Peacock TV has created a smash-hit with “Rutherford Falls.”
I’ve been sitting on this review for a few weeks now and it’s been weighing hard on me not to talk about it. As a certified critic for Rotten Tomatoes and Native Nerd columnist for Indian Country Today, I have reviewed close to a hundred films in the past nearly two years.
“Rutherford Falls” has risen to the top of my list.
Here is my review:
11 out of 10 (My first ever score over 10)
My quick quote: “Quite simply the best thing I have ever seen on television. Groundbreaking in its approach. Newcomer Jana Schmieding sparkles, Ed Helms crushes, Michael Greyeyes mesmerizes. My first 11/10. ”
Synopsis: Two lifelong friends, Nathan Rutherford and Reagan Wells, find themselves at a crossroads when their small town gets an unexpected wake-up call.
A few weeks before the release of “Rutherford Falls” on Peacock TV, I was given a gift most of the world was not privy to: I received the first four screeners to review as a journalist and critic. Wow, I love what I do. So I sat down to watch, not 100 percent sure of what to expect, but excited nonetheless to see Native representation at this level.
Never before has there been this level of Native inclusion and representation on a television sitcom. In fact, not only have I not seen Native people (that are actually played by Native actors) on TV, I really don’t even think I have heard them talked about before. Maybe on a random episode here or there in some abstract way, but to even see Reagan Wells (played by Jana Schmieding) on the promotional poster wearing accessories by Native artists and designers — such as her beaded earrings — is something completely new.
So I sat at my computer, glad to see such a thing, but not knowing what to expect.
What some people may not realize is that there is a tremendous amount of pressure on such a sitcom. If it isn’t funny, or flounders in any way, Native people may not get a chance for a long, long time because the execs that be in the TV networks may just assert that Native content isn’t going to sell.
So yes, of course there is a part of me that was thinking, “please don’t suck.”
So not knowing what to expect, I emotionally held my breath, until I started watching.
I wasn’t just stopped in my tracks. I was completely, overwhelmingly, unequivocally blown away. “Rutherford Falls” is complete and absolute perfection. It is hilarious, it is real, it is Native inclusive and overall, it is the best thing I have ever seen on television. And I do mean, ever.
The chemistry between Ed Helms as Nathan Rutherford and Jana Schmieding as Reagan Wells is pure hilarious gold. Not only is the script beautifully done and filled with humorous quips and realities facing Native people and wannabe White allies, Helms and Schmieding carry the weight of racial tensions effortlessly.
Though the show showcases a beautifully written script by the team of writers, I get the feeling that the filmmakers could just hit the record button on Helms and Schmieding and just let it go, I would bet I could just watch them, as well as everyone else for hours.
I told Sierra Teller Ornelas, Ed Helms, Jana Schmeiding and Michael Greyeyes that they were incredible. Watch my video:
#NativeNerd review of Rutherford Falls - Before the broadcast
See related: Interview with Rutherford Falls ‘comedy superstars’
Ed Helms could not have been a better choice to portray Nathan Rutherford, the quirky town museum director that is perhaps a bit too obsessed with the history of his small town. His best friend is Reagan Wells who manages her tribe’s tiny cultural center that sits in the middle of the Running Thunder casino.
Helms crushes it in his role as Nathan. He is so on point with his portrayal, I was astonished as well as delighted. He isn’t afraid to embrace the obsessive nature of his character and delivers a performance unparalleled to what he has done before. And Helms, known for a plethora of exceptional comedic roles, has been excellent thus far, and delivers even more. I can’t wait to see what he continues to do. Helms gets an A+ as Nathan Rutherford.
Jana Schmieding is brand new to the acting world, and as she said in our interview, (make sure to check it out — link below) she was in the comedy world for a while and even worked as a school teacher. But though she is new, I would have never known it if she hadn’t told me. As I said in the interview, ‘You are like a goose to water.” Some of you might realize geese are one of my favorite animals, thus the reference.
Schmieding is a natural comic genius. She stands toe to toe with Helms and others and delivers comedy with an air of effortlessness. She has the “it factor” and I am sure this is the start of an amazing career for her.
Michael Greyeyes portrays Terry Thomas, the tribal leader that runs Running Thunder Casino in the series. Greyeyes has never dove into the world of comedy as he told me in the video interview, but he says he has played a “bad-ass before” and a bad-ass Terry Thomas certainly is. But as a no nonsense type of person, Thomas’ ability to say it straight is the best relationship scenario that could possibly exist between him, Reagan Wells and Nathan Rutherford.
Greyeyes grasp of Thomas as a real bad-ass is what makes this all worthwhile. I think Greyeyes is a comic natural, whether he knows it or not. And P.S. I know a lot of tribal leaders that run casinos, and Terry Thomas can run with them all shining as bright as the sun.
Jesse Leigh plays Bobby Yang, Rutherford’s assistant. And thanks to Leigh, who is supremely charismatic on screen as well as hilarious, absolutely owns this character. There is one scene where Yang is talking about the amazingness of a reporter’s shoulders where I was completely bending over with laughter. Leigh is fantastic and an absolute gem in this show.
Dustin Milligan portrays Josh Carter, the quirky, yet amicable and handsome investigative PBS reporter. Mulligan is a ton of fun in this show, and as a journalist, I understand a lot about the role he is playing. He adds a lot of fun interacting with Reagan Wells, and he brings a lot to the game of this show. I look forward to seeing where his character goes.
Native writers, actors and Executive Producer Sierra Teller Ornelas
“Rutherford Falls” has one of the largest Native writer’s rooms in television history and an Executive Producer, Sierra Teller Ornelas.
As a Native journalist, this is exceptional. The writing is exactly what I have wanted to see for decades, actually my entire life. The other actors and crew, director Sydney Freeland and everyone else bring brilliance to Rutherford Falls.
This show will change the world and introduce perspectives never before shared on television.
The Best and Most Hilarious Show on Television - My first ever '11 out of 10’
It brought me so outside of the box in my thinking, and delivered so much more than I expected in the most wonderful of ways … is why I have given “Rutherford Falls” my first show that ever jumped off my Native Nerd review scale at an 11 out of a possible ten points.