The latest addition to the Mike Schur TV universe is heading straight to Peacock — and so should you. Schur, Ed Helms, and Sierra Teller Ornelas co-created Rutherford Falls, whose entire delightful first season is now streaming.
Rutherford Falls is less about any particular conflict than about the entire titular town and its quirky players. There’s Nathan (Helms), intent on preserving the founders’ legacy that runs in his bloodlines — and physically obstructs the town square in the form of a statue called Big Larry. His best friend Reagan (Jana Schmiedling) yearns to grow the Minishonka cultural center and also repair her relationship with the tribe after a sudden breakup. And then there’s Terry (Michael Greyeyes), a self-proclaimed shark who runs the casino and possesses unparalleled clout in both Rutherford Falls and the Minishonka reservation.
If there’s an obvious weakness in Rutherford Falls, it’s the big picture of where these conflicts are going and how they can continue — but recall Schur’s own Parks and Recreation, which started with Leslie Knope investigating a pit and turned into something so much bigger and more beautiful than those early episodes could even imagine. Peacock only made four episodes of Rutherford Falls available for review, but they share the endearing DNA that has made Schur’s name synonymous with beloved comedy.
And in those episodes, Rutherford Falls offers plenty of reasons to stay. The humor is endearing and situational, rarely cringe. Paul F. Tompkins pops in for an unhinged guest appearance and Dustin Milligan turns the charm up to 110 as NPR reporter Josh Cogan, visiting to explore Nathan’s statue attachment. And the series puts its landmark representation of Native talent both behind and in front of the camera on full, dazzling display.
At the heart of that portrayal is Teller Ornelas, who is of Navajo descent and set a model for representation that other shows should implement yesterday. From writers to actors to direction and music, she and her co-creators have made something both groundbreaking and comfortable — an empathetic look at modern American life through Native characters, on their own terms. And they’re paying it forward; Rutherford Falls is also the rare TV show with a nonbinary regular in Bobbie (Jesse Leigh) and makes absolutely zero fuss over it.
Though Nathan and Reagan are co-leads, Reagan is the show’s magnetic center. Schmiedling, also a writer on the show, exhibits perfect chemistry with any costar; old friendship with Nathan, fearful respect with Terry, just the right mix of fluster and flirting when she spends time with Josh. In Nathan, Schur and Helms illustrate the inherent conflict of a white American attached to symbols and legacy, and his doubling down on protecting the statue is the first step on a much longer, harder personal journey. We crave the world in which these characters can pursue their dreams while preserving their friendship — and on Rutherford Falls, that world is within reach.
Rutherford Falls is now streaming on Peacock.