NOTE: This review may contain some mild spoilers for the second season of, “F is for Family.” That said, the review is written to accommodate those who have not yet watched the season, and as such, will avoid discussion of major plot developments.
F is for Family proved to be a pretty solid dark horse hit sitcom for Netflix back when its first season premiered in 2015, sneaking onto the streaming platform at the very tail end of the year that December. Despite Season One spanning only an especially modest six episodes, the brash and irreverent animated comedy series struck a chord with many critics and viewers, leading to a solid amount of anticipation for a follow-up season, which was delayed slightly, but has now finally arrived.
As with the first season, Season Two of F is for Family draws heavily from the stand-up comedy stylings of co-creator and lead actor, Bill Burr. Once again, the show is crass, low-brow and very loud with its humour, so you still need a tolerance, or active love of that style of comedy if you want to get anything out of the show’s sophomore season. F is for Family still isn’t for easily-offended viewers at all, especially since it pushes some of its comedy even further in Season Two, namely by drawing more awkward animated sex and nudity, featuring even more drug abuse, and generally creating a 1970’s-set exaggerated cartoon world that is comical in its over-the-top unpleasantness.
In pushing the comedy further with Season Two, F is for Family also takes on a few broader subjects beyond Frank and his temper. Season One was especially Frank-focused, which is a bit unsurprising, considering that Burr is the main creative force behind the show, but Season Two spreads the spotlight around a bit more, even though Frank still plays heavily into the story. This time however, Sue also gets a crucial story arc in the show’s sophomore season, as Frank was fired from his airline at the end of Season One, forcing Sue to work a thankless job selling plastic containers to make ends meet for the financially destitute Murphy family.
Since it takes place in 1974, F is for Family treats Sue becoming the breadwinner as an appropriately big deal, shining a spotlight on the evolution of gender politics in the workforce. Burr obviously feels very strongly about the plight of the working woman, and how especially bad it was in the 70’s, since Sue’s struggles come off as even more uphill than Frank’s in Season Two. Sue having to face a job where she’s constantly belittled and sexually harassed, while Frank struggles with his male pride and inability to find another job, creates an interesting new angle to create more strain on the Murphys’ marriage in this second season. Things were also tough all over in Season One, but in Season Two, F is for Family seems to pull even less punches with its titular family unit, and their respective struggles.
The Murphy children also fight their own uphill battles in Season Two, with Kevin taking a particular spotlight, as he tries to help his family by attempting to launch the career of his terrible band. There’s a nobility to Kevin’s short-sightedness and stupidity, and this really comes into focus during Season Two’s own big shocker moment, which manages to rival the awkward scene of Bill being stuck in the room while his parents have sex during Season One. The story turn in question with Kevin is a lot less nasty to look at, thankfully, but its psychological consequences are just as severe, especially when Vic, still coked up and oblivious as ever, seemingly becomes the key to Kevin realizing his impossible dream, at least to some extent, while also being connected to this very legitimately awful incident.
Maureen and Bill end up more lost in the shuffle, but that feels intentional, since their parents try so hard to shield them from the hardship around them. Since Kevin is so difficult, Frank in particular is beginning to believe that his children are irreversibly tainted, leading to him trying extra hard to preserve the innocence of his two younger children. Bill still struggles with bully, Jimmy Fitzsimmons, and this leads into an interestingly dark turn with his own character in Season Two, but it’s Maureen that feels the most tragic, as she perhaps suffers the most from her parents’ vocational issues and marital friction. Maureen seems to be firmly separated from Bill’s story arc now, but this isn’t such a bad thing, since it allows both Murphy kids to explore their own respective challenges, without treating one or the other as a simple tag-along, as was sometimes the case in Season One.
If there are any problems that come up in Season Two of is F is for Family, it’s more or less the same issues that Season One occasionally ran into. The comedy is more refined and the themes are more ambitious in Season Two, but there are still a few points where the season becomes more simply mean-spirited than truly funny. The extension to ten episodes instead of six does lead to a more satisfying sophomore season for F is for Family at least, but it still requires its viewer to understand what they’re getting into. Much like its ever-aggressive patriach figure, F is for Family never apologizes for what it is, even when it gets very ugly. You don’t have to look at Frank’s balls this season though, so I guess that’s a plus.
Overall, F is for Family delivers another very good second season, and one that does make some small improvements over Season One. This animated sitcom still really isn’t for everyone, so if you hated Season One for its bad attitude and extremely irreverent humour, you’re going to hate Season Two for the same reasons. Despite that though, the social commentary on professional gender politics, and how poor finances can strain a well-meaning marriage, make for a second season that feels like it has a bit more to say beyond the usual high dose of noise and aggression. Once again, there’s just enough love behind all of the ugliness and misery to help F is for Family avoid fully sinking into its initial layer of negativity, which helps make the Murphy family’s struggles ultimately rewarding, even when they’re not always perfectly likable. In a way though, that’s what makes them undeniably normal and relatable, even in a bizarre cartoon landscape where almost every other person seems to be either an addict, a degenerate or an asshole.
- Blunt social commentary continues to be brutally funny
- Especially inspired new story directions for the Murphy family
- Character focus is spread out a bit better in Season Two
- Still becomes more mean-spirited than funny at times
- Blunt, ugly comedy stylings will still be too bitter to certain viewers