‘Everything Sucks!’ is perfect feel-good binge for the trials of social distancing

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In the midst of the current global pandemic, many of us are cooped up in our hometowns, unable to see any old childhood friends. Without the trivial drama and chaos that comes with attending school, moving back into your high school bedroom can feel oddly empty and incomplete. 

To mend the loneliness and utter boredom that can come from social distancing, many of us are reverting to our Netflix accounts, mindlessly scrolling through recommended shows until finally settling on simply rewatching something which brings back comforting memories. 

Tucked away within the overwhelming amount of Netflix’s original shows, however, lies one of the most ignored and underrated series on the platform: “Everything Sucks!” 

The show follows a group of high school freshmen in Boring, Oregon during the late ’90s. Attempting to fit in, Luke O’Neil (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) decides to join the audiovisual club with his friends McQuaid (Rio Mangini) and Tyler (Quinn Liebling). After befriending the principal’s daughter, Kate Messner (Peyton Kennedy), the group quickly finds itself immersed in a feud with the school’s drama department. While attempting to understand their own teenage angst, sexuality and familial ties, the two groups of outcasts combine forces to make a film for the school in order to settle this rift once and for all. 

With a soundtrack chock-full of Tori Amos and Oasis, “Everything Sucks!” capitalizes on its ’90s setting with wholehearted enthusiasm. The show commits to the era early on, bringing back slap bracelets and phrases like “all that and a bag of chips” with unapologetic fervor. The lighthearted nature of the show shines in its nostalgic references, relating the pop culture of the era to its gawky teenage characters. Even if you didn’t grow up obsessing over Jonathan Taylor Thomas or debating the lyrics of Alanis Morissette, the vibrant aesthetic of “Everything Sucks!” is contagious, rubbing its giddy optimism onto its audience. 

The comforting crutch of nostalgia is what drives the first few episodes, slowly building lovable dynamics that progress as the show continues. The growth of characters, such as Kate, moves “Everything Sucks!” from a cheesy ’90s sitcom to a mature and honest portrayal of teenage anxiety and insecurity. 

Aiming to understand how to express herself and her sexuality, Kate’s development spans a variety of trials that parallel many classic tropes from the era, such as makeovers, spin the bottle and magazine quizzes. Yet, underneath these forms of comic relief, Kate’s journey is gut-wrenchingly poignant. Facing judgment from her peers and the looming repercussions of the Defense of Marriage Act, Kate’s acceptance of her sexuality is easily the most intriguing aspect of the show. Spearheaded by Kennedy’s remarkable performance, Kate’s innocence feels visceral and raw, making her transformation into becoming self-assured all the more captivating. Kate’s arc propels the emotional depth of “Everything Sucks!” forward, transitioning the simplicity of the show’s premise into something far more thought-provoking and palpable. 

Although many teen shows infamously suffer from a heavy emphasis on adult characters, “Everything Sucks!” benefits immensely from this component. Specifically, Kate’s relationship with her single father (Patch Darragh) and Luke’s relationship with his single mother (Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako) bring about the show’s most heartwarming moments. Each dynamic is brutally relatable, making emotional moments feel refreshingly transparent and intimate. It is incredibly easy to reduce parental figures down to one-dimensional shells, but “Everything Sucks!” strays away from this model. Instead, the show takes the time to preserve these dynamics with attention and care, ultimately making viewers care equally about the lives of the teens and their parental counterparts.

More than anything, “Everything Sucks!” places its core value on the friendships it derives from its large ensemble. Whether they are cooking up kooky snacks, jamming to Ace of Base or dressing up in alien costumes, the group’s collective dynamic is goofy and carefree in the best way possible. The feel-good nature of “Everything Sucks!” escalates when the show utilizes this chaotic group in over-the-top, ’90s-inspired scenes, allowing viewers to reminisce about the cringey endeavors of their own friend groups from high school. 

Despite the loyal fan base “Everything Sucks!” quickly garnered, Netflix ultimately pulled the plug on the series after its first season. Whether it was because of poor advertising or assumptions that this was Netflix’s meager attempt to recreate shows like “Stranger Things” and “Freaks and Geeks,” it was nevertheless devastating to watch such a brutally underrated show die on the Netflix explore page. 

So, while you’re stuck at home inevitably reverting back to your high school tendencies, indulge yourself in a quick binge-watch of “Everything Sucks!” to soothe your cabin fever. With its nostalgic tone, large doses of high school drama and painfully relatable characters, it is sure to provide a sweet escape into the ’90s during the stress of 2020. 

“Streaming Diaries” articles are recommendations from Daily Cal staff members on underrated content available on streaming platforms.

Contact Sarah Runyan at [email protected].