Lady Dynamite

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Lady Dynamite TV Poster Image
Quirky showbiz comedy deals with mental illness.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Bamford openly mocks the idea that a "sun-damaged" middle-aged woman could have her own show, yet she has her own show, sending a message that you don't have to be young and gorgeous to be watchable and lovable. Bamford is also open about her (real-life) mental health struggles, which proves to the audience she's not ashamed of her past, nor is she shy about mining it for comic potential. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character Bamford floats through her absurdist life meaning well and trying her best; she's generally kind and thoughtful to those around her. She tries to connect with her neighbors, to please her managers and friends, to get ahead in her career while staying true to herself. She demonstrates courage, curiosity, and perseverance.

Violence

Pratfalls; one recurring character has a habit of imagining herself committing bizarre violent acts against those around her; a benefit for a charity advocating gun open-carry laws goes awry when members keep shooting randomly. 

Sex

Jokes about and references to sex, with vulgar language: "sucking d's," a joke about taking a picture of Bamford's "rancid snapper." Jokes about "boning" and casual sex. A man insults a woman by calling her a vulgar name for female private parts; a woman jokes about oral sex that occurs in front of teens. 

Language

Cursing; unbleeped "s--t" and "f--k" in joking aggression: "go f--k yourself." "Damn," "hell," "ass."

Consumerism

Many references to pop culture: Louis C.K., Breaking Bad, Sex and the City, Jaws. Celebrities like Mark McGrath and Jon Cryer show up briefly. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to drinking and taking pills. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lady Dynamite is an absurdist comedy about a comedian trying to advance in her career. Bamford and others mock her age, looks, and career goals, but the overall impression is of a talented woman who likes herself and is liked by others. Frequent cursing, including unbleeped "f--k" and "s--t," as well as "damn" and "hell." Expect vulgar expressions for oral sex and private parts; gendered epithets (men call a woman a "bitch" and a "c--t"); jokes about violence, pratfalls, a character amusing herself by planning the murders of other characters, and a charity advocating for gun open-carry laws while its members shoot guns randomly; and jokes about drinking alcohol and taking pills. Much of the comedy revolves around mental health, an issue that the real-life Bamford has struggled with and spoken openly about.

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What's the story?

As LADY DYNAMITE star Maria Bamford puts it, "I'm a 45-year-old actress who's clearly sun-damaged! And I have a show!" She does! And in this half-hour comedy we follow her character, a very similar actress also named Maria Bamford, through some of her more absurd life experiences: installing a bench in front of her house to try to get to know her neighbors, entering group therapy to try to figure out if she's racist, performing in a family band with her reluctant parents. Bamford knows she's not perfect -- she struggles with mental health issues and makes odd decisions. But she's trying to make something of her life and her career, and viewers will find themselves both laughing with, and rooting for, this brilliantly silly yet relatable character. 

Is it any good?

Viewers who appreciate off-the-wall comedies with strong female leads are in luck: This Netflix sitcom is edgy, feminist, and completely hilarious. Created by South Park producer Pam Brady and Arrested Development creator Mitchell Hurwitz, Lady Dynamite gives Bamford a Liz Lemon-like showbiz career and self-deprecating humor and a Kimmy Schmidt-ish sunny outlook and complicated past. But unlike both of these spiritual soul sisters, Bamford is trying to make it as an actress, which leads her into a great number of very goofy situations. Can Bamford get comfortable with starring on a racist sitcom? Can she channel her bipolar disorder into an effective commercial for enjoying an addiction to shopping? Does it make sense to drive a motorbike with two sidecars, one for her agent, one for her manager? Time jumps that show the quirky Bamford's childhood and stints in a mental hospital lend an emotional resonance to all the goofy goings-on, and Bamford emerges as a heroine viewers can cheer for. She doesn't always succeed in her career goals, but her sharp, knowing, out-there show excels in cracking us up. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the cursing and off-color jokes in Lady Dynamite. Why are so many comedies vulgar and rude? Does that make them funnier or less funny? 

  • Bamford's show often breaks what's known as the "fourth wall" by making it clear characters know they're on a TV show. Which other shows do you know that break the fourth wall? What do you think about this style? 

  • How does Maria Bamford demonstrate curiosity, courage, and perseverance? Will watching her show make viewers want to be more like her

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