4 out of 5
Created by: Wendy Molyneux, Lizzie Molyneux, and Minty Lewis
covers season 1
It’s all there in the opening theme song: full harmony, everyone singing together, absolutely sincerely celebrating the most mundane things with cheekily charming phrasing. The Great North is rarely a laugh out loud show, but it earns something equivalent to the experience thanks to how dedicated it is to the song’s approach, with the Tobin family – lodged in Lone Moose, Alaska – wholly protective of one another, and their hometown, and then also wholly blind to how strange and silly their various customs might be. Stopping it there would be enough for a comedy series, but The Great North takes it steps further – everyone in Lone Moose as another version of the Tobins, just on their own wavelength. When others come to town to visit, it’s the same. Everyone’s unique, mind you, but there’s not a character who gets to stand outside of the quirk and make strange faces at others’ behaviors – while the great North featured in The Great North is spotlighted as an isolated locale, creators Wendy Molyneux, Lizzie Molyneux, and Minty Lewis smartly immerse us in that setting, never winking at their viewers; we get to join in on all these quirks and oddities, and accept the Tobins as our own extended family.
This comes with a slight learning curve of a few episodes, even for those in tune to the Molyneux’s work on Bob’s Burgers: with the young Judy Tobin (Jenny Slate) speaking to her imaginary friend / offerer or wisdom Alanis Morrissette, in a riff on capping off sitcoms with moral lessons; and with the youngest Tobin, Moon (Aparna Nancherla) always suited up in a bear onesie; and Wolf (Will Forte) forever open about his pooping habits around his fiancee, Honeybee (Dulcé Sloan); all of them led by single parent patriarch Beef (Nick Offerman) – I mean, just that name – there’s the constant expectation that the show is going to veer off into Family Guy wiseacres, or modern-day Simpsons randomness, or something with surreal and dark asides like Bojack Horseman, but instead… the show just maintains its course. Yes, some very specific hijinx fuels each episode – preparing for a curling competition; bartering for avocados; setting up Beef on a date – but it’s indirectly hilarious how the show manages to craft a very logical in-world way for characters to approach these things that’s never predictable, but always, somehow, entertaining, while still maintaining that hunky-dory vibe.
The writers and directors keep thus churning, for sure, but that voice cast named above is also a huge part of it, in addition to tons of other characters who reoccur or pop-up as guests: everyone seems to get it, and so The Great North’s spell is never broken, across 11 eminently rewatchable episodes.