You know that thing where you take a bite out of something that’s maybe been in your fridge too long and it just tastes off. Like maybe it’s rotten. Or maybe it’s just stale. Or maybe you shouldn’t have stored it so close to that un-Tupperwared onion. But you don’t take one bite. You take several. You know this isn’t something good. It’s not something you’re enjoying and yet you can’t stop. Cuckoo is that funky food bit.
I was in that weird valley Netflix has created where I’d finished one binge (season two of Fresh Meat) and was on the hunt for my next. Predicting that I was down for more British comedy, Netflix teased an image like the one above in its slider. I recognized Greg Davies as the hilariously apathetic principal from The Inbetweeners (another Britcom I’ve binged), and took that as a good omen. And does it co-star Taylor Lautner? Weird. But as someone who didn’t sit through more than the first Twilight movie, I’ve got nothing against the kid. Plus, the premise seemed like it could be a fun culture clash comedy:
Rachel shocks her proper British parents when she marries an American hippie, but it’s just the first in a series of surprises for the family.
The episode begins with a girl on a beach falling for the airheaded pick-up lines of a dreadlocked—holy shit is that Andy Samberg?
Yep. Andy Samberg—despite not being in a single promotional image on Netflix—is Cuckoo. And Cuckoo is of course not a real name, but one he gave himself after a hallucinogenic trip that made him realize he is all people and so names are meaningless. K.
Things went from WTF to “sweet bicycling Christ I hate this” pretty damn fast. First off, Cuckoo is not a hippie. He’s a Yale drop-out who banged around the world on his parents’ dime, doing “a lot of drugs I’m not proud of and some drugs I am proud of”, until he decided he is a great philosopher whose eventual book will save the sheeple of the world. Lucky us.
Davies and his ever-furrowed brows play Ken, Cuckoo’s constantly flustered father-in-law to whom we are supposed to relate. However, the two spend the first season (yes, I watched the whole thing because bingeing is a cruel fucking mistress of an addiction) trying to out-awful each other.
Cuckoo delivers an obnoxious speech about how he intends to live under his father-in-law’s roof, rent-free for an indefinite amount of time because he’s a “thinker.” Jobs are beneath him, you see. So Ken counters by trying to buy this weirdo off, urging Cuckoo to abandon his newlywed daughter. Cuckoo constantly speaks in graphic detail about his and Rachel’s sex life. Ken accuses Rachel of metaphorically “raping” him and her mother by bringing Cuckoo into their lives. Cuckoo gets stoned and does naked yoga on the family’s kitchen table. Ken accidentally kills a cat that Cuckoo has convinced the family is his reincarnated mother-in-law. And so it goes. As an entitled American douchebag (not hippie) with delusions of grandeur, Cuckoo is the worst. But both of them are assholes who treat Rachel with zero respect. And why should they? She’s not a character as much as a plot requirement.
Both Rachel and her mother are given little importance or agency in the first season. Mostly, they exist solely to fawn over every word Cuckoo says, no matter how condescending or nonsensical, just to add more thorns to Ken’s backside. In one scene, Ken politely asks Cuckoo to never again walk into his and his wife’s bedroom naked. There’s no reaction shot of Rachel. No sense of how she feels about her husband swinging dick around her family’s home. And when they do finally cut to her, she says nothing about that incident and instead backs Cuckoo’s plan to force Ken’s WWII books out of his study because they make Cuckoo think of Nazis. K.
Ken’s wife Lorna is similarly confounding. Despite the fact that her daughter returned from a year abroad married to a stranger who refuses to get a job and so suggests Rachel give up college and work for both of them, Lorna loves Cuckoo. Even when he’s driving her husband mad, bragging how Rachel needs his dick, or treats her daughter like an indentured servant. The female characters are so thinly drawn I was actually gritting my teeth any time they spoke up—mostly to say something like “Oh, Cuckoo, that’s wonderful!” or “Oh Daddy how dare you.” Women, amirite?
Because it’s British television, the first season only had six episodes. So I worked through those fast and furious. I became obsessed with why Taylor Lautner was in the poster image. When the hell does he show up? I had assumed as a rival love interest, but gave up hope of that—or any break from Samberg’s mugging and obnoxious shtick—by episode 3. So, when I saw the first episode of season two featured Lautner in the thumbnail, I had to watch it, right?
Season two begins with Cuckoo dying for being a dummy. Huzzah! Cut to two years later, Rachel’s a widow, still living with her parents, but she’s chucked the bohemian look for a business suit. So, we get that her life is back on the straight and narrow. Then she sees a bearded Taylor Lautner get hit by a car. And even though Rachel has a nice respectable boyfriend who works with her dad and seems to adore her, Lorna starts talking about the real connection she had with that hit-and-run (as in he literally ran away) weirdo.
Well as fate would have it he turns up at their door. He’s Cuckoo’s long lost son. K. And Rachel starts swooning over him. K. And he’s part of a cult that believes in alien overlords. K. And he’s really condescending about how he’ll survive the Armageddon but his new family won’t. Of course.
Netlflix wants me to know season three of Cuckoo is available April 15th. I want to know why I do this to myself.
Kristy Puchko lives in
perpetual fear that ice cream will become self-aware New York City.