Sophomore seasons are notoriously difficult to navigate.
And yet a Hulu comedy serving as dramedy with a stellar cast and strong writing continues to be a critically-acclaimed delight, certified fresh at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, returned arguably better than ever.
It’s a series with a healthy dose of family dysfunction, two cousins who are genuinely trying to manage things like their mental health in an authentic way that feels true to form for men, and a working-class element that feels authentic, as the characters grapple with the day to day and their respective life choices.
We’re actually talking about the critically-acclaimed, clever, and irreverent but criminally underpromoted and underrated This Fool.
Essentially, This Fool is one of the best comedic series not being discussed. It’s not a stretch to guess that some folks probably haven’t even heard of it in the first place.
The fact that it isn’t even part of a larger conversation, given its critical success and audience near 100% viewer approval, remains one of those frustrating travesties. This Fool is underrated beyond comprehension.
In a way that I fear Freevee’s newest coming-of-age family comedy, Primo, will be as well, which is another series worth checking out.
And there’s a larger conversation to have about the importance of telling stories involving BIPOC, yes, but also watching and supporting those series too.
Not solely because of who those stories are about but because they’re great damn series in and of themselves.
This Fool proves it yet again this season.
The Chris Estrada-created and led comedy successfully pulls off that raunchy dude-bro adult humor while still not alienating or forgoing larger demographics.
It’s a tricky balancing act that the series walks tightly and near effortlessly.
When the series began, we followed Chris Estrada’s Julio, a man who seemingly relishes that he feels he subverts stereotypes, running a group that intended to get ex-cons on their feet after transitioning from prison life to the outside world.
The punny, Hugs Not Thugs program opened the door for a host of purely entertaining, incredibly flawed, yet 100% endearing characters.
And while dealing with this program and answering to a well-endowed, acerbic, hilarious Minister Payne, played by the truly inspired Michael Imperioli, Julio also faces that despite his false projections, he far from has his own shit together.
In the first season, we watched him attempting to navigate a disastrously codependent relationship with his on-and-off-again girlfriend, Maggie.
TV Fanatic was incredibly fortunate enough to speak with talented, sweet, and chill access Michelle Ortiz after the first season’s debut about that dynamic.
There’s nothing flashy or particularly romantic about the pairing, but the stuck-in-a-rut genuine quality of these two characters who have a lot of internal work to do and a long history just trying to get by was as relatable as it gets.
And so is Julio altogether. He’s no saint of a character. His focus on helping ex-cons isn’t pure altruism or rooted in something consciously noble. Yet he does good work all the same.
And it is about the world that he knows.
In This Fool, South Central L.A. is its very own character.
In the second season, we feel that more than ever. The series has comfortably settled into itself and what it does best.
It knows what it’s doing, who it’s about, and what it’s highlighting, and it makes no apologies for any of it.
This Fool is bold and prideful of repping the hoo — the distinct culture and community that comes with living there and is a deceptively strong snapshot of the inner workings of working class and minority communities, what afflicts them, and common archetypes that also subvert stereotypes.
We see this more so in the second season as that sense of community feels stronger, something that is especially notable in the first installment.
The workshop takes of all members of the community banding together in frustration over a crowing pet rooster; mounting tension arises, only to fizzle out in begrudging acceptance and mutual understanding both in spite of and because of the claustrophobic community comprising their hood is the type of thing that This Fool gets so very right.
This Fool pays homage to South Central, the way Animal Kingdom often did for Oceanside. Its identity is so intertwined with that specific experience and culture that so much of the appeal is that verismo.
It feels more adult and more authentic from the voices and experiences of those familiar with the subject matter and what This Fool intends to capture compared to Netflix’s On My Block.
When you go into This Fool, there’s that initial reservation that there will be a host of stereotypes and cholo typecasting. It’s a genuine leeriness that it’d be another series that either glamorizes or makes a mockery of the intersection of lifestyles and demographics.
There’s a frustrating redundancy, short-sightedness, and oftentimes problematic aspect of constantly choosing these stories to tell for Brown people, typically without a modicum of nuance.
But This Fool manages to present while skirting that, with characters that don’t feel like walking tropes and writing that is as dark and real as it is comedic.
Julio is at its center, and he’s a strong protagonist worth following precisely because he’s this imperfect man still trying to get his life together and never quite getting there.
In This Fool‘s first season, he’s stuck in a rut a bit, facing that type of cyclical monotonous life that can seem unfulfilling and have anyone questioning what they’re doing, what they’re life, and when exactly things will fall into place.
And he does this as a man, both honest and cognizant of his constant mental health issues while also complacent when it comes to actually doing the work to get through them and improve his life.
The season has him comfortable in his job position until he becomes job insecure, leading into the second season that presents an utterly fascinating role reversal with his cousin and frenemy, Luis.
Frankie Quiñones is pure talent and entertainment. What he does with Luis, a character who could, on paper, be an “acquired taste,” is one of This Fool‘s greatest feats.
Instead of a one-dimensional felon and ex-gang member, This Fool cleverly explores what it’s like for someone like Luis transitioning from prison to regular life while under the judgment of Julio.
The two play off and contrast each other so well as cousins with such differing perspectives on their own relationship and life in general that it’s fascinating.
The element of exploring how two individuals from the same area, family, and lifestyle could seemingly end up on such diverging paths only to still technically be right back where they started is so on point and harkens to the endless trap of the working class culture.
Julio can believe he did everything right and still ends up in the same neighborhood, with the same family, and with season two, fighting job and financial insecurity and taking life’s kicks and licks.
Julio’s everyday battles with identity in all its forms, from what it means for him to be Latino to defining masculinity and mental illness, and so much more, and then seeing that set against Luis as a foil of sorts is where the series is most stimulating.
The entire series greatly rests on the dynamic between Julio and Luis, which only improves in the sophomore season.
There’s even more room to dig deeper into these characters and their dynamics now that we’ve gotten past those introductions, and we’re treated to some goodies, great performances, and resonant moments throughout.
Characters like Luis continue to shine, as does Minister Payne, who arguably steals the entire season and makes it his bitch. It’s phrasing he’d probably appreciate.
Imperioli is the ultimate scene stealer, and wrapping one’s head around Minister Payne and his unique set of endeavors is as scintillating as cameos and guest stars this season.
We follow these characters as they embark on a new business venture of starting a coffee shop, Mugs Not Thugs, that unleashes so many hijinks it’s endless amusement.
Julio’s quest to find a new sense of purpose this season coincides nicely with how Luis is more self-assured in the real world.
And the season itself gets to play around with some new things, including a two-parter, a singularly focused installment that stays within its location and generally gives these established characters more room to stretch their legs and solidify the impressions they’ve previously made.
This Fool Season 2 feels more confident than the first, and it’s all the better for it too.
It’s promising that the series can continue to improve from here, from the standout writing to the slick shots and camera work this season… the perfect locale snapshots supporting that South Central is really its own character.
The music catalog adds the perfect flavor, too.
At this rate, this sleeper hit has already earned itself a third season.
But real talk, it’d help if more people tuned into it.
If the second season doesn’t make it abundantly clear, this slept-on comedy is worth the time.
Over to you, TV Fanatics. Have you been sleeping on This Fool? If not, did you enjoy the second season as much as the first? Sound off.
You can stream both seasons of This Fool on Hulu.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You’ll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on Twitter.