TV: Tuca & Bertie (Season 1)

Netflix’s latest animated delight is Tuca & Bertie, which might best be described as the feminine flip side to BoJack Horseman. If you’ve seen BoJack, you’ll know that for all its zippy humor and animal puns, it’s also one of TV’s edgiest dark comedy dramas. Tuca & Bertie creator and showrunner Lisa Hanawalt, BoJack Horseman’s production designer, brings a similar-but-different sensibility to this new show, which once again uses inventive, anything-goes world-building to deliver powerful messages and fast-paced, eye-popping humor.

Tuca & Bertie is a tale of friendship. Bertie (voiced by Ali Wong) is a responsible songbird with a day job and a steady boyfriend, while Tuca (Tiffany Haddish) is a wild, impulsive toucan who muddles through a transient gig-economy life. They’re besties, but their relationship is tested when Bertie decides to move in with her architect boyfriend Speckle (Steven Yeun). As Bertie struggles to advance her life and career to a new stage, Tuca starts to feel left behind, which threatens to derail their deep, complementary friendship.

An outwardly light-hearted show, Tuca & Bertie quickly reveals hidden depths as it advances a relatable plot while exploring the principal characters’ backstories. While the art style and attitude are clearly of a piece with BoJack, it’s also injected with an audacious, surprising creativity reminiscent of  Adventure Time. These comparisons, though, may do the show an injustice. Tuca & Bertie forges its own path in its depiction of a strong female friendship, and while it’s set against a quirky animated backdrop, it touches on contemporary issues and possesses a powerful emotional core. A little more seasoning will only make this one better; it’s certainly a welcome addition to the new streaming landscape.

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