F is for Family the Netflix original is an animated sitcom that pushes the limits. Sitcom stands for situation comedy. F is for Family is a genre of comedy where all the main characters, the Murphy clan live in your typical suburban home. The audience will experience gut laughter and at least one moral life lesson by the end of each episode. Creator and stand up comedian Bill Burr achieves these effects each episode with his traditional but, creative narrative structure. This show also is a good example to look at Barthe’s Narrative Theory that includes the Hermeneutic Code. In other words the narrative has representation of an enigma, delay and resolution.
The episode I studied was season 1 episode 4 “‘F’ is for Halloween”. The episode runs the way the late great Aristotle would have wanted it to. The story has your typical beginning, middle and end. Aristotle would have liked F is for Family because of how creative the plot is but, he would probably be freaked out by the talking moving paintings in the magic box. This story is told though the main characters interactions as a functioning or not so functioning family.
The show starts of like most TV shows today with a lead in or the first couple of minutes before the introduction. The opening scene we get a glimpse of some excellent 70’s TV with the Waffler.There is a little bit of intertexuality with a shout to Frankenstein who kills his victims with a head crushing waffle maker. All 3 kids Kevin, Bill, Maureen are obviously glued to the TV. Sue the mother settles them down after the Waffler pours syrup on his victim to sweeten up his meal of brains. She’s in control of her kids, household chores and his succeeding in her plastic ware career. Sue is told about a part time sales manger position but, tells her boss she needs to ask her “bread winner” husband if he was okay with it. Frank comes home with a new tie clip for excellence at work but, he is shamed by the fact his wife won an expensive new answering machine that the kids are all drooling over. Franks day gets worse and the answering machine records his ignorant boss reaming him out because his union workers went on strike.Frank rushing to work is usual the equilibrium in his world remains balanced.
I touched upon the intro in my Critical Orientation. You can watch the into here but, the song featured is Come and Get Your Love by the Native American rock group Redbone. This song symbolizes the hard love Frank gives to his family and the struggle he goes through to support his family. This intro and song choice also sets the context for the viewer.
The show cuts after the intro to airport where Frank has just showed up after hearing the answering machine. Frank tries to talk to his guys but he gets no where. It’s Halloween, Maureen and Bill choose costumes while Kevin struggles to find somewhere to do homework. Sue leaves Frank at home to run to the store for 30 minutes and he starts get anxious and upset he has to watch his three kids. While in charge Frank picks up the phone when Sue’s boss calls telling her she was going to be hired for the job. Frank overwhelmed with the duties of being a mom lies to the boss and says Sue decided not to take the job behind her back. In this situation Frank is his own worst enemy and this lies set him up for disaster. The phone call plants a seed in your brain or enigma. An enigma is an uncertainty in the story and my brain was telling me Frank was in for it.
Meanwhile, things were going to smoothly for Bill. His bully Jimmy overhears Bill talking about trick or treating. Jimmy tells Bill and his friends that if he catches them wearing costumes he will beat the sh@t out of them. Jimmy is Bill’s villain and screws up Bill’s last Halloween as a kid resulting in a disequilibrium in the narrative.
Frank is then at his job showing off his answer machine to his employees when the machine malfunctions. At home the phone call of Frank lying to Sue’s boss is being played out loud and Franks realizes this and craps his pants. He rushes home to find Sue listening to the message infuriated. She storms out and Frank shouts,”You can’t leave me with these kids I won’t survive”. Frank is in the middle of the street when a hoard of trick or treaters’ ascend upon his house. It looks like a scene out of the Walking Dead. Frank ends up loosing all of the candy after bickering with the kids in the video below and ends up giving the next kids scolding hot pasta instead. (Video NSFW profanity at the end).
Kevin the oldest kids end up getting sucked into partying with his friends and taking pumpkin pot hits. Kevin ends up finishing is homework when ironically the answer to his last question was on the back of a presidential themed beer he was drinking. This time alone with the responsibility of cleaning, cooking and taking care of his kids, was Franks delay or the problems he had to go through before he could resolve is marital hiccup.
Bill gets the courage to leave the house and Jimmy is immediately there and beats the crap out of him. Jimmy wouldn’t be a good villain if he didn’t back himself up. Bill never resolves the disequilibrium that was Jimmy’s beating this episode. Bill Burr leaves that for us towards the end of the series. Frank drives around in his 1968 Ford Galaxie that my grandpa probably had in the 70’s,
till he finds Sue at the batting cages. My older readers might recognize this car. In earlier episodes she is referenced to be a college softball player before she got married. As she takes out her anger on the balls; Frank is sweet talking and apologizing to his wife. Frank understands how important this job is to Sue and comes to terms with it. He gets his resolution, becomes the hero, and defeats himself technically because he was his own villain. Anyways, Frank drives away as Sue smiles and hits dingers into the cage. This is a moment of victory for Sue. The show ends with the song I Wanna Be Free by Suzi Quatro. I thought a great way to end this post was the same way Sue did. Click to play Suzi below. I would still jam to this.