Summary: Everything Sucks! is like Stranger Things and My So-called Life had a baby and its best friend is Boy Meets World. A show capitalizing on nostalgia, it still has all the heart you want from a high school drama.
I actually think that I might be too young to appreciate this show as it was meant to be, since in 1996 (when the show takes place), I wasn’t in high school. I was in 3rd grade. So all of the Tori Amos music, the flannel, and the Gwen Stefani lip liner are out of my frame of references. However, the scrunchies, VHS tapes, CDs, and Walkmans aren’t. Seriously, Kate, give me your Rider Strong poster! The show is even shot like a 90s WB sitcom. Remember the gritty zoom-ins on someone’s distraught face? This show is milking that shot.
The show starts off a little closer to Stranger Things for comfort. The black kid is named Luke (Lucas!) but he’s the Mike of the group, the leader. McQuad is the Luke of the group, doubting and questioning. Tyler is the Dustin, complete with a curly mop top. Or at least that’s what it seems at first glance.
The beauty of Everything Sucks! is that it does mature nicely out of its tropes and into a real story. Luke seeing Kate and falling in love was too Mad Max/Lucas for me. But with Kate coming to terms with her sexuality, their story blossoms into something much more, separating itself from the comparison and standing on its own merits.
Peyton Kennedy, who plays Kate, is wonderful and worth the watch. Luke, played by Jahi Winston, is also a standout. Frankly, all the young actors are pretty stellar. Quinn Liebling as Tyler might be my surprise favorite, as we get more and more of a glimpse of what goes on in his head.
Even the adults get a shot at the fun. Kate’s dad (Patch Darragh) gets triple duty as principal, love interest, and goofy dad. And Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako is exquisite as Luke’s caring single mother. While I’m still not quite sure what the attraction is between these two (seriously, he seems far too goofy for her,) these two imbue their characters with so much good spirit and fun that it makes their relationship work.
The writing had some loose ends and left me with some questions. Can nutmeg really get you that high? What was Oliver’s motivation at the opening of episode 8? Also, where are everyone else’s parents? And was it really cool in the 90’s to leave your 14-year-old son alone at home for several days at a time?&
Actually, I’d have loved for just a few more scenes between Luke and his mom. But in a show this delightful, who really cares! It’s progressive and updated when it needs to be. And with these adorable characters, it’s worth coming back for season 2.