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HomeEntertainment'Mulligan' review: Tina Fey's new Netflix adult animated series is a bust

‘Mulligan’ review: Tina Fey’s new Netflix adult animated series is a bust


At least the title of Netflix Mulligan underestimates his premise. The animated comedy is not just about each second chance, but perhaps the ultimate second chance: the chance to rebuild society, but better, in the aftermath of an alien attack that apparently wiped out all of humanity, save for a thousand souls in the Washington metro area, DC.

The central joke, though, is that there’s really no such thing as a clean slate. The world may have changed, but humans essentially haven’t, and so most of the 10 half-hour episodes are spent watching humanity work its way back to the same bad habits that doomed them the first time around goods. But it’s one thing for characters to retreat into old patterns. It’s another thing for a series to do this. The big disappointment of Mulligancreated by Sam Means and Robert Carlock (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), is that it all feels like it’s been done before, better, somewhere else.


It comes down to

A missed opportunity.

Mulligan begins at the end of the world, with Earth already under attack from an army of bug-like green aliens from the planet Cardi-B. (Unlike the rapper, the aliens insist, “It’s a coincidence!”) But just when all seems lost, Matty Mulligan (Nat Faxon), a single-A baseball brother from Boston, stops the attack in his tracks with a good … targeted grenade throw. Hailed as a hero, he is quickly named the new president of the United States and surrounded by a close circle of advisers.

Most prominent is Senator Cartwright LaMarr (Dana Carvey), a Mitch McConnell type who sees in Matty an opportunity to install himself as the Dick Cheney of Matty’s Dubya. But there’s also DARPA scientist Farrah (Tina Fey), Simon (Sam Richardson) Georgetown history buff, and former Miss America Lucy (Chrissy Teigen), the latter of whom becomes Matty’s First Lady. These three see an opportunity in the apocalypse to right the wrongs of the past, but to get the job done, they must both defeat Matty’s Idiocracystupidity and LaMarr’s underhanded schemes, as well as their own persistent hangups.

There’s some narrative potential in the way Mulligan subverts the fantasy of burning it all down to start over as depicted in so many desperate editorials or post-apocalyptic fictions. LaMarr, a reactionary who shrank from newfangled notions like “The Jeffersonsfemale doctors and telephones (which let you press a button to speak in Spanish well before the attack) may be the only explicitly conservative character, but he’s not the only one who was unable to understand the world back then. The saying goes that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it Mulligan even Simon the history nerd just finds new ways to get bullied by beating jocks or women, regardless of whether or not the surviving population is two-thirds female. (The men, we’re told, perished soon after in the alien battle or in jet ski and fireworks accidents.)

In fact, some echoes from the past are quite clever. With the power grid going down and traditional news settings breaking down, the news cycle becomes a literal news cycle, that is, a man on a bicycle shouting updates to his fellow citizens. However, over the course of the season, what started as a humble act of community service turns into bread-and-circus infotainment, culminating in a live Bachelor educationstyle reality show that is really just a crowd that gathers to watch a woman choose between two suitors in real time. It’s more wry in an I-see-what-you-did-there kind of way than hilarious in a laugh-out-loud kind of way, but it’s funny nonetheless how quickly good intentions can go south.

But the vast majority of Mulligan feels about as ambitious as its title character, who spends much of the season searching for the national treasure of National treasure. Where Carlock and Means’ other shows, including 30 Rock, Great news And Girls5evapushed beyond known stereotypes to turn their characters into unique and specific madmen, Mulligan reverts to tired tropes about Massholes hating the Yankees or women trying to have it all. Where those other shows delighted fans with the sheer density of their jokes, Mulligan gets maybe two decent laughs per episode, and only occasionally crams funny details into its flat, plain backgrounds.

The pop culture references are also oddly old. There is nothing wrong with referencing towbar or The Handmaid’s Tale or Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justiceand it totally follows that Matty is still doing Borat in 2023. But when a character’s favorite example of a failed performance of a celebrity song is DNC’s 2016 “Fight Song” video and not Gal Gadot’s “Imagine” video, Mulligan feels like a script that has been gathering dust on a shelf for seven years.

Mulligan improves a bit over the course of the season, especially as it indulges itself in crazier storylines, like an egg hunt gone monstrously wrong. Axatrax (Phil LaMarr), the alien general held hostage on Earth, is usually good for some chuckles, whether he’s furiously plotting his escape or trying to blend in with the crowd in a Bill Clinton mask. (The disguise turns out to work because everyone understands that “Bill Clinton” might just be the kind of creep who announces things like “Boy, the penis sure hurts, it’s just dangling there from the outside.”) A subplot about Farrah’s robot assistant TOD-209 (Kevin Michael Richardson) trying to remember his past life as a man is really just a riff on it RoboCop, but it is used effectively to counterbalance man’s very human tendency to think only of himself. And while Simon doesn’t exactly put an exciting spin on the geek archetype, Sam Richardson continues to show a knack for spinning comic gold out of uninspired straw.

However, those flashes of humor or mild insight are too rare to save Mulligan As a whole. It’s possible, I think, to imagine this show coming back better one day with a tighter pace, sharper jokes, and more memorable characters. But if there’s one thing the series wants to show us, it’s that second chances aren’t always all they’re looking for. The world will always be worth saving. Not all TV that comes out will.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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