When Netflix’s raunchy animated series Big Mouth first premiered, one aspect of the show’s world-building was critically adored: the hormone monsters. They were hailed as the “show’s most hilarious innovation,” the subject of rankings and quizzes, speculated who could see what among the pubescent teens of Big Mouth suddenly blessed by their presence.
So five seasons later, it’s no surprise that the now cavalcade of feelings monsters introduced on Big Mouth have landed their own spinoff. The concept of this week’s Human Resources (as a character knowingly notes in the pilot’s opening) was “sold as” the monsters of the original show getting to shine in their own version of The Office. The result is a little more what you would expect from a post-Inside Out world very much entangled with the vulgar stylings of Big Mouth: balls-out gross and surprisingly heartfelt.
What is Human Resources?
The Big Mouth spinoff that goes behind the scenes of the creature world beyond our own, full of hormone monsters, depression kitties, shame wizards, among others. Returning are your favorites, like the guardian sex angels Connie (Maya Rudolph) and Maury (Nick Kroll, not Will Arnett, as some have thought), Lionel the shame wizard (David Thewlis), and lovebug Walter (Brandon Kyle Goodman).
They’re joined by a new coworker Emmy (Aidy Bryant), a lovebug who’s been freshly assigned to new mom Becca (Ali Wong) and strives to get her glow going. So much as this show has a primary arc it is Emmy’s, as she struggles to figure out her new responsibilities.
Who’s behind Human Resources?
All the voice talent energy you’ve come to expect from the Big Mouth universe. The show is headed up by Bryant, and the familiar voices of Rudolph, Kroll, and Goodman. They’re joined by Randall Park (a logic rock) and Keke Palmer (another lovebug named Rochelle), along with a handful of notable guest stars.
Showrunning the whole enterprise is Kelly Galuska, who’s previously worked on Big Mouth (predictably), Archer, and BoJack Horseman. She also executive produced the series along with Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett, who also all worked on Big Mouth.
What happens in the first episode?
We’re introduced to the world of Human Resources (the name of the organization these monsters work for) via a training video. Emmy is an assistant lovebug who’s been phoning it in until her boss is unexpectedly laid off.
A call from upstairs ruins Emmy’s plans to dink off at work and bang an addiction angel; turns out, she’s taking over as Becca’s lovebug until a replacement is found. With Becca right on the precipice of giving birth, Emmy gets a front row seat to the importance of the monsters’ role in the emotional universe of humans.
Also: it’s Maury’s 40 millionth birthday and he doesn’t want the office to throw him a party, even though they have a cookie cake on deck!
But what’s Human Resources really about?
All the conflicting impulses that go into being a human, in their heavenly, gross glory. As Emmy tries to sort out her place in the world, she’s actually figuring out the many ways love makes life worth living. It’s not just about making sure Becca feels lovey towards her husband; it’s also how she feels about her baby, her friends, strangers, and herself. Love like that can get her through labor and postpartum life, assuming Emmy is up to the task.
While Big Mouth centers its considerations of moods on teenagers coming into their raging hormones, Human Resources shifts focus to more adult matters (the youngest we get is a high school senior trying to decide if she should pick her college based on her girlfriend). The new perspective offers the team behind Big Mouth the chance to tell stories about how its core audience deals with their own impulses. In one man’s pre-wedding frenzy to get fit for the big day, it matters if logic and addiction are the only ones in the room, guiding him to an ill-advised weight-loss regimen. And when logic and love alone can’t help an aging grandma, Keith from the grief department (Henry Winkler) has to step in and remind them that it’s a natural process of life.
With the range of experiences expanded into a more fully fledged spectrum, it’s nice to see that even grownups need to be reminded that every mood finds its place in your life — assuming you have a mellow depression cat like Cat Stevens (James III).
Is Human Resources good?
Human Resources doesn’t vary too much from the Netflix adult animation formula laid out by things like Q-Force, Masters of the Universe: Revelation, and more: The ensemble cast mixes and matches all while pushing the boundaries of a world that’s mostly punchlines to start, before revealing more tenderness by the end.
As a companion to Big Mouth, Human Resources starts out feeling like more of the same. What we do know of the monster world has never required a ton of explanation as to the mechanics of it. So the first few episodes whir together as the characters are left trying to establish themselves while the endless parade of off-color jokes start to overstay their welcome.
But once the show has settled into itself a bit, the characters become more memorable than all the dicks on screen, and the writers push their episode template in fun directions. Like Monsters, Inc., the world of Human Resources is just as silly as it is professional as we follow the creatures through their version of a humdrum 9-to-5 work day (which is actually a 24/7 gig for “1,000 years a millennium”). Later episodes include a trip to the International Creature Convention and an unexpected pregnancy, all with the usual laissez faire attitude you’ve come to expect from this universe.
Like Big Mouth (or Monsters, Inc., or Inside Out, or The Office, or Q-Force or what have you), Human Resources can certainly make hay of the unbearable pleasure of being human. Its benefit and its curse is that it’s not that far off any of the other properties it gets compared to, even on its own terms. Once it opens up the full range of human experiences (dating your friends ex or figuring out how to support your wife through postpartum living), the show proves it has more than just sex jokes in its vernacular.
But despite the ample comparisons one can make about the structure of the show, Big Mouth is still probably the best antecedent to understand the palette the show is working with. If you can hang with that show’s sensibilities — the constant winking to the audience, the jokey songs (“Are you in love, or just an asshole?”), or the endless parade of gross-out comedy — there’s certainly sweetness to be had in the world of Human Resources. When the first season closes, the workplace drama has some actual heft to it, and the human plots manage to nimbly balance the ridiculous and happy with the loss — whether it’s of your past identity or the Phoenix Suns car you thought was safely parked in your driveway. Whether or not that’s worth watching a literal cockfight is up to you.
When and where can I watch Human Resources?
All 10 episodes of Human Resources premiere on Netflix on March 18.