Mulligan review – Tina Fey is a post-apocalypse Liz Lemon!

The team behind 30 Rock offer up a cartoon dystopia about an alien invasion that leaves the idiots ruling the Earth – but where are the gags? Frankly, this just won’t do

Mulligan is the answer to the question – what would happen if you took the film Idiocracy, added a dash of Will Forte’s The Last Man on Earth and made it an adult animated TV series and also worse? That it is a new project from the same stable as 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (co-created by Robert Carlock, the power with Tina Fey behind those phenomenal gagfests, and Sam Means – a writer on both – and executive produced by Fey herself) makes the disappointment all the greater.

The premise is fertile. Aliens attack Earth and are thwarted at the last moment by dumb jock Matty Mulligan (Nat Faxon) doing his best to emulate Independence Day’s solution to a similar problem by chucking a hand grenade into the main spaceship’s vent. Thus are the last 1,132 humans on Earth saved and faced with the question of how to rebuild civilisation.

Mulligan is made president and Lucy Suwan (Chrissy Teigen), the Miss America candidate with whom he was having a fling when the apocalypse began, becomes First Lady. His self-appointed vice-president is Senator Cartwright LaMarr (Dana Carvey), bent on becoming the true power behind the scenes and dreaming of a world in which “corporations are people and people are not!” He is soon in cahoots with Johnny Zhao (Ronny Chieng), the richest man in the world since Jeff Bezos and fellow multi-billionaires took off in a rocket that was mown down by the aliens. Military matters are overseen by a wayward teen (Ayo Edebiri) who had the street smarts to dress in the uniform of a dead high-ranking marine and is now known as General Scarpaccio despite the uniform being six sizes too big for him.

Looking on in horror at the apparent dedication of the new president and his ragtag electorate to reproducing all of humanity’s worst mistakes are scientist and beleaguered single mother of two (her nanny was melted during the invasion and now she has no childcare – “My hip pain has spread to my jaw”) Dr Farrah Braun (Tina Fey) and historian Simon Prioleau (Sam Richardson). The latter is horrified by the destruction of the Smithsonian and the waste of the tabula rasa offered by society’s near-destruction. Until, that is, he and Braun conduct a census and he realises that there are now two women left for every man and his time as a stud may have come.

Though President Mulligan believes the only living Brit – Jeremy Fitzhogg, played by Daniel Radcliffe who evidently impressed Fey with his turn as a prince in the Kimmy interactive special – is a genius because of his accent, Simon’s defection leaves Braun the sole possessor of a functioning intelligence on the entire planet. She is a post-apocalyptic Liz Lemon. Her Jack Donaghy turns out to be Axatrax (Phil LaMarr), the sole alien prisoner captured and now held in a cage in the bowels of the semi-trashed White House. He tells her that on his planet, Cardi B (“It’s a coincidence”), women’s attractiveness is commensurate with their intelligence and he really seems to “get” her. Then he moults and escapes. Plus ça change.

But, even allowing for the fact that the joke rates in Kimmy and 30 Rock were famously high and we devotees have undoubtedly been spoiled by that, the laughs in Mulligan are few and far between. I’ve quoted almost all the lines worth noting from the first three episodes, and frankly it just won’t do. The next great Fey-Carlock collaboration still awaits us. Please get here soon.

• Mulligan is on Netflix now.


Lucy Mangan

The GuardianTramp

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