Length: 10 x episodes (25-46 minutes each)
Going through puberty is a confusing, embarrassing nightmare. Your voice changes beyond recognition, your skin erupts with zits and parts of your body begin to resemble startled wombats. The raging hormones, the chronic self consciousness and the epic mood swings, it’s all just terrible.
It’s also, objectively speaking, rich material to mine for comedy gold. Just ask the talented creators of (very) adult animated series, Big Mouth, as they bring us their fourth season on Netflix to mostly great results.
Big Mouth season four continues to tell the story of 8th graders, Nick Birch (Nick Kroll), Andrew Glouberman (John Mulaney), Jessi Glaser (Jessi Klein), Jay Blizerian (Jay Mantzoukas) and Missy Foreman-Greewald (Jenny Slate/Ayo Edebiri) as they navigate the rocky road of puberty, relationships and human sexuality.
When we last saw the gang in Season three, Nick and Andrew were besties no more, Nick broke up with Missy and Jessi’s future was uncertain as her parents were getting divorced and she was about to move to the big city.
Season four picks up the narrative threads, with a hilarious (and intermittently disgusting) three episode arc set at camp.
Nick is delighted to catch up with his camp chum, Seth Goldberg (played by Seth Rogan, no less!) but becomes horrified when Andrew and Seth bond based on their shared gross sense of humour and, uh... girthy members.
Jessi finds herself spending time with newly transitioned Natalie (Josie Totah), but has problems bonding with the other, snootier girls. She also suffers from an issue leading to a sanitary pad gag that is almost as jaw-droppingly shocking/hilarious as the one from Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (aka: Borat 2).
Also, Andrew develops “poop madness”. It’s a whole thing. There’s a song.
What sets Big Mouth apart from other profane, sweary adult animations is the heart at the core of the piece.
Yes, this is a show that features Kristen Wiig as Jessi’s talking vagina, an absolutely clueless hormone monster who gives terrible dating advice as well as the horny ghost of Duke Ellington (Jordan Peele). But it also explores the often taboo truths of human sexuality with an uncommon sensitivity and wisdom.
In season four, Nick has to learn to embrace empathy to avoid becoming a soulless shell of a man in later life. Jessi has to contend with both the Depression Kitty (Jean Smart) and Tito the Anxiety Mosquito (Maria Bamford), and face with the fact sometimes boys are beautiful, vacuous idiots.
Missy, meanwhile, must confront her own blackness and understand what it means to be African American in modern day America.
Of course, an animated show is nothing without excellent voice actors, and Big Mouth has an embarrassment of riches in that department.
Nick Kroll, who plays an absurd number of the characters, really imbues Nick with a kind of lost little boy energy (at the same time as voicing two hormone monsters and the deeply unfortunate Coach Steve). John Mulaney is reliably hilarious as Andrew, and Jessi Klein owns Jessi Glaser. However, Jenny Slate is probably the MVP with her work as Missy.
Interestingly, as season four ends, Slate recognises the fact a 37-year-old white woman probably shouldn’t be playing black characters in 2020, and Ayo Edebiro takes over the role. We’ll get to see more of her work in the greenlit fifth season, but she certainly starts out strong.
Ultimately, Big Mouth season four is more of the show you love. It’s weird, self aware, wacky, genuinely hilarious but with a lowkey humanity that really lets the moments of pathos land with a genuine sense of emotional impact.
It’s also a show that features an extended musical number about “poop madness” so, maybe don’t watch it with your nan or that one friend who gets offended by everything.
Everyone else, however, can have a hoot and be deeply, profoundly grateful puberty happened a long, long time ago.
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