by Nick L’Barrow
Frank Murphy and his functionally-dysfunctional family return for a fourth go-around in one of Netflix’s most popular animated romps, F is for Family. The show’s creator, and renowned comedian Bill Burr (who also voices main character Frank) once again uses his unabashed sense of dark humour, mixed with a fearless ability to tackle subject matter that many would consider taboo to tell the ultimate human story, that none of us are perfect and have no idea what we are doing in this life.
F is for Family right from its first season has been one of those shows, akin to South Park or Netflix’s other staple animated show, Bojack Horseman, that want’s to consistently push the boundaries. Having a dysfunctional family as the foundation for a show isn’t a new premise, but Burr and the writing team successfully managed to make the Murphy family feel incredibly relatable, while also making room for insane, absurd comedic scenarios that could only be reserved for an animated series.
Season 4 sees the introduction of Jonathon Banks (Better Call Saul) as Frank’s estranged father, William. Frank is taken aback by his father’s return, which created an interesting dynamic that we haven’t seen from Frank before. He’s uncomfortable, and what creates a great new character arc, he doesn’t feel in control of the situation.
Banks’ is amazing as William Murphy. Unfortunately, considering his impact on Frank’s storyline this season, is only featured in a handful of episodes. Burr once again hits the nail on the head with Frank, but the character has never felt like a stretch for Bill Burr (an angry man who loves to comedically let everyone around him know how he really feels). Alongside Banks as a stand-out voice for this season is once again Laura Dern as Frank’s wife Sue. Sue is pregnant with the fourth Murphy child and spends a lot of time with her own mother in this season. The remaining supporting casts as always are solid, however once again stealing the show (with predominately improvised lines) is Sam Rockwell as annoying neighbour Vic Reynolds, a character that is guaranteed to consistently bring laughs to each scene he is in.
Season 4 is the first time that this series has felt slightly stale. It would be wrong to say that all 10 episodes in this season were completely unenjoyable, because there are definitely stand-out moments, both comedically and especially emotionally as the story reaches it’s closing scenes. But F is for Family is now struggling to keep its foot on the pedal to continue driving forward interest in Frank and his family.
Many of the jokes are revolving around the same issues. Frank is angry at everything, his wife Sue is finding new ways to liberate herself as a woman in the 70’s, their children are all still 3 incredibly different people creating an odd family dynamic etc. While having a show that feels comfortable to return to because of its familiarity is good, there is an exhausting element of watching the same characters do the same things, even though the story is evolving around them.
The opening episodes get their hooks in quite well, but the majority of the episodes that follow just don’t maintain the same level on interest in the show’s characters that has been prevalent in the previous seasons. There is an element of shallowness when it comes to building up the emotional pay-offs for some characters and their story arc, which then also affects the comedic aspect of the shock moments that can follow.
F is for Family season 4 is good, it’s watchable. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t feel as great as the potential it could reach and gives the sense that it may soon be coming to its end.