Rutherford Falls is a gem. This genius comedy not only brings the comedic prowess of Ed Helms to television but also highlights a new side of Indigenous people that we don’t see at all. The funny side.
The series comes from creators Helms, Sierra Teller Ornelas, and Matt Schur. The groundbreaking series made news by including 5 Indigenous writers Tazbah Chavez (Bishop Paiute Tribe from the Nüümü, Diné and San Carlos Apache), Bobby Wilson (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota), Jana Schmieding (Lakota Sioux), Tai Leclaire (Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and Mi’kmaq) and Ornelas (Navajo, born of the Edge Water Clan and Mexican American). The series synopsis reads as follows:
A small town in the Northeast and the Native American reservation it borders are turned upside down when local legend and town namesake, Nathan Rutherford, fights the moving of a historical statue.
Helms stars as Nathan Rutherford, a man who is very proud of his family history in the town named after his family. He’s the last remaining Rutherford family member to live in Rutherford Falls. Schmieding plays his best friend Reagan Wells. Reagan runs the Minishonka Cultural Center in the Running Thunder casino. Both have a lot of passion about their histories and are willing to fight for what they believe to be important historical structures. Too bad no one else gets it.
Michael Greyeyes plays Terry Thomas, the Running Thunder casino manager and a prominent figure in the tribal community. Dustin Milligan as Josh Carter, a reporter who thinks Nathan’s plight would make an intriguing story. He’s also intrigued with Reagan. And Jesse Leigh, who plays Nathan’s teenage personal assistant Bobbie Yang. Bobbie is non-binary and very ambitious. And all are very funny.
Helms is great. He plays a very passionate Nathan Rutherford with a lot of vigor. There’s a lot of pomp and circumstance in everything that Nathan does. We knew Helms would be great, but it’s Leigh that steals the show. Leigh is phenomenally funny. His comedic timing is flawless. Everyone needs a Bobbie Yang in their lives! I’ve enjoyed his character the most and am excited to see the development of one Bobbie Yang.
Schmieding portrays Reagan as a woman who can fit into both Nathan’s world and her tribal community. Helms and Schmieding have such great chemistry and play off of each other so well. They are totally believable as best friends. As for Reagan, it’s great to see a Native woman represented as strong, ambitious, and congenial. She wants to do what’s best for everyone, but that can get in her way sometimes. Overall, Reagan just wants people to recognize the cultural significance of her people and celebrate it.
Setting the town of Rutherford Falls next to a Indigenous reservation opens up a whole new world for mainstream comedy. We’ve seen eccentric Indigenous characters before in shows like Northern Exposure. But if this column has taught you anything it’s that there are many layers to Indigenous people.
The Indigenous cast brings familiarity for Indigenous viewers. Look for familiar community events, attitudes and slang. (Yes. They use the word ‘snag’!) I like how the show doesn’t try to explain the humor or the lingo that the Native characters use. They insert the humor as if viewers will recognize it and it’s an everyday thing in everyone’s lives. Like it is for me and other Indigenous viewers. Rutherford Falls presents the Indigenous characters as just normal, modern people who have pretty normal jobs, family lives, and not without their own basic … and unique problems. This is depicted on Episode 4 and that is by far my favorite.
The authentic writing and acting by Indigenous creatives brings a much needed presence to television. And being able to fuse Native comedy with mainstream comedy proves that Indigenous people belong in mainstream stories. Indigenous people are just as interesting as any other sitcom cast. It’s been a long time coming and we finally have a show that includes us on a level never seen before. Rutherford Falls provides a great balance of comedy for everyone.
All episodes of Rutherford Falls will be available Thursday, April 22 on the Peacock network. You can sign up for Peacock Here. And watch the trailer below.
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