Netflix just announced that it’s not renewing Tuca & Bertie, the absolutely revolutionary animated show about two anthropomorphic bird BFFs played by Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong, for another season. Fans, myself included, are honestly super disappointed. And mad. Really fucking mad.
Far be it from me to understand the reason Netflix is cancelling this show, helmed by the brilliant Jewish creator Lisa Hanawalt (Hanawalt’s maternal grandparents escaped Ukraine for Argentina). I don’t have the stats, and Netflix has had a generally bad year, losing subscribers and revenue, but honestly, it makes them look pretty friggin’ bad.
It should be noted and in some way, commended, that Netflix funded the first season of this show to begin with. In a way, in doing so it made history — Tuca & Bertie is one of the first adult animated shows helmed by a woman, in a field so saturated with men. (Daria was helmed by a two-person team, one of them a woman; since then, few adult animated TV shows have had women running the show.)
Tuca & Bertie wasn’t a blind bet on Netflix’s part, though. Hanawalt worked on the recently Emmy-nominated Bojack Horseman. The show was created by Hanawalt’s high school friend, Raphael Bob-Waksberg (yes, he’s a nice Jewish boy). Bob-Waksberg brought in some of Hanawalt’s sketches when he pitched the show to Netflix, and Hanawalt was then hired to do the character and production designs and to art direct the show.
Tuca & Bertie certainly has some similarities to Bojack. After all, they both exist in a world densely populated by both anthropomorphized animals and humans. And they both can be surprisingly poignant, full of emotional depth amongst their laugh-out-loud humor.
But Tuca & Bertie is its own, well, animal. For me, the show took a while to get acclimated to. After all, how do you react when a medium that was never especially made for people like you is suddenly talking directly to your experience? Tuca & Bertie invented its own language, celebratory of the female (and non-cis male) experience, hilarious, touching, and oh-so-real.
Tuca & Bertie was also delightfully horny — not sexy in the way some adult animation can be, but empowered and refreshingly open about sexuality from the female perspective. It covered both its pains (yeast infections!) and pleasures in a way that only few shows have done in the past (there’s a reason why it’s been called Broad City but with birds!).
And for such a visually bright show, it also embraced the darkness of being, touching on addiction and, in the wake of #MeToo (augh, how I hate to write that, but this is the wake of #MeToo), one of the most heart-wrenching, shattering portrayals of fucked-up work gender dynamics, as well as of sexual harassment and assault. It brought me to tears, and I know I’m not the only one. For a show to so deeply affirm your experience as a human being is quite a feat.
Tuca & Bertie was also so diverse, from its cast to its crew. Aside from the fact that the show starred two women of color (and Steve Yeun) as its main characters, the cast celebrated WOC, trans, and queer talents like Nicole Byer, Awkwafina, Laverne Cox, Tessa Thompson, and Tig Notarro. Everyone was perfectly cast, every line was perfectly written, every frame was a visual delight, full of easter eggs and wonderful details.
There is so much to say to laud the content of the show, and honestly, much of it has been said already. It’s simply bewildering that Netflix would cancel such a critically acclaimed show. The glowing reviews for Tuca & Bertie are just too much to mention, and it had already made plenty of best of 2019 lists. Quite frankly, it’s at the top of mine.
Thank you to everyone tweeting kind messages, I'm overwhelmed by your love. I'm not a meteorologist but it's literally raining tears in LA right now?? This is helping to heal my broken heart. Upwards and onwards. #TucaAndBertie
— Lisa Hanawalt (@lisadraws) July 25, 2019
Here’s what I do know: Someone needs to pick up Tuca & Bertie for another season. Whatever streaming service does it, it will be better for it. They will be sending a much-needed message that adult animation, just like comics, is not a man’s world, that it is a medium that can vitally, masterfully portray what it is like to be a woman and a non-cis male in this world.
Tuca & Bertie is one of those creations that just makes the world a better place by virtue of existing. And we need more of it.