Tuca & Bertie
|Tuca & Bertie|
|Created by||Lisa Hanawalt|
|Based on||Tuca the Toucan|
by Lisa Hanawalt
|Theme music composer||Jesse Novak|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||10 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||25–26 minutes|
|Original release||May 3, 2019|
Tuca & Bertie is an American adult animated sitcom created by cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt that aired on May 3, 2019 on Netflix. It stars Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong, with a supporting cast including Steven Yeun, John Early, Richard E. Grant, and Reggie Watts. The show received critical acclaim, being referred to as one of the best shows of 2019. In July 2019, the series was canceled after one season.
Cast and characters
- Tiffany Haddish as Tuca, a toucan, Bertie's impulsive and newly sober best friend, who works odd jobs, and frequently relies on her rich Aunt Tallulah for financial support.
- Ali Wong as Roberta "Bertie" Songthrush, a songbird, Tuca's career-minded best friend, a senior operations analyst (previously a data processor) at Conde Nest, and aspiring baker.
- Steven Yeun as Speckle, a robin, Bertie's straight-laced architect boyfriend.
- Nicole Byer as various voices including Speckle's grandmother Gamby the ghost cake; Bertie's file cabinet; lady in the bathroom at Bertie's office.
- Richard E. Grant as Holland, Bertie's well-meaning but oblivious blue jay boss at Conde Nest.
- John Early as Dirk, Bertie's misogynistic rooster co-worker at Conde Nest.
- Reggie Watts as Pastry Pete, an accomplished penguin pastry chef that takes Bertie as an apprentice.
- Shamir Bailey as "Draca", a house plant neighbor.
- Jenifer Lewis as Aunt Tallulah, Tuca's rich aunt who has been supporting her financially.
- Kate Berlant as the "Women Taking Up Space" Lady, a lizard.
- Awkwafina as Bertie's breast.
- Tig Notaro as Yeast Week MC and Dr. Sherman, a flamingo physician.
- Michelle Dockery as Lady Netherfield, the star of Bertie's favorite TV show "The Nests of Netherfield"
- Adam Conover as Big_Hairy_Stallion69 (aka Joel), a horse Tuca meets online in a virtual sex chat.
- SungWon Cho as Ultra-Sam S380, a hospital machine.
- Amber Ruffin as Dakota with a Y, a naive, young canary who comes to work for Pastry Pete
- Laverne Cox as Ebony Black, a raven agent who works for the Center for Sex Bug Control, and Judge Sparrow, Judge Judy-esque TV personality whose show Tuca is a fan of.
- Tessa Thompson as Sophie Black, Ebony's adult daughter who has come to work for her after dropping out of business school. Ebony frequently belittles her for this and other missteps.
- Jane Lynch as Meredith Maple, Bertie's former swim coach, a red-crested turaco
- Isabella Rossellini as Pat, Meredith's wife, an owl
- Taraji P. Henson as Terry, Tuca's sister
Tuca originated in Lisa Hanawalt's webcomic Tuca the Toucan which ran from 2013–2014. On February 20, 2018, Netflix announced it had given the production a series order to consist of a first season of ten episodes. The series was created by Lisa Hanawalt who executive produced alongside Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Noel Bright, Steven A. Cohen, and Tiffany Haddish. Production companies involved in the series include The Tornante Company and ShadowMachine. On March 14, 2019, Netflix announced that the series would premiere on May 3, and a first look featurette trailer was released.
Alongside the initial series announcement, it was reported that Tiffany Haddish would voice the lead character of Tuca. On May 7, 2018, it was announced that Ali Wong had been cast as the voice of Bertie. In March 2019, it was announced Steven Yeun had been cast as a series regular, with Nicole Byer, Richard E. Grant, John Early, Reggie Watts, Tig Notaro, Amber Ruffin, Jermaine Fowler and Tessa Thompson appearing in guest capacity.
On July 24, 2019, Netflix announced its choice to cancel Tuca & Bertie. In a series of tweets, Hanawalt announced the cancellation of the show and expressed gratitude for the cast, crew, reviews, and fans. Hanawalt and Haddish both expressed hope that the show could find a new home.
