Intro: What is F is for Family?
It seems like everything is coming out all at once! First The Beatles: Get Back (reviews here: part 1, part 2, part 3) and now the last season of F is for Family. I’ve probably briefly mentioned this series before on my blog, but never spoke much about it in detail, but it’s a hilarious show that classic rock fans and those who love the 70s will enjoy. I describe it as King of the Hill but grittier and in the Rust Belt in the 70s. It’s a very raw and real show that follows an average working class Irish-American family, The Murphys of Rustvale.
Comedian Bill Burr created the show and voices the mouthy, angry, but still loving patriarch, Frank Murphy, basing the show a bit on his own life. The show isn’t afraid to talk social issues like the kids thinking their Holocaust survivor neighbour is a gangster (they later on get to know him better), consumerism and the idea of keeping up with the Joneses, race relations between the black and white residents of Rustvale, labour rights, getting older and figuring out your place in society, gender roles, misogyny, corruption in the government, the list goes on. The show talks about these issues in an unfiltered way, but not preachy or overly woke. You can support social justice and still have a sense of humour and make jokes and that’s what Bill Burr teaches us in this show and his comedy.
It needs to build up like a lot of shows so don’t be put off by the first episode because it gets a lot better and you feel closer to the characters and may even relate to some of them. A lot of modern media that depicts the 70s just shows the disco and party side of the decade, when there’s a lot more to the decade than hard rock, bell bottoms, and disco balls. The clothes, slang, technology, and décor may change, but life is life and people are people. The 70s had many problems and as nostalgic as this show is, it doesn’t romanticise it. It’s very honest, realistic, and relatable. You’ll feel things when you watch this show: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel how the characters feel.
One of my closest friends loves this show as much as I love it and we love to talk about it. Netflix has a problem with cancelling shows a bit prematurely. I know that shows can’t last forever, all good things come to an end, and it’s better that they pull a Beatles and end early but strong, with no weak points than go on too long and become milquetoast and tired. I was gutted when Bojack Horseman was cancelled since I could see a couple more seasons coming out of that and I see that even more in F is for Family.
Since the new season is out now, this tribute post/review is going to mainly focus on the new season. So spoiler warning!
Season 4 Recap
Season 4 leaves us with Sue Murphy giving birth to her fourth child, a baby girl (revealed in the next season to be named Megan). Not only that, but the neighbour, Vic, becomes a father.
Frank tries to reconcile his relationship with his family, not just his wife and kids but his father, who treated him poorly as a kid. That cycle continues with Frank yelling at his kids frequently. He tries his best to spend time with his family, but he’s forced into a business trip to Cleveland for x-ray machine training for his job at Mohican Airways, which could conflict with the day Sue gives birth. While the plane’s engine gives out as it’s about to land at the airport, Bob Pogo spills the beans and tells his co-workers that Aliquippa are buying out Mohican. As Frank’s relationship with his father improves, his father dies.
Kevin gets a bookworm girlfriend and plays in a yacht rock band, and he has to make the difficult decision between his integrity and girlfriend or success and impressing the powers that be in the music industry and radio. Maureen and Bill get into theatre and hockey, respectively, and they rise up the ranks in those hobbies, but it’s all because of an aggressive, rage-filled approach.
Rosie wins the election and becomes the first black alderman in Rustvale history. The season concludes with Frank making it in the nick of time to see his wife give birth to a baby girl and as he brings the newborn over to his father who is repenting in the chapel, his heart stops. What a season.
Will season 5 tie everything off nicely and answer all our questions? Let’s see! First, a quick synopsis of every episode and then my thoughts.
Episode by Episode Synopsis
Episode 1: Opens with Frank and his dad in hospital. He died. He’s upset about his father’s death. He was 73. They tried to save his life. Now they have to plan a funeral, which turns out to be expensive and full of drama. Bill questions religion and fights with Maureen. Frank, who still didn’t really make up with his father, has to deal with all these people telling him about their fond memories of him. Kevin plays a song he wrote as a tribute to him as his casket is lowered into the ground. Maureen turns 10.
Episode 2: Flashback to Frank and Sue’s shotgun wedding. Sue’s father doesn’t approve of the wedding and tries to bribe her out of marrying Frank. She tries to make up with them and her gay brother, Louis, whom she outed at her wedding when she was upset about being disowned. Meanwhile, Bill and Maureen go on a field trip to a local living history museum. Bridget and Maureen pull pranks on goody two shoes Amy and Bill and friends get into a fight with kids from another school. Kevin meets Alice’s family for the first time, but it’s awkward at first because her dad walks in just as the two are going to have sex, but Kevin enjoys dinner with the Goldman family and even plays guitar with Alice’s dad.
Episode 3: Great script with separate conversations that flow into each other flawlessly. Gotta make the most of this last season and tie up loose ends. Bill and friends get out in a scared straight programme, Vic adjusts to life as a father, Frank learns the Aliquippa Airlines way, and Bob Pogo starts his own restaurant that serves only chicken skins. Kevin and Alice go to a Fanny concert, where Alice bumps into friends from Jewish summer camp. They talk and Kevin finds out about Alice’s ex-boyfriend, and he gets extremely jealous and clingy.
