“Mulligan” tries to walk a similar line with working mom Dr. Braun, opening with some jokes about how even though she is now the world’s foremost scientist (and so most likely to figure out things like how to create drinkable water), she’s still saddled with childcare. Eventually, she figures out a patchwork of unreliable people to watch her two sons, but the fatalism in that joke hits pretty hard. She can’t save the world and provide a safe, nurturing environment for her children. Sigh.
Of course, the other problem is that when you only have two women characters—one is pretty, and the other is smart—well, that reinforces the idea that women can only be one of those things. It’s clear that’s not what “Mulligan” wants to say, but the implication is still there.
There seem to be a lot of unintended consequences of the choices combined to make “Mulligan” what it is. For example, the cast is remarkably diverse by Hollywood’s standards, with more than half of the principal actors being people of color. But “Mulligan” creators Robert Carlock and Sam Means squander this opportunity by putting too many of their Black actors in non-human parts, effectively erasing the significance of their racial and cultural identity. Meanwhile, the show’s white actors embody a range of white cultures, from LaMarr’s Southern drawl and casual cruelty to King Jerome’s (Daniel Radcliffe) pompous, British “classiness.”
It all adds to a comedy that feels like homework, wading through a dated aesthetic to arrive at a series of depressing scenarios powered by a negative, if all too plausible, view of humanity. Recent post-apocalyptic shows have succeeded despite these obstacles—“Station Eleven” trumped the power of art even in the face of humanity’s worst instincts, and “The Last of Us” found meaning, however flawed, in human connection. “Mulligan” doesn’t have that kind of grace and isn’t reaching for it. It’s reaching for laughs. But it doesn’t quite grasp those either.
Now on Netflix.