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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Everything Sucks! is a drama series about high school students and their parents navigating life in the 1990s. Mature content is a bit milder than in some other high school-set shows, but it's still there: Both teens and adults are interested in love and sex and talk about dating, kissing, having sex (referred to at least once as getting "laid"), and sexual acts such as a "hand job." One character is gay and conflicted, which viewers find out when she steals a magazine full of photos of naked women (their breasts are briefly seen) and unbuckles her pants as if to touch herself. She's frequently teased about being gay and is called "gross," "homo," and "dyke" by her peers (though her father and other friends are understanding and accepting). Cursing is infrequent but includes "s--t," "damn," "hell," "ass," and "bulls--t." A boy calls a girl a "bitch," once in jest and once because he's angry. For older teens and adults who remember the trials of high school all too well, this is a fun choice with a unique coming-out story at its heart.
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What's the story?
For Luke (Jahi Winston) and Kate (Peyton Kennedy), EVERYTHING SUCKS! in Boring, Oregon, in 1996. When freshman Luke and his geeky A/V club friends McQuaid (Rio Mangini) and Tyler (Quinn Liebling) run afoul of the cool-but-cranky students in the drama club, chiefly unstable Emaline (Sydney Sweeney) and imperious Oliver (Elijah Stevenson), the two clubs join forces -- for good or for ill? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, Kate is navigating some bumpy personal problems of her own, particularly that her single dad and school principal Mr. Messner (Patch Darragh) is now dating Luke's mom, Sherry (Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako).
Is it any good?
Sweet, sensitive, funny, and authentic, this series will worm its way into the hearts of viewers whether they're currently dealing with high school angst or just remember it well. Like other well-loved teen dramedies, Everything Sucks! scores by giving every character humanity. We expect that Luke and his friends will be the center of the action and our sympathies, much like Bill, Sam, and Neal were one of the geeky hearts on Freaks and Geeks, and Mike, Dustin, Will, and Lucas anchor Stranger Things. What other, lesser shows get wrong, Everything Sucks! gets right: Parents are also shown as whole people with inner lives and feelings, and the characters who come off at first as tough bullies are only acting tough because they're so vulnerable inside.
Everything Sucks! also has a secret weapon in Kate, sensitively and compellingly played by Peyton Kennedy. As a young woman with more to worry about than what's for school lunch, she's mercurial and yearning and real in a way female characters seldom are. Viewers old enough to remember My So-Called Life will immediately recall the mesmerizing Angela Chase, and how she conveyed her complicated feelings with pained gazes and meaningful pauses. Kennedy has the same appeal, and will reach other teens struggling to make sense of their feelings. So despite the could-be-ironic 1990s trappings -- there are slap bracelets and hacky sacks and scrunchies galore -- Everything Sucks! is deeply unironic, and moving, sweet, and funny, destined to take its place in the pantheon of high school classics.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stereotyping. What instances of stereotyping exist in Everything Sucks!? Do the characters reflect the groups you see among your peers? To what degree is stereotyping necessary for the comedy to be effective?
Can you relate to the characters' troubles in this show? If so, how? Would the show be any more effective if it were set more recently? What, if any, messages is the show attempting to send to viewers?
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