Episode 4: It’s Thanksgiving and Sue tries to reunite her brother and dad, Frank tries to decode a cryptic message in his dad’s last words, “box 16”, Kevin tries to get Alice back, Vic tries to navigate life as a single father by asking for advice but his neighbour Evelyn Goomer tries to snatch the baby, and Bob Pogo’s restaurant catches on fire after he throws a turkey at a model on the mayor’s parade float and he gets in trouble with his mobster landlord.
Episode 5: It’s almost Christmas and shit hits the fan. Kevin is constantly thinking about Alice, who rejected him in the previous episode, telling him she never wants to see him again. He tries to win her back by getting into Judaism and plays a love song for Alice only to set the synagogue sign on fire. Bill and friends are still junior police officers and are doing well in their scared straight programme, until they accidentally show a porno to their friends. Maureen gets into the occult and goes to the cemetery with her friend Bridget to bring people back from the dead. Frank makes steps towards decoding the cryptic “box 16” message. Sue’s older kids are growing up and she’s left taking care of baby Megan (the youngest daughter).
Episode 6: Frank and Sue discipline their kids after they get in big trouble. Sue takes Maureen to church – one of the funniest lines is said here: “The Beatles said they were bigger than Jesus, and so God punished them with Yoko Ono”. Really good satire of religion, especially of the Catholic Church in this episode. Frank and Bill go to the police station and Frank yells at the police, blaming them supposedly “corrupting” his son, but the police pull out the Uno reverse card and say it’s his fault for his son needing to enrol in a diversion programme in the first place, he didn’t raise Bill right. On Sue’s advice, he gives Bill the birds and the bees talk and finds out that Bill was under the bed once when they were having sex. And Kevin is put to work with Smokey to refill vending machines. While there, Smokey tells him the Murphys complain too much about trivial things, but cries when Kevin sings his love song to Alice. Frank takes the family bowling and he chats with Kevin, trying to repair his relationship and break the cycle of toxicity. Frank finally finds what’s in box 16, it’s tapes his father recorded.
Episode 7: Frank listens to his dad’s tapes all night and his workplace, Ala-hican, screws him over, no Christmas bonuses and there’s fierce competition for a promotion. Sue tries to make up with her brother and starts a parenting class. Kevin babysits his baby sister Megan and writes songs for his mother’s parenting class. Alice walks by and sees the old Kevin, the one she fell in love with, playing songs for the class. Bob Pogo is still on the run from the mafia and he hides in Rosie’s house and hatches a plan to take down corruption in the city government. The Murphys have a Christmas party and his mum and sister stay over there, he argues with his mum, and he discovers that his sister and neighbour Ginny are lesbians. Rosie gets racially profiled and targeted for being the only black alderman. Bill witnesses this and sees the look on Rosie’s daughter’s face and feels bad. He doesn’t want to be a cop anymore because of the racism rampant in the police force.
Episode 8: Frank works on his marketing plan for Ala-hican with Buster Thunder Jr jumping over a 747 with his motorcycle, and like a lot of things in his life, it goes awry and finally back to normal. Kevin and Alice get back together, they have sex again before the father walks in on them and throws Kevin out naked essentially calling him a dirty gentile. Meanwhile Rosie and Bob Pogo try to prove the mayor is in cahoots with the mafia, but Pogo gets shot and the corruption gets a light shone on it when TV cameras point in the direction of the mafia pulling a gun out on Rosie and Pogo. The mayor resigns in disgrace. Frank is demoted after the botched Buster Thunder Jr stunt and it turns out that he misheard “Bach 16” as Box 16. Frank finds out what’s important while Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” plays to close the show. What a great choice for an ending song. And true to character, it’s a bittersweet ending, just what we expect. Life isn’t perfect and people aren’t perfect, as my 95 year old grandmother told me the other day. Life is what it is and what you make of it.
The Murphys of F is for Family are as loveable of an animated sitcom family as The Simpsons and The Hills of King of the Hill and better than The Griffins of Family Guy. Every character is one you’ll love by the end of the show, even if you think they’re jerks at first. The 70s nostalgia makes it even better and what better time for edgy comedy than the 70s? Bill Burr is brilliant: left wing comedian who isn’t shy about his political views and will stand up for the right thing, but isn’t afraid to make jokes. Humour is one of the best coping mechanisms and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten through life by joking about it. Bill Burr said it well in a Forbes interview:
On America’s fascination with political correctness in comedy:
“I understand it. Its heart is in the right place, but they . . . You can’t just change words and think that will change people’s attitudes.”
“Well, to change as a person is a ton of work. It requires a lot of work by the individual. It’s not simply other people going, ‘Don’t say this word now, say that word.’ And then, magically, they’re going to be like, ‘Oh!’ It’s not the case that because they don’t use that other word, they’re not going to be thinking ignorant things about whatever group that word was used negatively against before. It’s a pipe dream.”
F is for Family is a complicated show and a reflection of life. It’s realistic, relatable, philosophical at times, socially and politically conscious without being preachy, great storytelling. It’s one of Netflix’s best and a big loss for the streaming service. I’m left wanting more. Damn you, Netflix! Still, the writers and producers did what they could with one last season. I only wish it was 10 episodes or had an hour long finale episode. That’s the only flaw of F is for Family, it ends too soon and I have so many questions of what could happen next. I guess it’s up to us to use our imaginations and that’s the fun of art, once it’s out there it’s for the fans to decide what to do with it. Makes me want a spinoff that takes place in the 80s, but I want it to be good. So much potential there. We need more shows that show the full picture of a decade, warts and all, none of that rose-tinted glasses view of the past.
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