Why Duncanville deserves more credit than most animated series
Recently a new animated series caught my attention. It’s called Duncanville and is the brainchild of Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) and Ty Burrel (Modern Family).
Watching the first episode, I didn’t feel much affiliated with any of the characters. It felt like a mashup of the same old stories we’ve seen time and time again on The Simpsons, South Park or Family Guy.
Two episodes in and I started to fall in love with the dynamic of this dysfunctional, but realistic family.
They represent everything that the American nuclear family should be right now. Of course, we’re still a long way off getting a show with a titular lesbian couple or focus on a single mother. Perhaps, and this is not meant to offend anyone, but perhaps the idea of these types of people in our society is a depressing reminder.
At least with the typical nuclear family, there is some sense of familiarity and comfort. We feel back to how most of us felt when we were children, in a home with two loving parents and annoying but equally loving siblings.
WHY IS DUNCANVILLE DIFFERENT?
Well, first off, the enter show takes place around the teenage boy, rather than the father. In The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad, F is for Family for example, the story is centred around the father as opposed to the rest of the family.
Setting up this dynamic allows us more of an insight and understanding into the world around us from the eyes of a still developing young man.
Duncan is the typical teenage boy, who loves to sleep, has terrible posture despite his parents best efforts and refuses to spend any time with his family which isn’t considered essential. He also represents the typical uneducated teenage masses of American (and western) children. They go to school because they have to, but they don’t really learn a lot about the world around them and they very rarely stop to smell the roses and appreciate anything other than TV and video games.
One episode highlights the absurdity of mass culture in which the town celebrates a holiday known as Witch Day. The ceremony begins with the “town virgin” lighting the witch on fire, a sacred tradition which has been passed down from the days of yore. When Duncan becomes the virgin elect, he starts to understand the stupidity of the day and takes in what his crush Mia has been saying throughout the whole episode.
Interestingly, Mia is not a white character, so to have her as the object of Duncan’s affections is something for which I applaud Amy Poehler. There is an understated racism in America toward interacial relationships and something which not many TV shows are willing to address.
One of the most intriguing parts of the show is that the mother who is a parking meter attendant, actually earns more money than the father, who has his own plumbing business.
Granted having your own business is no small feat, but it’s a fairly small town, so the likelihood is that Annie, the mother, would make more money than Jack, the father.
This has turned the traditional understanding of American family on its head and we no longer have a doting, housewife of a mother present, instead we have a strong female character who in some episodes takes a lead role alongside her teenage son.
There is also the addition of two daughters, one of whom seems to be adopted, given theat her appearance is far more asiatic than the rest of the family and her name is “Jing '', although that hasn’t been addressed so far as I know.
Since Modern Family introduced the two daughter, one brother scenario, I’ve really grown to like this family set up, it seems much more naturalistic and the pressure isn’t on the one daughter to live up to the sons any more.
Another thing that I really liked when first watching the show is that the teacher for Duncan’s class clearly doesn’t want to be there and has to make a living by doing dirty deals with criminals, by driving an uber or by sharpening lives in a parking lot.
All Americans will have admitted at some point or other that their education system is not the best in the world and there are unfortunately many children left behind by an outdated model of education.
Duncanville dives into this a little further and explains that going to school doesn’t equate to a good education. It’s often made out that the teacher doesn’t want to be there and would much rather be out in the world pursuing his music career.
It makes me wonder whether the reports I’ve heard of severely underpaid teachers are having a severely negative impact on their students.
For me it makes sense. Low paid jobs suck and it’s awful to drag yourself to a place that you really wish you didn’t have to go to day in day out. It’s even more disheartening when you know that the kids don’t care and I can’t imagine the craziness of living in fear of a school shooting every day. If Duncanville teaches Americans one thing, it should be to vote for the people who will increase teacher’s salaries!
BLACK HUMOUR WITH A LIGHT HEARTED FEEL
The jokes in Duncanville can be really dark at times. There’s one episode in which a Hansel and Gretel type tale is turned on its head when the children kill the mother who was planning to eat them. Jack’s (Duncan’s dad) response to this is “what’s done is done.”
There’s also a scene just before the credits where Alice Cooper returns to get his guillotine back from Jack. Jack asks his hero if he can show him how the trick was performed, they exit into the garage and we hear a loud metal slicing sound, followed by Alice Cooper running out of the garage and speeding off into the distance in his car.
It seems silly to write about it, but this type of humour in a very light world, full of colour makes me very happy to see and I really hope that this animated series gets the green light for another season because I’m sure that it’s there to rival some of the top shows.
Do you like Duncanville? Or Family Guy? Or any other show? Tell us here in the comments or discuss it with your language exchange buddies.
Written by: Jordan Benyon, Staff Writer
- TV & Film
- 22 Apr, 2020
- 546 views