F is for Family is one of those rare Netflix shows that seems to fly under most people’s radar. The first season, consisting of six episodes, debuted quietly on December 18th, 2015 to generally favorable reviews, but besides myself, I personally knew only one other friend who watched it. Compare that to Netflix’s other animated comedy, the critically acclaimed BoJack Horseman, which everybody seems to know about even if they’ve never seen it. While both are made for adults, perhaps it’s BoJack’s slightly more intelligent, far less vulgar sensibilities that give it a broader appeal compared to F is for Family’s truly vulgar and loud brand of comedy.
Despite its boorish brand of humor, however, there is a flowing sentimentality that serves as an undercurrent beneath the surface of F is for Family, in addition to something truly relatable about its main character, Frank Murphy. Both of these traits are on full display in season two, which premiered on May 30th, and help to make the comedy’s sophomore year a roaring success.
Season two picks up three weeks from where season one left off, with Frank getting fired on Christmas, and the Murphys are in truly dire financial straits. (Which is saying something, given the fact that when Frank did have a job, they were still struggling to make ends meet.) Frank’s soul is crushed from losing his job at the airport, to the point where he barely leaves the house, and his fragile ego takes a huge hit when Sue has no choice but to take a full time job, making her the sole breadwinner in the family.
As the series takes place in 1974, season two of F is for Family really makes the most of its Sue in the workplace plot. This was still a time when women were expected to play second fiddle to men, both at home and in the office, and their successes were often viewed with suspicion by men, in addition to making less secure men feel sufficiently inadequate. The inner conflict that goes on within Sue, who doesn’t want to take a job but needs to, and because she has to is forced to be subjected not only to the chauvinistic tendencies of her husband, but her male colleagues as well, is the season’s strongest through line. Her entire arc, which allows her to transform from a meek housewife into a more outspoken, confident, empowered woman is extremely relevant still to the world we live in today, and it allows Laura Dern to truly show her range as an actress via her vocal performance.
The conflict that arises back in the Murphy household because of Sue’s new status between her and Frank serves as the dramatic core of this season. Frank, already desolate about losing his job, feels like even more of a failure that his wife has to provide for their family because he can’t, and this manifests itself in a mad desperation to find a new career so things within his household can revert back to the status quo. The family’s uncertain economic situation really allows the writers to delve deeply into the relationship between Frank and Sue, and show audiences how they fell in love, why they got married in the first place, and – most importantly – what makes them right for one another still. Beneath all of the yelling and insecurity, there is a true love between the two characters, which Bill Burr and Laura Dern sell easily despite the vulgarities and unbridled fights they have over the course of these ten episodes. It’s a love most people can relate to, just like many people can relate to going through times of financial burden, losing jobs, being forced to take jobs they’re not fond of, and struggling to provide for their families.
The examination of a woman’s place in the world that the show conducts this year is also reflected in the relationship between the youngest Murphy child, Maureen, and her parents. The girl loves math and has an enormous interest in computers, but is constantly told by Frank – and even by Sue as well – all of the things girls are allowed to be and to like, and all of the things they’re not allowed to be or to like. Even though these exchanges are played more for laughs than similar exchanges in Sue’s plotline, there’re still resonant to the themes of female equality and independence. Nevertheless, despite her parents’ lack of confidence in her, audiences are left with the impression that Maureen is intelligent enough and well-adjusted enough – especially compared to her brothers – that she’ll succeed at doing what she wants when she grows up and leaves home.
The two Murphy sons, meanwhile, get more inconsequential – yet hysterical – plotlines to deal with over the course of the season. Kevin is on a quest to become a rock star, looking to next door neighbor Vic for guidance and inspiration, and is also desperate to lose his virginity. Bill, meanwhile, still functions as the oft-forgotten Murphy son, and has to put up with constant harassment from the neighborhood bully, Jimmy.
Though the animation is still purposefully crude and rough around the edges, everyone in the voice cast steps up their game from season one. The writers too have gotten better, and crafted a funnier, deeper, more personally dramatic story that allows all of the actors to shine, specifically Burr and Dern who anchor the season with their talent.
F is for Family’s second season is definitely a vast improvement over its first. It offers a pertinent, timely, hilarious story that is complete in its telling while at the same time suggesting a hint of what season three may have in store for us in the final moments of the finale. I personally can’t wait to see how next season plays out, and I hope that by the time it hits Netflix, more people will have discovered this gem of a show.
What did you think of F is for Family’s second season? Do you agree that it was a marked improvement over the first? Are you excited for season three? Let me know in the comments below!