a cure for the munchies, and later stripping down and swimming in the school's pool (?!)
It's so far-fetched and yet such obvious writing I almost turned the show off right then.
The one unique storyline of the show is that Kate, while being simultaneously pursued by Luke is embracing the realization that she is actually attracted to women. While I can't claim to know the experience of realizing I am a Lesbian in high school, to me it ended up feeling almost as clunky as the rest of the show negating any groundbreaking it may have otherwise done.
"Everything Sucks"' heart is in the right place but in so many ways the execution is just not there. It says it all that the show was made with my exact taste and demographic in mind yet I still can’t give it my endorsement.
So I'll give a predictable, hacky show a fittingly predictable and hacky review line-
"Everything Sucks" is everything mediocre.
...After rewatching the trailer I probably should've seen it coming.
Check it out HERE and let us know what you think.