The sitcom setup is tired and dated, and the comedy won’t leave you in hysterics, yet this show grows on you—comforting and light-hearted, easy-viewing.
This review of the Netflix sitcom series The Upshaws season 2 does not contain spoilers.
Netflix sitcom The Upshaws, created by Regina Y. Hicks (HBO’s Insecure) and comedian Wanda Sykes, returns to the streaming platform for a second season this summer, ready for viewers to binge-watch to their heart’s content. The show continues to follow the farcical misadventures of the titular Upshaw family in a standard sitcom format, complete with its very own canned laughter track and a tired, retro set. This situational comedy may appear extremely dated at first glance and offers nothing new to the genre, but provides a harmless and spirited scoop of unconventional family life for subscribers to enjoy.
The series centers on the clumsy but charming father of the gang, Bennie (Mike Epps), who works as a mechanic at his very own garage. Bennie struggles to juggle his hectic family life and failing business, whilst constantly attempting to reconcile with his on-again, off-again wife Regina. The show mainly splits between his squabbles at the family home and ‘downtime’ with the boys at work. Each episode finds our family in highly embarrassing and absurd situations, which as you can predict, don’t always end too well.
This complex family is made up of Bennie’s four children (from two mothers): Kelvin, Aaliyah, Maya, and Bernard Jr., as well as the ever-present Auntie Lucretia (played by co-creator Wanda Sykes), who despises Bennie. The show hinges on the chemistry between these cast members in this dysfunctional family setup, as they try to make it through each day with as little calamity as possible. But of course, there are plenty of shenanigans for the Upshaws to endure.
Episode one gets things off to a slow and steady start when a nine-year-old called Sydney comes a-knocking searching for her birth father. However, the show does pick up the pace from the second episode onwards, with Bennie and Regina’s relationship being tested to its limits and the garage fearing a surprise inspection at any moment. There are lots of slapstick and visual gags too, including a pet lizard on the loose, while Regina takes her all-important GMAT exam and Bennie’s prized car being vandalized in a memorable sequence. These humorous and sometimes surprising transgressions make for some entertaining and light-hearted snippets of television. It may be a familiar and comforting comedy, but there’s nothing wrong with that after all.
The likable fools at the garage allow for further absurdity and some workplace banter. Bennie works with Duck, an ex-convict who has now found God, and Tony, a cowardly employee who perpetually fears his girlfriend’s wrath. These juvenile jokers seem to get little work done and instead spend their days berating one another or finding themselves in evermore sticky situations. It isn’t the funniest show around, but the humor does grow on you as you get to know the cast of characters more closely.
It would be rather easy to criticize this show, with its tired aesthetics and generic comedy, but The Upshaws manages to surpass all these clichés and works on its own terms instead. This show doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is, there are no gimmicks or burning social motifs to explore. It is like comfort food, familiar and safe, but quite addictive.
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