screencap of the stars of "Tuca & Bertie"

‘Tuca & Bertie’ Gets a Second Life Thanks to Adult Swim

The Netflix Original series was abruptly cancelled after only one season, but now it's getting another chance to grace your screens.
August 31, 2020
6 mins read

“Tuca & Bertie” is about two anthropomorphic birds who are learning how to navigate friendships and relationships as they mature into adults. Tuca is a fun-loving, outspoken toucan who isn’t afraid to stick up for Bertie, an anxious song thrush who enjoys a good spreadsheet.

Much to the dismay of fans, “Tuca & Bertie” was cancelled shortly after its first season. Despite the show receiving a 98% positive review on Rotten Tomatoes, it failed Netflix’s rigid algorithmic system that determines the success or failures of their original series.

For those unfamiliar with the show, “Tuca & Bertie” may look like a spin-off of another Netflix original, “BoJack Horseman.”  There are some noticeable similarities between the two shows; they share an animation style, a producer and an anthropomorphic world. But that’s about where the resemblance stops.

In tone, “Tuca & Bertie” tends to take a much more positive and encouraging outlook. The show deals with different issues, resolves differently and has very different goals than “BoJack Horseman.”

The good news is the critically acclaimed show was granted a second season by “Adult Swim,” and is set to air in 2021. The announcement was made in a YouTube video featuring the best bird friends dressed in swimsuits for their “Adult Swim” Party. It was good to see the pair on screen again.

YouTube player

For readers who have not yet watched the show or were not as impressed with the first season as I was, I want to discuss some of the reasons “Tuca & Bertie” deserves its second chance.

Breaking the Gendered Trend

A quick Google search of “adult animated tv shows” will demonstrate that the majority have predominately male casts. Besides the 1990’s darling “Daria,” none even feature female leads. Most adult animated shows are about or center on men, but “Tuca & Bertie” offers a respite in this male dominated industry.

For one, the executive producer and creator of the show is a woman: Lisa Hanawalt, former producer of “BoJack Horseman.” Furthermore, the show stars two women of color — Tiffany Haddish as Tuca and Ali Wong as Bertie. With this line-up, the show breaks an oppressive trend.

While there are many reasons it’s so important to have a diverse, female cast on an adult animated show, my favorite is its impact on the content.

Giving a Platform to Overlooked Issues

I love adult animation. I think it’s a great way to confront darker themes in brightly colored worlds, and the shows do so in ways more creative than what can be achieved with a live-action cast. Take “BoJack Horseman,” for example. The show literally focuses on a talking horse, but it also handles dark themes such depression, addiction and cycles of abuse with much more care and nuance than live-action shows currently on air.

As a result of adult animation being a male dominated genre, they rarely give the same care or screen time to issues affecting women in particular.

For example, while other shows have dealt with gendered harassment before, none have done it in quite the same way as “Tuca & Bertie.” In one storyline, Bertie takes an apprenticeship at a bakery with the famous pastry chef Pastry Pete. On her first day of working in his shop, Pete encourages Bertie to take a look into a boiling pot of fruit roux. As Bertie is looking inside the pot, Pete forces her face down so she’s uncomfortably close to the boiling roux. After Pete lets go, Bertie looks physically shaken and makes a run to the bathroom to calm down.

After the incident, Bertie doesn’t know how to feel about what happened to her. Deep down, Bertie knows she feels unsettled but doesn’t know exactly why. On one hand, Pete’s style of teaching is generally a little extreme, but on the other he made an aggressive move that caused Bertie to feel unsafe and experience harm. She doesn’t speak up for herself and makes excuses for Pete later on.

The storyline was particularly powerful in explaining how victims may feel after experiencing harassment. Most times, the victim is confused and conflicted, as they don’t know the intensions of the aggressor.  When the victim does speak up for themselves, the aggressor may take offense at their accusations and then convince the victim that their feelings are unfounded. Consequently, many victims are afraid of speaking up and instead make excuses so the incident doesn’t seem so bad.

Although this form of self-gaslighting is not exclusive to women, it does usually go hand-in-hand with sexual harassment, which 81% of women have experienced in their lifetime.

“Tuca & Bertie” also bring to light other overlooked issues, including ectopic pregnancy, alcoholism in party culture and overcoming childhood trauma in a positive manner.

Fun Not Seen Before

What’s great about “Tuca & Bertie” is how unafraid the show is to dive into some wacky misadventures, and also how willing it is to give way to full blown weirdness in its storylines. For example, in one episode, Tuca misuses a treatment for sex bugs that then grow huge and run rampant around a grocery store.

The animation itself is fantastic and offers a creative avenue for its eccentric storylines, even experimenting with claymation at one point. Some adult animated shows can be rigid, never attempting to use the limitless space or ability to put their characters in any situation or setting imaginable. Perhaps with “Tuca & Bertie” as a pioneer, other shows will be encouraged to try to use the platform in more creative ways.

Some of My Unanswered Questions

And lastly, the most important reason “Tuca & Bertie” deserves a second season is so we can finally answer all of my questions.

In the first season, viewers meet a gaggle of interesting characters and hint at complex back stories. I hope that, with the show’s continuation, we’ll learn more about this amazing anthropomorphic world and all it contains.

Anna Swenson, Butler University

Writer Profile

Anna Swenson

Butler University
English Public Professional Writing

Anna Swenson is an Indianapolis native who recently relocated to Valdosta, Georgia. She’s a senior at Butler University and studies English Public Professional Writing. Her hobbies include baking, cactus collecting, and traveling.

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