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Devil May Care (2021)


Depictions of the afterlife in animation are pretty common. They appear in everything from Looney Tunes to Dragon Ball Z, from All Dogs Go To Heaven to Coco. There are few US animated series where the afterlife is the actual primary setting though, perhaps due to religious sensitivities. That's not much of a concern for SYFY's post-midnight adult animation block TZGZ however, which allowed them to greenlight new adult animated comedy Devil May Care- a series set in hell.

Devil May Care was created by Robot Chicken head writer Douglas Goldstein, and directed by Gary Ye. The series was produced by Psyop and animated by Titmouse for SYFY

The series features a young man known as Beans (voiced by Asif Ali) who dies and finds himself in Hell. Not only that but on arrival, he is whisked away to meet The Devil himself, and told that he is to be his assistant. Rather than the fire and brimstone he was expecting, Beans discovers that Hell has been gentrified, and is now a bustling city, all skyscrapers, restaurants and shops. Beans is hired as The Devil's Social Media Manager to help with the rebranding, and has to learn to adjust to his new (after)life.

Soon Beans is helping Hell get its first meme, introducing online dating, dealing with trolls and other challenges of the internet age. It's using that well worn comic dramatic device of using a fantasy or historical setting to satirise the mores of modern life. And it works brilliantly here, managing to avoid straying into "get off my lawn" territory. 


 

Key to the series' appeal is the character of Devil (no definite article) himself.  He has given himself a rebranding to match the city. No longer a fearsome-looking demon, he looks like the CEO of a startup, sporting a suit and black turtleneck. In an ingenious touch in the character design, his hairline hides a pair of horns on either side of his widow's peak. Rather than the evil being that is often portrayed, this Devil seems to be well-meaning but just doesn't understand humans at all (it apparently took him thousands of years to cotton on to the fact that they don't enjoy being tortured). It all makes him a very entertaining character and surprisingly likeable.

A not inconsiderable part of this is down to the casting of Alan Tudyk in the role. As Walt Disney Animation Studios discovered to its benefit, Tudyk is a natural voice-actor, delivering an energetic and hilarious performance that creates a brilliant contrast with Ali's performance as the long-suffering Beans, for the classic old-couple dynamic. Tudyk also crops up voicing other characters here and there, showing off his versatility. 


 

There's similarly excellent confluence of character and performance everywhere in this show. Pamela Adlon hits it out of the park as Devil's Succubus wife Regina, a hell resident who is having a hard time adjusting to the new modern ways. Stephanie Beatriz gives a gruff, surly performance as Gloria who makes her Brooklyn 99 Character Rosa look like a Disney Princess, and Grey Griffin is equally great as the mysterious Coma.

The best thing about the series overall though has to be its original depiction of hell itself. On the surface, it looks like any normal city, but on closer inspection, something is more than a little off. Devil claims that "all the best stuff ends up here" but you may be less than sure. The devil's in the details. From flip-phones and Zunes to websites where the only font is Papyrus, Gwyneth Paltrow and Barney the Dinosaur,  part of the fun is spotting what from Earth ended up in the underworld. The episodes are short at around 11 minutes each, but they make the most of every second and are absolutely packed with quick-fire humour and sight gags, including plenty of blink-and-you'll-miss-it stuff that will ensure that rewatches will be rewarding. For example, check out the ever-changing film playing at Hell's cinema in the opening sequence.

The writing is sharp and sometimes savage, with some of its targets for satire extremely up-to-the-minute. At the other extreme, there's the bizarre decision to have 25th US President McKinley as Devil's right-hand-man (or Devil's advocate). His hatred of Spain is a particularly enjoyable running gag. 


 

Despite the strong language and occasional bloody violence, nothing is as liable to offend as the show's portrayal of Cats. Dubbed "hell's only true evil" at one point, these knife-wielding malevolent moggies might raise the hackles of cat lovers among the audience. Although on reflection, it's also entirely possible that they might have been written by someone who is a cat owner themselves...

The series whizzes by, and at just seven episodes, it's never in any danger of outstaying its welcome. The whole thing can comfortably be watched in one sitting, running not much over an hour. It all ends in a hell of a cliffhanger suggesting that they are gunning for a second season and we'd definitely welcome more if it's up to the same standard as the first.

SYFY's TZGZ block has been running for a while now, although it feels like much of the animation world still doesn't know it exists. Which is a shame, as Devil May Care deserves a wide audience. One hell of a good show.

*DEVIL MAY CARE SCREENS AT MIDNIGHT ET/PT ON THE TZGZ BLOCK ON SYFY


 FORMAT: SERIES AVAILABLE ON: TV/STREAMING  FROM: SYFY/TZGZ RATING: TV-MA  RUNNING TIME : 11 min x 7 episodes

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IN A NUTSHELL:
Devilshly funny and divinley cast, this will convince you the devil has the best toons.


★★★★
 
 

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