Larks & Recs: Bad Sisters and Smiling Friends Season 2

Characters from Smiling Friends in a kitchen
Screenshot/Adult Swim

Welcome back for this week’s edition of Larks & Recs, wherein members of the TV Obsessive staff recommend things for you to watch, listen to, etc. We’re focused on the watching this time around, as Ryan Kirksey recommends Bad Sisters on Apple TV+ and Hawk Ripjaw plugs Smiling Friends, which just returned for Season 2.

Bad Sisters

Ryan: If you’ve ever wondered what would have happened in Sleeping With The Enemy if Julia Roberts had four perpetually drunk, out-for-revenge sisters looking out for her, may I introduce you to Bad Sisters on Apple TV+? Adapted from the Finnish series Clan, Bad Sisters is a dark comedy about a group of four tight-knit siblings who decide they want to kill the husband of their fifth sister—a truly despicable prick of a man if there ever was one.

The winner of a 2022 Peabody Award and 12-time nominee at the Irish Film and Television Awards, Bad Sisters is set on the outskirts of Dublin and stars five sisters—Eva, Grace, Ursula, Bibi, and Becka Garvey—all grappling with the miserable life John Paul Williams condemns Grace to in one timeline, and trying to evade suspicion for his “accidental” death in another. The series continuously flips back and forth between the weeks leading up to John Paul’s death, and the weeks after it when two ambitious insurance adjustor half-brothers—Matt and Tom Claflin—try to determine if there was any foul play that can get their floundering company out of paying the life insurance claim.

Four women surround a dining room table in Bad Sisters
Apple TV+/Screenshot

The way the show plays with the timeline, it combines a more traditional “whodunit” question with a “will they get away with it” cat-and-mouse game between the sisters and the insurance brothers. Bad Sisters is at times side-splittingly funny and also a gut-punch emotionally. The emotional, mental, and physical trauma that Grace and their daughter, Blánaid, endure at the hands of John Paul is hard to watch but also achieves its goal of making viewers yearn for the sisters to be successful in their various attempts to kill him and get away with it so Grace can be financially rewarded.

The only thing that stands in the way of the sisters succeeding, however, is their incompetence. No matter how hard they try, John Paul proves to be either immortal or the luckiest bastard in Ireland. But since the first moments of the show decidedly confirm his death, the meaty substance of the 10 episodes slowly builds to solve the mystery of not just who might have killed him, but how they did it. The mystery of both who is responsible for the death and whether Grace and Blánaid can begin to rebuild their lives plays out until a surprising end.

In terms of popular television, it’s very much Desperate Housewives meets How To Get Away With Murder, but with more depth of character and sympathy for the situation. It’s a show easy to binge and, if you’re like me, you’ll find it hard not to click “Next Episode” after each one ends.

Smiling Friends Season 2

Hawk: Just a couple of years ago, Zach Hadel and Michael Cusack’s Smiling Friends graced our screens with an absolutely deranged short-form animated comedy. After an agonizing wait, the second season is here, and the first three episodes are just as unhinged, if not more so.

For the uninitiated, Smiling Friends mostly follows Pim and Charlie, two employees of a company that provides a service to those in need of a smile. That’s a simple-enough premise, but the show exists in a nightmarish world of troubled souls, graphic violence and existential nihilism. The first episode finds a homeless former video game icon (rendered in CGI) attempting to resurrect his career with help from the Smiling Friends. Unfortunately, Gwimbly is a piece of sh*t and the sadistic, chicken nugget-obsessed CEO of his former video game company is hell-bent on killing him.

The second episode has to be one of the funniest episodes Smiling Friends has yet produced, although I understand I am in the slight minority there. The Friends have been hired to help the President of the United States smile. Played in live action and inserted into the animated world, the President is a miserable, gross incredibly stupid man who keeps getting sick because he can’t stop eating rancid lamb legs. And he really needs the help, because the lunatic Mr. Frog is running against him. The hijinks are hilarious, assisted by some really clever editing.

The high quality of this second season continues in the third episode, in which Mr. Boss tasks Allan with obtaining a box of paper clips, a seemingly simple task which predictably morphs into an odyssey with action movie flair, complete with a change in the episode’s aspect ratio once things really start to kick off. Things just get more ridiculous from there.

Throughout each of these episodes, the show continues its trend of surrealism and varied animation styles, integrating CGI, stop-motion and more. The different styles, the editing, and line delivery come together in another (so far) season of bizarre, hilarious bite-sized episode that is shaping up to be even better than its predecessor.

Written by TV Obsessive

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