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Bertie, a withdrawn cartoon bird in her 30s, is growing increasingly agitated as she scans through a database of mental health professionals on her computer screen.
"There are so many therapists," groans the song thrush, voiced by San Francisco native Ali Wong. "How can I choose one?"
She's intrigued by a certain Dr. Esther Emu and clicks on her profile to book a consultation. The problem? She's not available until June 7, 2074.
Bertie panics and does what any logical bird (or human) would in her situation: She frantically clicks on every provider available until her computer irreparably glitches out and confetti explodes from the monitor.
Like thousands of other anxiety-ridden millennials who have been plagued by the pursuit of a new therapist, I only wished this episode didn't make me feel so seen. But the charm of "Tuca & Bertie" lies in its ability to soften high stakes circumstances with outlandish animation and a touch of raunchy humor, resulting in the most relatable television show I've watched in years.
Now in its second season on Adult Swim — new episodes air Sundays at 11:30 p.m. — the original anthropomorphic characters are back in Bird Town, including Bertie's best friend, a gregarious toucan named Tuca (Tiffany Haddish), and her sweet but sometimes misguided boyfriend Speckle (Steven Yeun). It lovingly traces the unconditional bond shared between Tuca and Bertie as they navigate adulthood and their side hustles, but delves deeper to explore whether the birds' codependency inhibits Tuca's ability to find a relationship of her own — or if she's simply standing in the way of herself.
Created by Palo Alto-born comic artist Lisa Hanawalt, who was also a designer and producer on "Bojack Horseman," the second season of "Tuca & Bertie" almost didn't see the light of day. Following a critically acclaimed first season on Netflix praised for its lovable characters and nuanced handling of subject matter like sexual harassment, grocery store panic attacks and childhood trauma, the show was unexpectedly axed from the streaming platform two months after its 2019 release.
Fans were devastated , and Hanawalt says she also felt caught off guard.
"I was surprised," she told SFGATE. "I definitely tried to figure out a reason and eventually gave up, because there was no reason to spend time worrying about it. We made a wonderful show that people loved, and got good reviews. I had no regrets of how I made this show, and I'm just glad the fans never gave up on us."
Neither did Haddish or Wong, who Hanawalt said helped buoy her during a tough time.
"They both know that they're the s—t," said Hanawalt, laughing. "They're two of the most amazing people on the planet, and we have both of them. Who wouldn't want a show starring these women and Steven Yeun? They could have easily said, 'We have a million other projects to work on, this isn't a big deal to us …' It made me feel better that they really believed in it."
Adult Swim picked up "Tuca & Bertie" in May 2020, and the transition seems to have encouraged the show to embrace all of its playful oddities. When Bertie spirals into her insecurities, she literally transforms into a haunted house that her therapist coaxes her out of. When her former mentor Pastry Pete faces little backlash for his abusive actions in the previous season, she imagines a "Castaway"-like scenario in which he's banished to an Island for Bad Men. And when she drinks to quell her anxiety at a bachelorette party, a video game-style stat box shows an increase in her confidence (and bladder intake).
"I just love working with animation because you can have a serious, underlying story but on the surface of it, they're these silly looking, jelly bean ass bird people," said Hanawalt. "They look ridiculous and surreal, which helps balance it out. I want it to be a fun show that feels comforting, but we are taking on some heavy, sad, potentially triggering stuff as well."
In the new season, we see how Tuca's boisterous, trouble-making personality might be a way to guard herself as she ventures into sobriety and processes the death of her mother. She deals with her grief-induced insomnia by venturing out into a never-before-seen nocturnal Bird Land to dine on french fries, attend a "Rocky Horror Picture Show"-esque movie night and, most importantly, visit her mother's grave.
In the realm of adult animation, which is primarily created by and centered around men , Hanawalt's vision feels like a discerning wake-up call, balancing lowbrow hijinks with tender emotion and a compassionate focus on female friendship. The show encourages viewers to see themselves reflected in characters' triumphs as well as their mistakes, rather than exploit their shortcomings for the sake of laughs. To see a show like "Tuca & Bertie" find a new platform that allows it to lean into its kookiness, while giving it the space it needs to continue challenging perspectives of the genre, is nothing short of a relief.
That said, Hanawalt doesn't want to be an outlier.
"It's nice to see it come back — it's surreal," Hanawalt said of "Tuca & Bertie's" revival. "I'm not done yet, and in animation, I want more women and nonbinary people to create shows. We've had one kind of creator who has dominated in adult animation for a very long time, and I'd like that not to seem like an anomaly."
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Fans were outraged when 'Tuca & Bertie' left Netflix. Its Bay Area creator details its revival. have 1483 words, post on www.sfgate.com at June 17, 2021. This is cached page on USA Posts. If you want remove this page, please contact us.