Review: Everything Sucks

Jahi Di'Allo Winston and Peyton Kennedy in Everything Sucks

Everything Sucks is a coming of age tale set in Boring, Oregon (a real place). The cast is full of high school kids who are lovable misfits in every way, and who all fall into mad first love with unreachable others. Beware the spoilers.

In this high school full of unique characters, the two leads are Jahi Di’Allo Winston as Luke O’Neil and Peyton Kennedy as Kate Messner.

Luke’s two nerdy AV Club friends are Tyler (Quinn Liebling) and McQuaid (Rio Mangini). They all enter Freshman year with the wild hope that maybe they will get to kiss a girl.

They join the AV Club. The moment they enter, two students are on classroom televisions giving the morning announcements. Kate Messner is behind the camera. Kate is love at first sight for Luke. Ben York Jones, one of the series creators, plays the AV Club sponsor, Mr. Stargrove.

Luke gets Kate to come to his place to work on a faulty camera – he has all sorts of audio visual equipment 1990s style thanks to his missing dad. While Kate is in his garage, she steals a girly magazine.

Kate likes girls. Not only that – she’s the principal’s daughter and she’s a Sophomore. Mere challenges to be overcome for Luke.

Sydney Sweeney and Elijah Steven in Everything Sucks
The most perfect, beautiful girl in the school and she’s dating a boy! What luck.

Specifically, Kate likes Emaline (Sydney Sweeney) the overly dramatic girlfriend of overly dramatic Oliver (Elijah Stevenson). These two are the mainstays of the drama club and play it to the hilt.

Luke is a super creative kid and he makes a movie asking Kate to be his girlfriend. It’s broadcast to the whole school and when it ends the camera turns on them and he asks her to go out. What can she say with the whole school watching breathlessly but, “Yes.”

Kate is terrified about having a boyfriend. Luke is over the moon about having a girlfriend, even though she tells him she likes girls. He tries to kiss her in the auditorium and she reacts by pulling a nearby fire alarm. The sprinklers come on, the auditorium is drenched, and the sets for the play the drama club was about to put on are ruined.

Time to meet the parents. Kate’s dad Ken Messner (Patch Darragh) is the school principal. Luke’s mom Sherry (Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako) gets called in to talk with the principal because Luke confesses to the water damage to save his girlfriend.

Patch Darragh and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako in Everything Sucks
Grownups can fall in love, too.

The parents immediately fall in love. They hit some bumps in the road, but nothing like the kids do. Patch Darragh and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako have wonderful chemistry, which helps.

Here’s the deal. The kid from the AV Club has ruined things for the Drama Club. He wants to smooth things over. Luke, Tyler, McQuaid, and Kate find the Drama Club kids and offer them wine coolers as a peace offering. After much struggle and some quickly improvised ideas for a movie Luke will direct starring the Drama Club kids, detente is reached. The remainder of the series deals with creating this movie while various members of the two clubs develop first crushes on one another. Of course, not on anyone who crushes back. Life is hard when you’re in high school. Really, everything sucks.

Luke and Kate both have lost parents. Luke’s dad ran off and left them. Kate’s mom committed suicide. For all the ups and downs of their relationship, they bond over this.

Luke gets tickets to see Kate’s favorite, Tori Amos. They sneak off in a car Luke’s dad left behind and drive to Portland. Kate driving to Portland with only a learner’s permit is pretty crazy, but later in the series she drives a school bus all over Los Angeles.

At the Tori Amos concert, Kate sees girls kissing. It thrills and empowers her. She tells Luke they can’t go on pretending. She wants to be who she is.

Luke is angry for a while, but eventually the fact that Luke and Kate actually like each other makes them into friends.

Emaline, Kate’s unrequited crush, makes some confusing moves. When her guy Oliver thinks he can become a famous actor in New York, she starts talking to and hanging out with Kate.

Sydney Sweeney and Peyton Kennedy in Everything Sucks
A dream come true.

After the big movie is aired to a huge crowd, Emaline asks Kate to dance and they share Kate’s first kisses. The joy on Kate’s face is beautiful. Several other characters experience their first kiss in this series, but this first kiss was the most significant and brought the most fireworks.

The grownups are happy. Kate kissed the girl she’s dreamed of. Luke is a local hero for directing a movie everyone loved. Naturally, that’s when a plot twist is thrown into the works and season 1 ends.

Kate’s story is beautifully done. She’s not out in public yet, but she’s gained clarity within herself. Luke is sensitive and charming and brilliantly creative. The two of them support each other over the loss of a parent. While Kate and Luke are the most developed characters, others in the story  are also treated with care.

Everything Sucks is absolutely charming. The episodes are short, so watching all 10 episodes of season 1 doesn’t take a big time commitment. The series was created by Ben York Jones and Michael Mohan. Michael Mohan and Ry Russo-Young were the directors.

I recommend this series and hope Netflix renews it for a second season. I suppose it will be compared with Stranger Things because it’s mostly kids driving the action and solving problems. The tone of Everything Sucks is nothing like Stranger Things. Excellent young actors and a nostalgia for the 1990s parallel parts of Stranger Things, but that’s about it.

A footnote about the dancing baby. What they were waiting endlessly for the noisy modem and laborious download speed to deliver was actually a web page about how to get high using items found in the home. There was no dancing baby in the actual scene. The dancing baby is a sweet hello to Ally McBeal that I personally appreciated.

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