What is the story about?
Nathan Rutherford, whose ancestor Lawrence Rutherford was the founder of the town of Rutherford Falls, lives in the same town and fights to protect his statue. His friend and associate, Reagan Wells, tries to run a cultural centre dedicated to the Minishonka Nation, a Native American tribe, in a casino run by Terry Thomas. Lawrence Rutherford's statue becomes a recurring traffic nightmare for its residents and causes a number of accidents, leading town mayor Deirdre to propose the shifting of the statue. While Nathan tries to stop the moving with Reagan's help, Terry spots in this an opportunity to further the Minishonka agenda.
You have to admire Rutherford Falls creators Ed Helms, Michael Schur and Sierra Teller Ornelas for actually bringing alive a colourful and inclusive world in their brand-new sitcom. Schur has already been part of two iconic sitcoms as a writer and creator: The Office and Parks & Recreation, and Helms made his name on The Office playing the dim-witted Andy Bernard. Helms and Schur team up with Native American writer-producer Teller Ornelas to create a hilarious town that could just as easily be a microcosm of USA right now. The characters have their own lovable idiosyncrasies, and I could see how this show could prosper in subsequent seasons if all these characters were fully fleshed out.
The central problem with this show in its present form is that it wants to do too much. Over the course of its ten episodes, the show takes aim not just at White nostalgia, but more interestingly, also at prickly issues of conservation of identity and ideology within the Native American community at present. But it also wants to be a regular sitcom where characters land in hilarious situations. The makers seem to be unsure about the tone of the show: sometimes it stays squarely in slapstick territory, while at others it goes so deep into drama that it stops being a sitcom. Perhaps the makers wanted audiences to really like their show, but packing the show with too many themes just harms its chances of letting the audience process its oddball humour. Focussing on a few themes would have helped the show immensely. Nevertheless, giving this show a chance is a worthwhile thing to do.
Ed Helms is hilarious as Nathan Rutherford, though sometimes you can't help but get the feeling that Nathan might just be Andy Bernard 2.0. Jana Schmieding is the surprise package as Reagan, portraying a character who is very comfortable with her identity and past and always interested in doing the right thing. Michael Greyeyes' Terry is very easy to dislike initially, but you empathize with his character by the end of the season when you understand his motivations. Jesse Leigh is funny as Bobbie Yang, a college-going intern who works for Nathan. Dana L. Wilson's Deirdre is inconsistently written, however.
Music & Other Departments
The cinematography and production design are decent.
There are a number of hilarious sequences that make you laugh and think at the same time. My favourite sequence, however, is when Terry confronts a reporter, Josh, and tells him about how his community--the Minishonka tribe--have essentially had to hustle all their lives for money and influence, in a land that was originally theirs. It's the first time when you realize that Terry's animosity towards Nathan might not be personal.
The show tries to pack in too many themes and varies wildly in tone.
Did I enjoy it?
Yes. It leaves you smiling, in spite of its clunkiness.
Do I recommend it?
This show is not perfect, but it has the potential to become another hit in future like The Office or Parks and Recreation. You can give this a one-time watch.