Season 1 (2019)
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||"The Sugar Bowl"||Amy Winfrey||Story by : Lisa Hanawalt |
Teleplay by : Lisa Hanawalt and Raphael Bob-Waksberg
|May 3, 2019|
|Best friends Tuca and Bertie are former roommates now that Bertie has invited her boyfriend Speckle to live with her. Bertie, anxious about taking their relationship to the next level, fears that any future disagreements between her and Speckle may mean the end of their relationship. Disguising her sadness at living apart from Bertie, Tuca moves to the apartment above Bertie and asks to borrow some sugar. Bertie gives away Speckle's sugar bowl, not realizing it houses his grandmother's ashes. Tuca, having since lost the bowl, helps her locate it. Along the way, the two confront each other about their anxieties. They track the bowl to the bakery of Pastry Pete, an idol to Bertie, who is herself an amateur baker. Tuca pushes Bertie to challenge Pastry Pete to a baking competition in exchange for the bowl. Bertie agrees, but finds herself attracted to Pastry Pete. Upon trying her croissants, Pastry Pete offers Bertie an invitation to be his apprentice. They recover the bowl, but the ashes are accidentally baked into a cake. Bertie apologizes to Speckle, who assures her of his desire to live together. Bertie in turn assures Tuca that she's always welcome to drop in.|
|2||"The Promotion"||Aaron Long||Lisa Hanawalt||May 3, 2019|
|Bertie is focused on obtaining a promotion at work, but her attempts to establish rapport with her boss and display her ideas at the company meeting are blocked by her chauvinistic coworker Dirk. Later, Dirk sexually harasses Bertie, who is unable to get any support after reporting the incident to Human Resources. Tuca, meanwhile, engages in a series of small jobs to make money, to disastrous results. Upon learning that Bertie was sexually harassed and her chances of securing the promotion stymied, Tuca takes a temp job at the company and helps Bertie showcase her skills. Bertie is discouraged when her boss takes a liking to Tuca's energy and offers her the promotion position instead. Tuca assures her she doesn't want it and helps Bertie call a sexual harassment meeting. Other women in the office corroborate Bertie's experiences with Dirk with their own and Dirk is dismissed. Bertie requests and receives the job promotion, but learns that it means more overtime.|
|3||"The Deli Guy"||Mollie Helms||Lee Sung Jin||May 3, 2019|
The normally confident Tuca has a crush on a deli worker, who she calls Deli Guy. After some pushing from Bertie, she asks him out on a date, but her nervousness causes her to act irrationally, alienating her date. She later reveals to Bertie that this was her first date since going sober, and she doesn't know how to react while flirting anymore. Bertie apologizes for pushing her into it.Meanwhile, Bertie has grown bored with her routine sex life with Speckle and attempts to spice things up with pornography. When that doesn't work, they try spanking and role playing, but Bertie has a surprisingly negative reaction to being called a "bad, dirty birdy." The two then watch her favorite British historical romance drama The Nests of Netherfield, and Bertie explains to Speckle that she really just wants to be surprised. Speckle manages to surprise her before work by setting up their apartment like the set of The Nests of Netherfield and romancing her.
|4||"The Sex Bugs"||James Bowman||Rachelle Williams||May 3, 2019|
|Tuca has contracted parasites called Sex Bugs, hard-partying, sex-obsessed insects that live in her pubic hair. She convinces Bertie to go out with her to buy some lotion to get rid of them, though Bertie is apprehensive, having called in sick to work to avoid giving a big presentation. Tuca promises it will be a quick trip. Along the way, they encounter a women's empowerment seminar and Bertie takes a flyer. At the store, Tuca disregards the warning labels and mixes the parasite lotions together, causing the Sex Bugs to grow to human size and run amok. Ebony Black, an investigator for the Center for Sex Bug Control, arrives to exterminate them. Tuca objects, stating that the Sex Bugs just want to party and have fun and demands a trial, with Bertie as her counsel. Bertie, whose anxiety has skyrocketed from the trip, initially refuses until Ebony Black's partner Sophie insults Tuca. Bertie capably wins the trial, determining that Tuca contracted them from a bush in a protected historical landmark, which prohibits the killing of the protected Sex Bugs. Realizing she can handle more than she thought, Bertie takes up Pasty Pete's baking apprenticeship and gives her presentation at work.|
|5||"Plumage"||Amy Winfrey||Nick Adams||May 3, 2019|
Tuca visits her wealthy Aunt Tallulah for her birthday. Speckle joins so he can see Tallulah's architecturally significant home. Tuca reveals that she grew up poor with her siblings and her single mother, who loved them, but died young. Tuca was taken in by her aunt, who continues to write her checks. The three celebrate by binge drinking, though Speckle notices that Tallulah's comments are highly critical of Tuca. Tuca later reveals to Speckle that she has not told her aunt about her sobriety for fear of bringing down Tallulah's birthday mood. Speckle encourages Tuca to stand up to Tallulah. When Tallulah insults Tuca's mother and mocks Tuca's sobriety, Tuca tears up the check Tallulah wrote for her and leaves. Tallulah yells after Tuca that everyone will leave her. On the drive home, Tuca fears her aunt is right that she will end up alone.Meanwhile, Bertie takes the women's empowerment seminar after encountering a creepy plumber in her building and comes up with a mantra demanding a right to her personal space. While at the bakery, Pastry Pete forcefully presses against Bertie, which causes her to excuse herself to the restroom, where she feverishly masturbates.
