'Dead to Me' and 'Tuca & Bertie' yield hit-miss verdict

Posted May 3, 2019 10:08 a.m. EDT

— The serialized mystery is perfectly suited to Netflix's exhibition model, and the service delivers another binge-worthy one in "Dead to Me," a better show than its title. It arrives, alas, along with an animated satire, "Tuca & Bertie," which comes from the producers of "BoJack Horseman," but mostly feels like beating a dead horse.

Much of "Dead to Me's" pleasures stem from the casting, with Christina Applegate as the recently widowed Jen, still grieving and angry about the unsolved killing of her husband by a hit-and-run driver.

Although not a prime candidate for a support group, she grudgingly attends one, where she meets Judy (Linda Cardellini), a more upbeat personality who instantly insinuates herself into Jen's life, becoming the friend and sounding board she wouldn't admit she needed.

Where "Dead to Me" goes from there is part of the fun, and very little of it should be given away. Yet suffice it to say that the friendship is challenged amid deception, unexpected twists and Jen's ongoing determination to find out what happened, to the consternation of the authorities.

Created by comedy writer Liz Feldman, "Dead to Me" briskly unfolds over eight episodes, and concludes with the kind of sharp cliffhanger that virtually ensures its return. While sustaining this sort of story is invariably a juggling act, this has the self-assured feel of a hit-and-run tale that's destined to keep running for at least a while.

There's considerably less life in another new show featuring a pair of mismatched females, "Tuca & Bertie," the tale of birds voiced Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong, respectively, who live in the same apartment.

Colorful and crude, the premise is as nondescript as the animation, once you get past the fact that the ebullient toucan and beak-gnashing songbird have bird heads coming out of their clothes and are surrounded by other anthropomorphic animals.

The genre clearly has its admirers, which explains why Adult Swim, among others, is crawling with similar fare. But beyond the generally surreal nature of it all, "Tuca & Bertie" doesn't really do anything to stand apart from that flock beyond the promotability of its celebrity voices, which also include "The Walking Dead's" Steven Yeun.

Netflix is currently churning out shows at a dizzying rate, serving up a programming buffet of concepts intended to appeal to different constituencies. While "Dead to Me" looks like a worthy edition to that lineup, "Tuca & Bertie" is strictly for the birds.

"Dead to Me" and "Tuca & Bertie" premiere May 3 on Netflix.