You know that a TV show has truly achieved something great when it gets its very first spin-off — a milestone that Netflix’s beloved animated series “Big Mouth” has now reached with its new companion show “Human Resources.” It’s a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of the fan-favorite feelings monsters in a hornier, more heartwarming version of “The Office.” The spin-off shifts focus from youthful sexuality and puberty to more mature issues, such as postpartum depression and mental illness — all while maintaining the immature sense of humor that the original series is known for. It’s raunchy, it’s all over the place, it’s “Inside Out” on steroids — it’s “Human Resources.”
While the show focuses on the lives of adult characters with adult problems, it’s their monsters and interpersonal relationships that take center stage, offering a fresh and frankly kind of meta storyline — isn’t it weird to think about our feelings having feelings? “Human Resources” is a huge expansion on the “Big Mouth” Cinematic Universe (BMCU), building the world by introducing some new monsters with a star-studded cast of voice actors. The main new addition is amateur Emmy (Aidy Bryant, “Shrill”), a Lovebug who’s more interested in after-work hookups and a fun nightlife than helping humans navigate their own love lives. When her boss gets fired, Emmy is forcibly assigned to the huge task of helping soon-to-be mom Becca (Ali Wong, “Always Be My Maybe”) handle the stress of parenthood, marriage and more by showing her the importance of love.
While scatterbrained Emmy often takes the spotlight, the show bounces between bunches of new feelings, monsters and their human counterparts, from Anxiety Mosquitoes and Logic Rocks to Depression Kitties and Shame Wizards. Fan-favorite hormone monsters Maury (Nick Kroll, “Big Mouth”) and Connie (Maya Rudolph, “The Good Place”) even make an appearance. Though there are numerous characters, everyone gets a chance at screen time, allowing less-loved monsters like Shame Wizard (David Thewlis, “Landscapers”) to be fleshed out and develop a non-villainous side. From Emmy’s feelings of incompetence in comparison to her successful coworker, Rochelle (Keke Palmer, “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder”), to her attempts at building a relationship with sleazy Addiction Angel Dante (Hugh Jackman, “Logan”), it’s the monster-monster relationships that really enrich “Human Resources.”
While the main focus of “Human Resources” may not always lie with the humans, the transition from child to adult characters really makes the show a better and more relatable viewing experience. Watching “Big Mouth” characters navigate middle school and prepubescent sexual experiences may have provoked some nostalgia — or maybe just second-hand embarrassment — but the adults and their adult struggles in “Human Resources” feel so much more realistic and hit closer to home. While Gen Zennials may not yet be able to relate to Becca’s struggles of balancing a high-powered career and a baby, they certainly can’t relate to Maury and the original “Big Mouth” crew anymore either, which may be why the hormone monsters were always more interesting than the meddling middle schoolers themselves. The insufferable children of “Big Mouth” made one egregious and selfish mistake after another, and while it’s hard to blame them (even though none of us are particularly fond of our middle school selves), the pivoted focus on the hormone monsters and their cohorts is incredibly refreshing. By virtue of working at Human Resources, these creatures generally have the best interests of their assigned human at heart, which, despite the incredibly crass tone of the show, is rather charming.
There are, of course, exceptions to the rule — Depression Kitties and Anxiety Mosquitoes certainly don’t have our best interests at heart, but Tito (Becca’s Anxiety Mosquito, as well as that of the original “Big Mouth” crew) retains a seat in the conference room, and they’re a welcome presence on “Human Resources.” While a Depression Kitty may not perfectly encapsulate every viewer’s experience, “Big Mouth” did something extremely powerful when it identified disordered thinking as characters separate from the self, drawing a distinction between the person and the mental illnesses. These monsters are not part of you, but parasites that grow stronger as you grow weaker. “Human Resources,” with its updated focus on these creatures, is poised to expand upon the powerful premise.
As many of my college-aged peers and I prepare to enter the “real world” of grown-up relationships and big-kid jobs, watching the humans of “Human Resources” work themselves out somehow gives me a bit of hope — even though I too sometimes find myself surrounded by Depression Kitties and Anxiety Mosquitoes. It’s refreshing and reassuring to watch the characters (semi)successfully take on more serious issues, and the occasional bawdy imagery, well-crafted musical numbers and immature humor (that I know my peers still possess) provide a carefree juxtaposition to the obstacles the characters are facing. I can only hope that my coworkers at my future big-kid job are as hilarious as the monsters of “Human Resources.” I guess one can dream.
Daily Arts Writer Annabel Curran can be reached at email@example.com and TV Beat Editor Emmy Snyder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.