|6||"The Open House"||Aaron Long||Karen Graci||May 3, 2019|
|Speckle, Bertie, and Tuca spend the day touring open houses to fantasize of home ownership. However, when Speckle and Bertie encounter a home they actually are interested in, they decide to put in an offer. This alarms Tuca, who is worried she will be left behind while they move ahead in their adulthood. She adopts a pet to help her form more commitments and adopts a wild jaguar. Meanwhile, Bertie and Speckle apply for a 30-year mortgage for the house, which alarms Bertie, who begins worrying about a mundane future with Speckle. At the bakery, Bertie's attraction to Pastry Pete grows, causing her to ignore Speckle's voicemails about the house. Bertie puts off his messages until he tells her they missed the opportunity and lost the house. Sensing some concerns, he asks her to call him to talk, but Bertie avoids him and visits Tuca instead. She finds the jaguar attacking Tuca, but Speckle arrives and manages to tame it and find it a home. Bertie apologizes to him and reveals her anxieties about commitment and uncertainty for the future, but Speckle tells her he wants to be with her now and that's all that matters to him.|
|7||"Yeast Week"||Mollie Helms||Gonzalo Cordova||May 3, 2019|
|While playing a game, Tuca experiences a sharp pain in her side. She refuses to see a doctor, preferring to use homeopathic remedies instead. Bertie prepares for Yeast Week, an elite baking event where she and Pastry Pete will debut a new confection, the crünt. Tuca repeatedly interrupts her with her remedies, which cause Bertie to privately complain to Speckle that Tuca is too needy. Ashamed after overhearing Bertie, Tuca claims she is alright, but collapses in her room. Bertie arrives at Yeast Week and debuts the crünt to great admiration. Tuca wakes up in the hospital, where she learns she has an egg lodged in her Fallopian tube and requires surgery. Tuca reveals that her fear of doctors stems from her childhood when her mother died during surgery following a car accident. Pastry Pete invites Bertie to join him at the top bakers' table, but upon learning that Tuca is in the hospital, she turns down the opportunity. Bertie takes Tuca home, but expresses her resentment that Tuca is careless with herself, resulting in Bertie always needing to take care of her. Thinking they might be growing apart, they decide to take a break from their friendship.|
|8||"The New Bird"||Adam Parton||Lee Sung Jin||May 3, 2019|
|Dakota arrives to the city and asks Pastry Pete for an apprenticeship, which he agrees to. Bertie is jealous of Dakota, but attempts to bond with her after Speckle suggests being a mentor to her. Bertie and Dakota get along and develop a successful new pastry while Pastry Pete is away. Meanwhile, Tuca is followed around by a mockingly critical apparition of Bertie. She joins a spiritual retreat, but inadvertently turns it into a cult. She flees into the woods and gives in to the apparition, which tells her she will never amount to anything. The apparition then tells Tuca that she is good at many things that Bertie is not, which is why they make a good team. At the bakery, Pastry Pete physically forces Dakota to observe the roux technique just like he did with Bertie; however, Dakota pushes him away and calls him a creep. After Bertie reveals he did the same thing to her, she asks Bertie why she did not warn her and Bertie is unable to respond. Dakota runs away in tears. Bertie leaves the bakery and begins driving. She encounters Tuca on the side of the road and the two drive off together.|
|9||"The Jelly Lakes"||Amy Winfrey||Shauna McGarry||May 3, 2019|
|After driving in silence all night, Tuca and Bertie tearfully make up with one another. They drive to Jelly Lakes, where Bertie's family owns a cabin. Bertie reveals what happened with Pastry Pete and wonders if he has sexually harassed other women. Speckle calls, concerned about Bertie disappearing, but she continually puts off his calls. They encounter Bertie's former summer camp swimming coach, Coach Maple, and stay at Bertie's cabin for the night. They spend a day at the beach with Maple and her wife Pat. Maple reveals her confusion as to why Bertie suddenly lost interest in swimming, when she trained all summer to swim to Peanut Island. Bertie storms out, arguing that she did not lose interest. Tuca follows and Bertie tearfully reveals a lifeguard had sexually assaulted her. Tuca tells her she is brave and reassures her she is confronting her problems. The next morning, Bertie sets out to swim to Peanut Island, with Tuca, Maple, and Pat following her in a canoe for support. Exhausted, Bertie sinks halfway there, but reconciles with her trauma and emerges, making it to the island. They celebrate and Bertie tells Tuca she is ready to go home.|
