Watching television shows can often be a trying experience to say the least. You can often feel frustrated about certain characters or plot lines or even feel stressed about a show’s recent turn of events. However, I feel that quite often, this is also where shows falter. They change elements of the story or take characters down certain arcs and they end up alienating the audience. This post isn’t an argument against television writers in the slightest, in fact I am just pointingout this common issue because of a recent show I just watched on Netflix. It’s a show that, in spite of character changes or certain plot devices, balances the needs of their audiences really well– it is a surprisingly subtle show in the way it deals and adapts with change and, while it may not be the best show out there, I can guarantee you that its short runtime as well as its quirky characters will keep you coming back.
I found out about Cuckoo from a work-friend who recommended it to me after powering through it himself. And it IS a relatively short show, if memory serves it currently has two seasons on Netflix. Both of which are around 7-8 episodes each with episode run times going under thirty minutes. So it isn’t your all time consuming 1 hour or more type of show and is very relaxing as well as entertaining. The plot of the show is actually a very simple one that, at first glance, will seem overdone. Essentially, after a year abroad in Thailand, Rachel (originally played by Tamla Kari and now played by Esther Smith) returns home with, a husband much to the dismay of her Liberal-Dem parents, with the exception of the father, welcome the self-named Cuckoo, an American hippie-type, into their home, family and lives.
Obviously, this type of show and movie has been done before, right? Right! But with some critical differences. Normally, in a plot like this, the family would be a more conservative one that would automatically hate everything Cuckoo stands for and do everything to sabotage their daughter’s marriage. And, that is even true to a small degree, but surprising the family is very liberal and, specifically the mom, actually grow to love and respect Cuckoo as a member of the household. Rachel’s dad, Ken (Greg Davies), however doesn’t see Cuckoo as a ‘good fit’ for the family and initially tries to sabotage their marriage. But Ken isn’t as uptight as you might think, he gets into a lot of weird hijinks with Cuckoo and often acts as a sort of confidant to him.
The show is actually less linear and more random than you might think as well, the show doesn’t follow one specific story line, just random events that happen after Cuckoo comes into their lives. You get anything from Cuckoo constantly talking about plowing Rachel to her father, Cuckoo buying a potato van, Ken and Cuckoo accidentally getting high and many many more glorious things throughout the first season. The dynamic between Samberg and his co-stars actually work pretty well together considering that British humor and American humor can often not mesh well together– I get the feeling that Samberg’s Cuckoo is basically how people from the UK see Americans in a general sense, lazy, unskilled, dimwitted but still darn lovable!
Now season two presents its own challenges. The show originally aired in 2012 and since them, Samberg has landed a hit American show of his own called Brooklyn Nine-Nine (which I highly recommend watching!) which leaves the most important slot of this show open. And when I saw that Taylor Lautner was set to play his son I was both relieved and worried at the same time. I think a lot of people overlook how funny he really was in the movie Grown Ups 2 mostly because people are tired of Adam Sandler, but dammit Lautner is rather hilarious throughout that movie! But I also have only seen him be funny during that movie so I wasn’t sure he would be able to bring the humor like Samberg did. So… I guess you could say I was cautiously optimistic?
But this brings me to what I think is one of the most important elements of the show! And that is the fact that the writers did a solid job of adapting to their new talent. Not only do they write a story around Lautner, but another one of their lead characters (Rachel) was also changed in the second season– many shows would have just cancelled shooting at that point, but not Cuckoo! The bottom line is, is Lautner as funny as Samberg? Nope, but he IS funny, and rather than put the entire show on his shoulders, season two is just as much about the cast surrounding him as it is about Lautner himself. So while they have lost singular cast members, you could argue that the writers used the opportunity to make the show more well-rounded rather than one-character-centric. And it works well for the show, being able to see more characters take center stage.
In the second season, Lautner plays Dale, the son of Cuckoo who has abandoned his life as a member of the Ashram, a cult who follow a ‘messiah’ figure calling himself Vashradi, and search for his deceased father until he finally finds Cuckoo’s in-laws. The family take him in as a rightful member of the family and let him live with them indefinitely. Dale and Rachel battle feeling for each other and Lautner also deals with the troubles of adjusting to…well… not cult life? Not only does Lautner deliver some ridiculous lines with a straight face in this show, he plays a likable and naive guy that you cannot help but root for!
The Bottom line is that, while this isn’t going to be a show that will knock your socks off, it is an extremely funny tv series that does a good job with keeping the laughs coming and keeping their audience coming back for more in spite of cast changes. The writing is clever, the humor translates extremely well to both the UK and American audiences alike and the episodes are short as are the seasons. Basically, this is not only a well-written and well-done show, it is one that is also not overly time consuming. You can find the first 2 seasons on Netflix and season three has already aired on BBC-3 and will hopefully come to Netflix soon!