Bill Burr voices a clueless 1970s dad in ‘F is for Family’

F is for Family

Two and a half stars

F is for Family Season 1 available December 18 on Netflix.

Comedian Bill Burr drew partially on his own upbringing to create F Is for Family, but the Netflix animated comedy doesn’t feel particularly distinctive. Aside from its salty language and a couple of brief sexually explicit moments, F Is for Family would be right at home on Fox or FX. Burr’s co-creator, Michael Price, is a veteran of The Simpsons, and while F Is for Family is more realistic and grounded than that long-running series, many of its characters and plot elements are similar.

Burr voices Frank, the patriarch of the Midwestern Murphy family, a short-tempered but well-intentioned guy working a blue-collar job (as an airport baggage handler) and trying to provide for his often ungrateful kids. The show is set in 1973, which mainly serves as an opportunity for Frank to voice his politically incorrect opinions without consequence, although some of the period detail in the animation is strong.

The first season’s six episodes are fairly self-contained, but there’s an ongoing storyline about Frank’s job that builds to a melancholy finish suggesting a potentially more insightful look at the struggles of a working-class family in the 1970s. Mostly Burr and Price are content to settle for predictable jokes about angry dads, rebellious teenagers and weird neighbors. F Is for Family most closely resembles Fox’s King of the Hill in its gentler moments, and the short-lived FX cartoon Unsupervised in its more cynical depictions of family life.

The animation is mostly simple and straightforward, and the character designs lean toward realism (as opposed to the surreal world of fellow Netflix animated series BoJack Horseman). The tone is more restrained than outrageous, but Burr and Price don’t have a strong enough perspective to compensate for the mediocre humor. Their average family is a little too average.

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