|10||"SweetBeak"||Aaron Long||Lisa Hanawalt||May 3, 2019|
|Tuca and Bertie arrive in town for Molting Season, and Tuca complains about the annual call with her siblings. When Bertie arrives home, Speckle explodes over her sudden disappearance, saying she shuts him out when she's having a problem, and that she needs to be honest and communicative with him. Speckle reveals he bought a teardown home to renovate and says he wants to be with her but won't chase after her anymore. Bertie quits Pastry Pete's and plans to open her own bakery, but finds supplies and space more difficult to secure than she thought. Tuca becomes concerned when her family doesn't call. Bertie reconciles with Speckle, explaining that her trauma made trusting people hard, but she wants to be with him. Later, Tuca and Bertie realize that Pastry Pete has blacklisted them. They confront him and Pastry Pete physically threatens Bertie, but Tuca records it and posts it online. Women boycott Pastry Pete and order from Sweet Beak. Bertie and Tuca fill the orders and distribute them to the public. Tuca calls her sister and says she loves her. She decides to live with her aunt and siblings and fix their relationship.|
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an approval rating of 98% based on 42 reviews, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Tuca & Bertie skips right past BoJack Horseman's shadow with its chipper sensibility and madcap sight gags, bringing plenty of laughs as it addresses adulting anxiety and exalts the joys of friendship." On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 16 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
In a positive review, Kate Abbott of the The Guardian wrote that the show was "a chirpily realised world that stays true to its experimentalism - and its pleasures are consistent, if deliciously twisted, and very surreal indeed." James Poniewozik of The New York Times, praised "Hanawalt's surreal vision, the anarchic fluidity of the landscape, the series's whimsically bending laws of both nature and physics." Critics praised the show's female-focused portrayal of trauma, desire, and friendship. In a negative review, Brian Lowry of CNN wrote that the show did not stand out beyond similar adult animations on Adult Swim, declaring that the show was "strictly for the birds". The show drew both praise and criticism for perceived similarities to Comedy Central's Broad City, due to both shows focusing on female friendship.
Awards and accolades
Upon release, The A.V. Club thought that the show was one of the best new shows of 2019, with Vox naming Tuca & Bertie one of the "5 best TV Shows of May 2019". The Huffington Post named it as 6th best show of 2019, Indiewire named it as the 2nd best new show of 2019 and the 20th best show of the decade, and TV Guide named it one of the best animated TV shows of the decade. In addition, the A.V. Club named it the 18th best show of 2019 and Junkee placed it on an unranked list of the best TV of 2019. Specific praise was given to the episode "The Jelly Lakes", with both Entertainment Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter naming it one of the best episodes of 2019.
Tuca and Bertie was nominated for three awards, winning one, at the 47th Annie Awards, all for the episode "The Jelly Lakes". It was nominated for Best General Audience Animated TV/Film and Outstanding Achievement for Voice Acting (for Ali Wong), and Outstanding Achievement for Writing (for Shauna McGarry). On January 25, 2020, McGarry won the Outstanding Achievement for Writing for "The Jelly Lakes".
Response to cancellation
The cancellation was received negatively, by both fans and critics. Backlash occurred on social media, and, within 24 hours of the cancellation, the Twitter hashtags #RenewTucaAndBertie and #SaveTucaAndBertie each received more than 10,000 tweets from users. A Change.org petition to renew the show received 3,600 signatures in 24 hours. News sites, including Gizmodo, Variety, BuzzFeed News, and Fast Company, published columns lamenting the cancellation, praising its female representation, diverse cast, and handling of complex issues. The cancellation was deemed to be "disappointing" and a "loss for television".
The cancellation led to criticism of the Netflix algorithm for failing to allow the show to reach a larger audience, highlighted by the algorithm failing to recommend the show to its creator, Hanawalt. Criticism was also directed at Netflix for failing to adequately promote the program and for prematurely cancelling the series before it was able to establish an audience, as the cancellation occurred less than three months after the premiere.
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