by Jennifer Zhan, senior editor

It seems like everything Quinta Brunson touches is comedy gold. The Buzzfeed star, writer, and producer’s latest project is no exception. ‘Up for Adoption,’ is her mockumentary TV series centered on four volunteers at a local pet shelter, and it’s pretty near perfect.

Tanya is the sassy, capable single mother in charge of things around Petz One. Her two daughters have different fathers, which she says might explain their stark differences. Marta is the third smartest in her class, only because she doesn’t feel like being first, while Lily Anne is a social media expert who is well known by all of her peers. The final member of the endearing main cast is Michelle, Tanya’s neighbor and long-time friend, who is, in a word, quirky. The four volunteer at the adoption center on the weekends. The show is similar to The Office in that it explores interpersonal relationships as well as encounters with customers. And, of course, the fourth wall is broken constantly, with plenty of meaningful stares into the camera. 

In another writer’s hands, this show could have turned out to be a mashup of all of TV’s worst character tropes. As the biggest misfit of the group, Michelle might have only served as quirky comedic relief. But Brunson allows her to have hilarious scenes and still be a human who, while strange, has her own values and conflicts. Lily Anne and Marta could so easily have been trapped in the shallow tropes for teenagers: lazy popular kid and antisocial nerd. Instead, ‘Up for Adoption’ takes care to provide all characters, even villains, with thorough development, which is an impressive feat considering that each episode is only 10 minutes. 

What makes this show so good is that it’s allowed to be simple. Today, comedy TV shows so often involve dozens of characters and a winding plot. It’s refreshing that Brunson doesn’t try to construct unnatural situations. In real life, problems aren’t always life or death, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be interesting. And there are more subtle ways to be funny than stuffing an episode with one-liners. ‘Up for Adoption’ limits its scope to the events in Petz One and in the lives of the four volunteers who work there. The humor and drama come in a natural way. And because of that, audiences will laugh, feel like they know the adoption center’s staff, be engaged by the conflicts, and be moved, even though the running time of the entire first season totals to less than two hours. 

I will confess that I started watching because the animals in the thumbnails were really cute (and yes, there are cute dogs and cats in every video, and the show serves as publicity because each one is actually up for adoption in real life). But I stayed because I grew to love Tanya, Lily Anne, Marta, and Michelle. I laughed, I was touched, and I cared about them so much that I had to binge watch the entire season in one sitting. There’s really nothing else I could ask of this show.

 

Season one of ‘Up for Adoption’ is available for free streaming on go90.com.