Associate News Editor
I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it again: we don’t talk about adult animated television enough. Sure, “South Park” is annoying and “The Simpsons” is years past its prime, but I’m here to talk about the hidden gems of the genre — especially the recently-concluded “F is for Family,” which, despite its imperfections, is a diamond in the rough.
First making its Netflix debut in 2015, “F is for Family” ended on Nov. 25, 2021, after five seasons. Set in the 1970s, this animated raunchy comedy is inspired by the life of stand-up comedian Bill Burr, co-creator and executive producer of the series. Burr also voices the character of Frank Murphy, a short-tempered veteran who lives in the suburbs of the fictional town of Rustvale, Pennsylvania with his wife, Sue (Laura Dern) and their three children.
Season Five of “F is for Family” starts off with Frank being unlike his usual, angry-about-something self. A chunk of his anger issues are gone and we even see him lighten up as a father, with credit due to Frank going through the stages of grief throughout the season. But, he handles his remorse surprisingly well.
And, while much of the series’s humor relies on Frank’s vulgarity, his character development is quite refreshing to watch.
We see the Murphy patriarch learn a lot of lessons from the first season to the final season, the most noticeable being the importance of family. In the pilot episode, Frank angrily answers the phone during a family dinner and yells cynically at a telemarketer selling Bibles. He then violently hangs up the phone and storms off from the dinner table. On the flip side, in the very last scene in the last episode of the series, the phone painfully rings again. But this time, Frank looks towards his family and puts the phone on top of the receiver, not to be bothered by phone calls during the duration of dinnertime. I loved this scene, not only because of its continuity but also for Frank’s growth in becoming his own person, rather than leading in his father’s (William “Big Bill” Murphy, played by Jonathan Banks) footsteps.
The rest of the family goes through its own dramas as the individual members navigate their way through life during the final season. Sue, in particular, took the death of a family member as a reminder to make the most of the moments spent with her family.
Kevin, the eldest son (Justin Long), goes through a rough patch (aka, teenage heartbreak). But he comes out a better person as a result and even manages to connect with Frank despite their differences.
Middle sibling Bill, (Haley Reinhart), much like his father in the earlier seasons, has anger issues that push him to become a junior police officer. Yet, after seeing two crooked cops unjustly arrest local Black politician and Frank’s former coworker Chauncey (Kevin Michael Richardson), Bill sees the error in his ways. While the ‘70s are remembered to be a time of peace and love, it was not immune to blatant, systemic racism, and “F is For Family” accurately portrays that in ways that aren’t too hidden nor over-the-top.
Lastly, Maureen (Debi Derryberry), no longer the youngest kid, has her own troublesome ways as she is caught manipulating witchcraft throughout the season. Often overlooked by her parents and siblings, I found that Maureen’s character was also overlooked in the final season. While there are touching moments of her expressing how hard it is to be overshadowed by the Murphy family’s new baby, there is not much follow-through on her character. This points to my biggest criticism of the series, that, despite the overarching message that “life goes on,” I would have liked to see more. With no Season Six in sight, it would have been great to see where these characters go from here. That said, “F is For Family” is still a series I go back to every now and again.
“F is For Family,” fits perfectly in the adult animation world, not only because it’s animated, but it raises a big middle finger to the sentiment that cartoons are “just for kids.” To me, the vast world of adult cartoons can best be described in one word: charcuterie. No, it’s not a fancy word for ‘art in motion’ or anything like that, but it’s derivative of having a little bit of something for everyone.
I know how weird it sounds to compare a charcuterie board to adult animation, but let me give you some examples. I imagine the long-running “Bob’s Burgers,” a show about a restaurateur and his wacky-but-wonderful family, to be a slice of prosciutto for its equally timelessness and feel-goodness. The series about a drunken ‘90s sitcom star and humanoid horse, “Bojack Horseman,” is a bit newer to the board, but I think the raved-reviewed series could be chunks of aged gouda because it’s fun yet hardened by life.
Finally, “The Midnight Gospel,” a show about Clancy, a space dweller traversing trippy worlds and a personal favorite of mine, is a bit of a wild card — for its eccentricity and sensory overload, maybe it would be a dab of dried fig relish.
This is all to say that, if you like charcuterie boards (oops, I mean adult animation), “F is For Family” has it all — savory storylines, a salty sense of humor and sweet moments that make you feel like you’re a part of the Murphy family. So, if you’re looking to give cartoons for adults a try, give “F is For Family” a shot — no, a glass of cold, “White House” beer — in your dad’s ol’ reclining chair.