Table of Contents
Photo: ‘Boo, Bitch’
The First Episode Is Also the Best
I’m about to bully the new Netflix comedy miniseries, ‘Boo, Bitch’, but firstly I do want to be fair to it; in its defense, it faced an uphill battle right from the start. It’s one thing to make a high school comedy, which is already a Herculean task, simply for the reason that by the time you’re even able to work on a film or TV show about the high school experience, you’re (at the very least) a decade removed from your own time in high school. I barely remember what my time in high school was like, and I’m pretty young still.
As such, rarely is the authentic high school experience, how kids talk, and what they do outside of class, captured on film, either literally or by way of metaphor. On top of all this, ‘Boo, Bitch’ is also a ghost story. Two friends, Erika and Gia (played by Lana Condor and Zoe Colletti respectively) have one of those symbiotic relationships certain best friends have, where they try to stay together as often as possible and fear any kind of separation. One night, strolling through a nearby forest, the friends get caught in a freak accident, with a moose (why a moose?) hurling towards them, the big animal seemingly crushing Erika to death.
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The good news is that death lasts maybe only a second. Erika is back, now as a ghost but otherwise pretty much the same person she was before, and Gia is able to see and interact with her as if Erika was still alive; the difference is that one of them is dead now, I suppose. It’s their last year of high school, and despite being conventionally attractive, nobody at school has noticed either of the girls up to this point; in a way, they were both ghosts prior to the accident, and Erika is the one who becomes a real person. Indeed, becoming a ghost has to be the best thing that’s happened to Erika: her personality changes drastically, she is able to confront Riley (played by Aparna Brielle), the local alpha bitch, and even charms Riley’s boyfriend, Jake C. (played by Mason Versaw).
Whereas Erika was timid before, now she’s on her way to becoming the most popular girl at school, not to mention a minor internet celebrity — but at what cost? Will her friendship with Gia suffer from her newfound fame? Obviously yes, but there’s more to it than that, and the first episode of ‘Boo, Bitch’ stands out as its most inventive, most emotionally genuine, and most disciplined in its plot structure; the following seven episodes, in my opinion, fail to build on the promise of the show’s premiere.
The real shame is that Condor and Colletti give heartfelt performances, despite of the material they’re given. Lana Condor especially has the difficult task of playing both a sort of shrinking violet in the beginning and later an alpha bitch — both of which she pulls off with a theatrical gusto that nevertheless makes her the star of an otherwise ill-fated series. No matter how much our two leads try to give credibility, the show suffers heavily from a lack of plausibility in both its representation of high school and the mechanics of its supernatural encounters.
Nonsensical Dialogue and Bogus Rules
The dialogue of ‘Boo, Bitch’ can, at times, read like something human beings could actually say with their mouths, but a disconcerting amount of screentime is devoted to teens spouting initialisms and acronyms that have almost certainly never been used in any real-life conversations, not to mention the problem of it being easy to forget what all this word salad even means. The problem with writing youth is that youth jargon is very much of its time, regardless of whether you’re doing the present day or a period piece, and despite their best efforts, people a generation or two removed from the current youth will have a hard time understanding what the younger generation is up to; the result, in the case of ‘Boo, Bitch’, is what seems to be a tryhard attempt at capturing terminally online lingo.
Is it true that having people in their last year of high school talk more intelligently would be “unrealistic”? Maybe, but this show is fantastical, and anyway, the supernatural element only works (shakily, at that) on a metaphorical level, as I will explain, so why not go an extra step and grant these characters more coherent speech? The teen drama is hampered, and even obscured somewhat, by the rococo dialogue, which makes me wonder if actual teenagers would even be fond of this show.
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The other thing is that there are rules regarding Erika’s new life as a ghost, and these rules are murky, messy, and simply don’t make any sense if we’re to act on the presumption that Erika went from a normal person to a spooky person. For one, despite being a ghost, Erika is still totally corporeal: not only can everyone still see and hear her, but she can interact with the physical world just as she did before. Seemingly the only people who know Erika is dead are Gia and a group of weird occult kids who sort of remind me of the S.O.S. Brigade from ‘The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’, if those people were totally lame and didn’t have superpowers.
You may be wondering, “How can Erika be a ghost if she can interact with the rest of the world like she’s still alive, and nobody can tell that she’s a ghost? How does that work?” I suspect that even the passive viewer may have these questions (and more) sink into their minds, and while I won’t give away any major spoilers, I will say that there is a late-series twist that will strike pretty much everyone as super-obvious, as the internal logic of the show would literally break down without it. Ultimately, ‘Boo, bitch’ is a show that doesn’t have all the wrinkles (or maybe any of the wrinkles) ironed out, being unable to make sense of its characters — be they alive or dead.
‘Boo, Bitch’ Gets Boos from the Audience
There are great teen comedies out there. One of my favorite comedies, teen or otherwise, is ‘Heathers’ (the movie, not the TV show), which I would argue has one of the sharpest screenplays of any Hollywood production in the past half-century. Heck, even what I’ve seen of ‘Freaks and Geeks’, that short-lived effort from Judd Apatow and Paul Feig, did an admirable job of conceiving compelling and yet still authentic high schoolers. Sadly, like most teen-centered media, ‘Boo, Bitch’ fails as fiction because it fails to understand the workings of its subject matter, although, in fairness, it seems more like the creative team made a genuine effort with the premise, rather than phone it in; the failure comes more from being unable to marry the show’s two prime but disparate elements than a lack of effort.
As I said earlier, the show starts promising, but it’s practically demolished by incredibly sloppy execution, and even the show’s eight-episode run feels bloated, with each episode not even reaching the half-hour mark; you could, quite possibly, recut the series into a two-hour feature film. For better or worse, Netflix has the long-running tendency to greenlight pretty much anything that has even a little money behind it, and for every ‘Marriage Story’ there are at least twenty projects that come out stillborn — such is the fate of ‘Boo, Bitch.’
‘Boo, Bitch’ is currently available to stream on Netflix.
CAST: Lana Condor, Zoe Colletti, Mason Versaw, Aparna Brielle, Tenzing Norgay Trainor
CREW: Creators: Tim Schauer, Kuba Soltysiak, Erin Ehrlich, Lauren Iungerich, Producers: Arlyn Richardson, Nellie Rachel Nugiel, Music: Kovas
By Brian Collins
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