If I had to choose, I’m probably more a ’90s kid.
Despite possessing a genuine love & appreciation for all things 1980s, having spent ages 7-17 entrenched in the decade that brought us America Online, the Taco Bell dog and a misguided big screen adaptation of Wild Wild West, my kinship with the ’90s is strong, defining and one which very much remains a part of who I am today. Though it honestly may not seem to me like much time has passed since those years took their final bow, I still must admit that the 1990s have now moved into an era of nostalgia, with the fashions, fads and media now viewed by many millennials as a satirical jukebox ripe for the picking with programs from the decade including Full House & Roseanne having seen modern-day reboots, products like Crystal Pepsi, Jolt Cola & Zima having returned to store shelves, and ’80s nights having now been replaced by the ’90s at your local suburban bar & grill.
When I learned a new series called Everything Sucks! would be premiering on Netflix in February of 2018, a high school-centric show set in the ’90s and an apparent tribute of the decade, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat interested, especially upon viewing the first trailer for the show. Though humorous, and backed by Everclear’s Everything to Everyone, I immediately felt a lingering, undeniable sense of worry at the sheer amount of ’90s references brimming from this brief clip-might there be more, or was this all the show would be?
Unfortunately, it mostly is. Furthermore, despite a title shared by one of my favorite Reel Big Fish songs, the show does live up to its name in terms of how much it, for lack of a better word, truly sucks.
Any attempts made to endure the series premiere will result in the viewer watching as cast members seemingly rejected from their respective Stranger Things auditions badly act their way through a tired relationship-driven story set in Boring, Oregon’s fictional Boring High School, as well as a mountain of ’90s pop culture vomit present in nearly every frame of this disappointing show. Whereas similar period-set programs like the aforementioned Stranger Things, Freaks and Geeks or even classics like The Wonder Years focused on story and allowed the era-specific references to simply compliment the action, Everything Sucks! is the opposite, with the references burying the story in a rancid avalanche of Surge, while the story itself even goes out of its way to get through any real substance so as to make way for the next wink to the camera in the form of characters waxing poetic on Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes, Bill Clinton, or VHS. So much VHS.
There’s even a perplexing scene during the premiere in which members of the school’s drama club break into a ridiculous impromptu performance in the cafeteria with the intention to promote auditions for an upcoming play, which is met with applause by the onscreen audience but struck me as completely bizarre-I can never once recall a time when anything like this occurred in my youth, and I challenge anyone to prove me otherwise. Need I mention that the core cast members also happen to be in their school’s A/V Club, again showing how much co-writers Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec must have really, really loved Stranger Things? Remember, it was those two individuals who scripted the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboots. I don’t care for them.
Good luck making it to the end of the first episode, as Everything Sucks! may actually make those who long for the dial-up days of old try to pretend that said days never existed at all. Lackluster acting, irritating characters who fail to connect and an overstuffed turkey of ’90s memories explode from the screen in a manner to suggest that everyone involved had absolutely no idea what they were doing. It didn’t take long for me to switch over to the reassuring warmth of a Parks & Recreation rerun-I’ll take Andy Dwyer’s antics over whatever the hell this was any day.
Maybe I’m an ’80s kid after all.
MY RATING: One half of a VHS tape out of five
ROTTEN TOMATOES: 68%