Brickleberry’s creators return for Round 2.
Note: This is a mostly spoiler-free review of the first season of Paradise PD, which is available to stream now on Netflix. I’ll discuss basic plot and character details but avoid getting too heavily into spoilers.
If you enjoyed Comedy Central’s Brickleberry but found yourself wishing it were about 60% more raunchy, then Paradise PD is the animated sitcom for you. This new Netflix series from creators Waco O’Guin and Roger Black is cut from the exact same cloth, with the only differences being that it focuses on small-town cops rather than park rangers, and that the freedom of Netflix allows for all the profanity, gratuitous violence and casual nudity anyone could ask for. That latter element does wind up working in the show’s favor to an extent. Paradise PD is simplistic and derivative, but also aggressive enough that it’s sure to score some laughs along the way.
The new series really does play like a remixed version of Brickleberry, to the point where you almost have to wonder if it would have been easier for O’Guin and Black to port that series over to Netflix rather than develop something “new.” It’s just as well this series is self-aware enough to poke fun at those similarities. Paradise PD features Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants himself) as Chief Randall Crawford, a chronic rageaholic forced to subsist on an endless supply of testosterone patches after his son accidentally shot off his testicles as a child. Said son Kevin (David Herman) is now the proverbial new kid on the force, while Randall’s ex-wife Karen (Grey Griffin) is now the combative mayor of Paradise.
Other main characters include Gina Jabowski (Sarah Chalke), a hyper-violent, over-achieving member of the force and Gerald “Fitz” Fitzgerald (Cedric Yarbrough), a recent transfer from Chicago with a nasty case of PTSD. Dana Snyder pulls double duty as the morbidly obese, flamboyant Dusty Marlow and the geriatric veteran of the force, Stanley Hopson. And because every adult-oriented animated sitcom needs a talking animal sidekick of some sort, Kyle Kinane voices Bullet, the drug-addicted, perpetually horny police dog.
Basically, every member of the Paradise PD team is a walking stereotype with only a character trait or two to distinguish them. Some of them grow and evolve over the course of these ten episodes. Randall comes the closest to feeling like a three-dimensional character by the end. Both Fitz and Dusty tend to be the most dependably entertaining when they’re put in the spotlight, the former because of his Peter Griffin-like attention span and penchant for flights of fancy and the latter because each new challenge feeds into another of his many psychological neuroses.
But despite the fact that every main character is given the chance to headline at least one episode, too many fail to rise above those initial stereotypes. Gina is always “the angry one.” Hopson is always “the old one.” Bullet is just a slightly amped-up version of every talking animal sidekick. And despite being ostensibly the main character of the series, Kevin winds up being the blandest of them all. He’s a straight man in a series that has little use for one.
It doesn’t necessarily help that Paradise PD has such a meager supporting cast to rely on. O’Guin and Black themselves show up every episode to play Robbie and Dilbert, a pair of local hillbillies who always seem tied into whatever problem crops up in any given episode. But other than that, there’s little attempt to make Paradise feel like a living, breathing, unique city. Springfield it isn’t.
Fans of the Family Guy school of humor will respond most strongly to Paradise PD. It’s similarly fueled by gross-out humor and pop culture references, which is where the show’s strengths come in. As reference-heavy as the series can be, it’s not nearly as beholden to cutaway gags as Family Guy is. The absurd plot developments usually serve the story in some way or another. And because Netflix doesn’t have many content restrictions getting in the way of the scatalogical humor, Paradise PD is free to be as inappropriate as anyone could ask for. It’s certainly not as clever or satirical as something like South Park, but there is a novelty in watching a show so gleefully unafraid to flaunt its violence and nudity. Just be prepared for plenty of uncensored, animated testicle shots.
The downside is that Paradise PD’s appeal is superficial at best. The humor is delivered at a steady enough dose that the series is entertaining, but little of it has any staying power. The series is clearly trying to be as topical and relevant as it can. For instance, one early episode features Fitz sparking a major confrontation between Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter protesters after accidentally shooting himself on the job. That episode attempts to make a point about race relations and the tension between police and citizens, but it comes up mostly empty. That same episode also tries to skewer the media by showing how outlets like MSNBC and Fox News are two sides of the same coin, but that too comes across as a very halfhearted attempt at political satire.
In general, the humor works better when it settles for being more broad and less topical. For instance, one episode revolves around the force being tasked with rounding up an underground ring of Dungeons & Dragons players. This results in one of the show’s more inspired gags, as a character highlights the razor thin line separating the “fantasy” of D&D lore from the “reality” of the Old Testament. For all that Paradise PD lives to offend anyone and everyone, it often finds more success when courting outrage isn’t priority #1. Though, apart from a particularly mean-spirited dig at actor Brendan Fraser, at least this series is pretty good about making the most deserving celebrities and politicians the subject of its wrath.
Another area in which the series tries to set itself apart is through the use of serialized storytelling. Like with Netflix’s other recent animated debut, Disenchantment, the execution is fairly haphazard. Early on, the series only establishes a loose sense of continuity by referencing jokes from previous episodes. But over time, a clearer storyline develops as Kevin struggles to prove his mettle by hunting down an elusive drug kingpin. Where Disenchantment’s undercooked storyline was one of that show’s most glaring flaws, I’m more willing to forgive Paradise PD for not making plot its central focus.