Remember when you were a little kid and you would fall asleep on the couch after a “Spongebob Squarepants” marathon? You’d wake up in the middle of the night, and there was always some adult cartoon playing. It was always a little weird, a little creepy and impossible to figure out what was going on or who the show existed for in the first place. That show was “Bless the Harts.” It’s about a family from the American South, and while it’s a slightly different take on yet another white American family, there’s nothing particularly inspiring or unique about it.
The pilot jumps right into the life of the Hart family who live in a small town somewhere in the South. There’s a star-studded cast, with Kristen Wiig (“Big Mouth”) playing Jenny Hart, Maya Rudolph (“Big Mouth”) playing Betty Hart, Ike Barinholtz (“The Twilight Zone”) playing Wayne Edwards, and Kumail Nanjiani (“Silicon Valley”) playing Jesus, for some reason. The bulk of the story is centered around the family’s struggles from living paycheck to paycheck — in the pilot, the family’s water gets shut off. Jenny finds out that her mother, Betty, has been hoarding these stuffed animals called “Hug N’ Bugs” in a storage unit, in hopes of selling them for a fortune in the future. Throughout the episode, they try to auction these stuffed animals off on the internet, only to find out that they don’t hold any value anymore.
The show makes small historical jokes, as the Hug N’ Bugs were all inspired by a historical figure. At some point, Jenny says, “Good news, Nelson Mandela Super Soaker Hug N’ Bug. I’m setting you free!” which elicited a nose-exhale laugh from me. The rest of the jokes were at this caliber or lower, which offers little to nothing fresh in the world of comedy, especially in the realm of adult animation. The southern small-town living is also a trope that we’ve seen plenty of times before, but the show didn’t put much effort into putting a twist on it. There was the staple mom’s dumb boyfriend, the staple southern religiosity and the staple “this’ll sell for a fortune later” hoarder.
The main issues with the series are its lack of originality and unwillingness to push boundaries. With the vast collection of adult animation out there today, there’s nothing about this show that makes it stand out amongst the others. But perhaps this is too harsh. It’s possible that I, an East-Coaster, was not the target audience for this kind of show. After all, I’ve never spent more than a week in the South, and that’s certainly not enough time to pick up on the intricacies of Southern small-town living. But if they were going to make this show targeted toward a niche audience, then it might have been set up to fail anyway. Perhaps over the course of the season, the writers will learn to dig deeper and find relatability in the specificity of the circumstances, and the audience can grow to larger than that small portion of the country.