Koala Man is a new animated adult superhero TV show that focuses on identity crisis. While the exploration of that theme is generally sound, the TV series struggles with that very issue.
The Hulu original follows the adventures of Kevin Williams (Michael Cusack), AKA Koala Man. Kevin is an overweight, balding, middle-aged husband and father of two. As Koala Man, he tries to protect the sleepy suburban town of Dapto, Australia. His misguided goals of enforcing justice usually serve to accomplish nothing at best, and aggravate his neighbors at worst.
That was the status quo before Koala Man’s arch nemesis, the Kookaburra, set a dastardly plan of secret revenge in motion. The 8-episode TV series follows Koala Man fighting a variety of zany and outlandish Australian enemies, (anthropomorphic Emus, for example) who are secretly unleashed by the Kookaburra. Eventually, the hero and villain collide in a dramatic duel that will decide the fate of Dapto.
Koala Man welcomes you to Dapto, Australia
The series format is fairly by the numbers for superhero storytelling, even if the approach and humor is anything but. While the A-story was always Kevin’s, his children Liam (Michael Cusack) and Alison (Demi Lardner) often embarked on kooky B-stories about finding your place in a community. Alison is on a violent journey towards popularity, and Liam is struggling with newfound psychic abilities.
Vicky (Sarah Snook), Kevin’s wife, is easily the highlight of this strange cast of characters. She is a housewife looking for a sense of purpose, passion, and understanding, both independently and in her relationship. Snook plays Vicky with a vulnerability complemented by delightful snappiness. She wants to be fulfilled in her life, and her delusional husband who believes he’s a superhero won’t hold her back any longer. Her supporting arcs stand out so much that I can’t help but imagine what Koala Man would look like if Vicky was the main character instead of Kevin.
Comedy hit or miss
Speculation aside, this is Kevin’s show, and unfortunately, that is the root of Koala Man’s identity crisis. Superhero storytelling is an art form that transcends age, sex, religion, and any such factors. This sandbox is for everyone, but knowing your audience is still an essential part of any great story. So just who was Koala Man created for?
As a superhero fan, the duel between Koala Man and the Kookaburra is only so engaging. The villains of the week are hit or miss, and to be frank, it took five episodes for Koala Man to really hook me. Since the show only consists of 8 episodes, there is a real pacing issue at play as well. In terms of comedy, Koala Man has its moments, but the funny parts are seldom hilarious.
One of the weirdest Heroes on TV
Koala Man blends situational family comedy with superhero spoofs in the adult animation space. The main character is a loser dad who is so by-the-book that he feels inspired by the early era of The Punisher (who would gun someone down for accidentally littering). Koala Man doesn’t take it that far, but still, the protagonist’s characterization is strange, and not tragic or comical enough to justify his bizarre behavior.
Koala Man shines when it focuses on absurd Australian humor, largely because that’s something of an untapped market in western comedy entertainment. The Williams family is more interesting than Kevin Williams/Koala Man, and that’s a bit disappointing. I don’t plan to revisit the series, but if it was on at a friend’s house, I’m confident that I would enjoy the rewatch.
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