The G Word

3 out of 5

Created by: Adam Conover

covers season 1

Netflix is making content of a lot of things I don’t understand, but if they want to entice this particular viewer – keep making shows with Adam Conover. The G Word’s examination of government organizations – that’s the ‘G’ – may not be as successful or as biting as Adam Ruins Everything could be, but the comedian’s style of presentation, and the way the information is presented (assisted, as he’s eager to remind, by a team behind the scenes) is always refreshing, and always welcomed.

This is, essentially, just a focused ARE special, but as you can likely imagine, it’s a huge topic, and 6 half hour episodes can’t chip away at much. The sub-topical buckets chosen are compelling as heck, though, and find some good focuses away from heavy hitters like debt, and health care – the USDA, weather monitoring; these are not immediately topics that come to mind, I’d think, as hot-button government issues, and so it’s definitely interesting to explore them.

But: this feels a bit like softball. Adam tries to address up front that Barack Obama is an executive producer on this, and that won’t cause the show from pulling its punches, and I do believe that, but it’s within the DNA of ARE (and thus The G Word) to try to balance out every negative with a positive, which I do appreciate, but the show tends to take a tactic of celebrating how much our government does first, and then inserting some negatives after that. It’s really only when we get to the penultimate COVID-19 focused episode on disease that the show opens up some more, and does not hesitate to point a finger at the Trump administration. I do think it’s important to celebrate the functional aspects of our government, it’s just that there’s so much time allotted to it, that the criticisms that follow don’t hit as hard as they could / should, though I sense this was maybe more of a concession to Netflix trying to play things peaceably as opposed to the Obama producer tag. (And its been said plenty before, but the man is funny – he’s in a couple bits with Adam – and damn does he come across as sincere and informed in interviews.)

The final episode does actually do a successful wrap-up, though, and is stirring – it provides some concrete, accessible suggestions, which is something Adam Ruins Everything was good at as well.

Watched in one sitting, and will be watched for however many seasons they want to make, The G Word’s half-hour, 6-episode format simply isn’t enough for its heavy-duty topics, and seemed to be holding back a bit in an attempt to be wider appealing. Entertaining as heck still, but if this format was tweaked to allow the show to go a bit deeper, it’d pack an incredible punch.