At first glance, Tuca & Bertie looks very familiar—and for a good reason. Netflix’s latest animated comedy series was created by Lisa Hanawalt, the production designer and producer of the show Bojack Horseman. With similar-looking anthropomorphic characters and dark humor, Tuca & Bertie is set up to be another thought–provoking and successful show. While like Bojack Horseman, the show aims to tackle real–world moral issues, it does so in a lighter way. Think Bojack Horseman mixed with your favorite female friendship comedies like Broad City, Grace and Frankie or Insecure.
This series follows the ups–and–downs of Tuca and Bertie, two–women who, although near opposites, perfectly balance each other out. Tuca, voiced by Tiffany Haddish, is messy and loud, yet confident and lovable. Bertie, voiced by Ali Wong, is neat and polite, yet overly anxious and professional. Together the two friends mirror chaos with order and parties with business. While at times their differences are divisive, the two somehow remain inseparable friends. When one is over–top the other reigns her in, and when the other is too timid, the other draws her out. The opposites–attract pairing, although done before, is charming and entertaining.
In one episode, “The Promotion,” Bertie tries to gain a promotion in her media firm but faces sexual harassment from her male co–worker vying for the same position. Tuca swoops in to empower her friend to demand the justice in the workplace that she rightly deserves. In the very next episode “The Deli Guy,” Tuca faces difficulties dating since becoming sober. After a chaotic, cringy date, Bertie is there to lend her support and a shoulder to cry on. Their lives and friendship are complicated and far–from–perfect, but together they bring out the best of one another. After all, there’s a strange comfort that comes from seeing two animated bird–women navigate a cartoon world together that functions very much like our own.
Throughout the trials and tribulations of this friendship, the show manages to remain undeniably, yet steadily funny. At times, however, the humor becomes absurd and graphic in ways that are nearly as gross as they are funny. In one scene, Tuca bakes the ashes of Bertie’s boyfriend’s grandmother into a cake. Logically, when the boyfriend eats the cake his stomach is haunted by his grandmother’s ghost. In another scene, huge “sex bugs” take over a grocery store and are put on trial. And yet, the most common humor in the show remains subtle and hidden, often packed in sassy one–liners from the show’s two stars or clever bird–puns (Tuca’s workplace is appropriately named Conde Nest).
Altogether, this show takes the predictable sitcom and inserts it into a surreal and wild animated world. In the show, the fantastical universe, the realities of sexism, feminism, and addiction appear complex and realistic, portrayed in ways that classic sitcoms often fail to use. Overall, Tuca & Bertie won’t quite have you rolling on the floor, but it will likely cause some laughs and even more understanding.