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‘Everything Sucks!’ is boring, but kinda sweet

Netflix's latest throwback teen tale is no "Stranger Things" and certainly no "Freaks and Geeks." But it has its moments.
Luke (Jahi Winston) and Kate (Peyton Kennedy) form a connection in Netflix's latest retro coming-of-age series, "Everything Sucks!" Photo: Netflix

The first episode of “Everything Sucks,” Netflix’s latest coming-of-age throwback, opens with The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “The Impression I Get.” In the pilot alone, we’re treated to “Run Around,” by Blues Traveler, “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” by Oasis and a lunchroom discussion by the show’s starring nerds on how Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” isn’t actually ironic. Not even ten minutes in and we’re already tired from the feeling of having seen it — hell, lived it — all before. 

And yet, we keep going. This lowkey tale of dorky freshmen in a high school A/V Club, set in 1990s Boring, Oregon, isn’t a bad watch. Once you get over how derivative it is, you can begin to enjoy it. And while this trio of nerds, Luke (Jahi Winston), McQuaid (Rio Mangini), and Tyler (Quinn Leibling) can’t possibly compete with Bill, Neal and Sam of “Freaks and Geeks,” or Lucas, Mike and Dustin of “Stranger Things,” they have their moments. 

We kick off with a romantic plotline: Luke has a thing for Kate (Peyton Kennedy), the cool-girl tomboy of the A/V Club, rocking a flannel over her Tori Amos shirt, a total Angela Chase-meets-Kat Stratford.  

“So what’s up with Tori Amos?” Luke asks her, fully earnest, during their first after school hang, providing the first chuckle of the show. She doesn’t hold back on her explanation of “Little Earthquakes”; over at his house, she swipes his dirty mag. The list he brainstorms on how to ask her out also makes you grin: 1) Skywriting 2) Send a telegram 3) Fax 4) Telepathy. He gets somewhere channeling the powers of Oasis. 

Things are complicated, of course: Her corncob father (Patch Darragh) is also the school principal. And let’s just say her penchant for Amos goes beyond the music. 

In the first few episodes, McQuaid and Tyler take supporting roles to Luke and Kate, but aren’t without their winning moments, as when McQuaid quotes “Swingers” to Luke, “You’re so money and you don’t even know it,” and refuses to let Kate come over for a hang unless she brings a “weird snack” — a caveat we’re totally stealing. 

There’s more conflict to come, in the form of a feud between the A/V club and the Drama Club, the would-be “freaks” of the show, who sadly lack both the sex appeal and charm needed to make us care about them. 

There are moments the nostalgia, laid-on thick as it is, makes us melt. Like when Kate shows up unannounced to Luke’s house, because, “I tried calling but it was busy.” Ahh, a time when everything didn't totally suck! Be still my millennial heart.

"Everything Sucks!" streams Friday, Feb. 16 on Netflix.