We all grow up, we all go through changes, and we all feel really awkward about it. There’s a lot we can’t say to someone else, even though they’re going through the exact same thing in their own way. It’s such a secret topic: puberty, our changing bodies and having to navigate the becoming and being a teenager nightmare. It’s subject matter other shows hint at but shy away from fully committing to. But Netflix’s Big Mouth tackles it with incredible honesty, while also being incredibly perverse and underrated in its genius.
Created by Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett, Big Mouth’s first season dives into the lives of best friends Nick (Nick Kroll) and Andrew (John Mulaney) and their friends Jessi (Jessi Klein), Missy (Jenny Slate), and Jay (Jason Mantzoukas) as they start to grow both physically and emotionally during the seventh grade. It’s told in such a way where everything is heightened while never losing its honesty, personifying their hormones with literal Hormone Monsters Maurice (Kroll) and Connie (Maya Rudolph, an easy favorite with her emphasis on certain syllables).
Each episode dives into an aspect of puberty or adolescence rarely talked of in film or television, at least in a highlighted way. The early episode “Everybody Bleeds”, one of the clear standouts, follows Jessi through her embarrassing ordeal of experiencing her first period during a school trip to the Statue of Liberty, and how it changes her both physically and mentally. It’s a smart episode that treats the subject and Jessi’s experience with attention and care, and even with the heightened ridiculousness which surrounds the situation, it keeps the focus on her character as she faces this new change.
And this is what really makes Big Mouth stand out more than shows of its ilk: it believes in its characters and knows them to their cores. Everyone is given their most genuine version on display, their deepest, darkest emotions and fears given a spotlight. The Hormone Monsters bring out that honesty in all its forms, the raging confusion and horror of kissing for the first time, wet dreams, discovering porn, and having your first boyfriend and girlfriend tearing these poor kids apart.
The comedy is an expert use of winking nods and whip-cracking fast wit. It is a wall-to-wall deep dive into depravity and monstrous jokes, some carrying a little bit of a shock factor in going places not many other comedies would dare go. Don’t let the bright, colorful animation fool you: it’s a show with a bite and an X-rated mind but uses them to create a reality where its characters see and go through things immensely relatable (except the pornscape, that seems like a case-by-case situation). It also happens to have a stable of fantastic comedic voice talent outside of the main cast, including Rudolph, Fred Armisen, Jordan Peele, Richard Kind, Kat Dennings, and Nathan Fillion (in one of the best cameos of the season).
Big Mouth is a work with an original voice and a grasp on its subject matter. The first season took me completely by surprise, and its many call-outs, references, and dark humor snapped in place perfectly inside this story of just trying to grow up with your friends. I loved every bit of it, and cannot recommend it enough. But make sure to be alone or have headphones, as it will lead to questions from those within earshot.