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“Everyone Else Burns” is a Tender Coming of Age Story Masquerading as a One Note Comedy

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One of the CW’s more appealing foreign acquisitions since its headline-grabbing takeover by Nexatar is Everyone Else Burns, a British half hour comedy series created and written by Dillon Mapletoft and Oliver Taylor.

The show received its first airing earlier this year on Channel 4 in the Uk, but gets the chance to reach a new audience here on Oct. 26.

The rather alarmingly titled series introduces us to the Lewis family, who are in most respects like any other family, except for the fact they belong to a cult-like local church and believe the apocalypse will happen some time in the next 10 years. So sure are the Lewises of their place in the afterlife, they even perform apocalypse training for the big event, as seen in the premiere’s opening scene.

Family Patriarch David (Simon Bird of The Inbetweeners sporting a bowl haircut that deserves its own credits) is an ambitious narcissist with eyes on a promotion to Elder within the church. David is so comfortable in his lofty patriarchal position, and so sure of himself, that he is blind to the suffering of the rest of his family, and even more to his own hubris.

David’s unsatisfied and deeply unhappy wife Fiona (Kate O’Flynn, Landscapers) longs for respect, equality, and sometimes just the opportunity to watch TV. If she only had a TV.

Meanwhile, daughter Rachel (Amy James-Kelly, Military Wives) is on the cusp of adulthood, and although her exam results could propel her into medical school, her parents expect her to fulfil a marriage and motherhood role that is increasingly at odds with who she longs to become.

Only the Lewis’ youngest child, Aaron (Harry Connor) seems happy with his existence. Aaron is a model believer, often correcting and discipling his own parents. However, when Aaron’s art begins to depict violent images of everyone around him being tortured in Hell, we begin to see that maybe the youngest Lewis is questioning his own identity and place in the world as much as the rest of the family.

Everyone Else Burns, a comedy centered on what is essentially a religious cult, could easily have taken the low road with respect to the Lewis family’s beliefs. Instead, the show depicts the church, and its various colorful members matter of factly. The show’s humor comes, not from ridiculing the Lewis’ religion, but from poking gentle fun at the passions and the conflicts those beliefs stir up for each character.

Full disclosure: I watched all 4 advance review screeners of the show’s six-episode first season before slowly realising that what I was watching wasn’t in fact some one note comedy about a right-wing religious cult, but instead a tender coming of age story, focusing largely on Rachel, but also in which just about every character in the small ensemble is given depth, nuance, and a chance to grow.

Even David, the manic driving force behind the family’s belief system — and often their unhappiness — is not relegated to being a one note character. David may be happily oblivious to everything but his own lofty desires but when his shortcomings are pointed out to him he shows that he wants to do the right thing. His wife may be maritally unfulfilled and fantasising (hilariously) about another man, but David comes through for her in surprising moments I won’t spoil for you here. There is an innocence and straightforwardness to him that would have been ruined if the show had decided to play things in a more cynical or polished way.

And this goes for all of the other characters in the Lewis family too. The show has managed to strike that golden note between comedy and pathos, a tricky feat in modern comedy. You may tune in to watch the wacky cult family, but if you’re like me you’ll stay for the family drama beneath.

Everyone Else Burns may not be in the typical mold US audiences are used to (there is no laughter track to remind us when to laugh, and not every verbal exchange offers a set up for an expected punchline, for example), but the writing is witty and sharp and deeply observational, and the little moments of physical comedy Kate O’Flynn puts into Fiona — strait-laced and up-tight but fizzing in turns with rage and desire — are particularly hilarious.

Throughout, there is a sense of a family finding their way in the world, trying to do the right and the good thing, and course correcting when they inevitably mess it, and each other, up. And you don’t have to be the sort of person who does midnight apocalypse drills in order to relate to that.

Everyone Else Burns premieres on the CW on Thursday, October 26 at 9:30pm ET/PT.

With season 2 already confirmed, there will be more Everyone Else Burns to come after its initial 6 episode run this season.

Follow The Bulldog Edition @TheBulldogEd on X for more TV scoop this season.

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