Netflixs Chicago Party Aunt Skims the Surface, Loudly: TV Review
There’s no joke too obvious for Diane, aka the “Chicago Party Aunt,” to make with a holler and hefty wink. In the Netflix animated show adapted from Chris Witaske’s Twitter account, Diane (Lauren Ash) is just as loud, coarse and unapologetic as the tweets that inspired her. The closest she gets to showing another layer is her general annoyance with the gentrification that keeps taking over her favorite Chicago haunts. Otherwise, she’s just happy to party, give her beloved nephew Daniel (Rory O’Malley) bad advice, and defend her dirtbag way of life to the death. They eat Chicago food, have wacky misadventures, flirt with learning a life lesson, wash, rinse, repeat. If anyone can count on Diane for anything, it’s finding the crudest, most inevitable punchline for any situation. By the time she and Daniel hit up a barbecued ribs food festival, you can practically mouth her many leering lines about “racks” right along with her.
As voiced with gusto by Ash, fresh off a breakout run as a uniquely bossy manager on “Superstore,” Diane is a gleeful agent of chaos with little regard for the consequences. Ash embraces her flat-voweled Chicagoan accent so hard that it often tips over into general Midwestern territory, but there’s little doubt that she also embodies the level of bonkers energy the character demands. The problem with the show surrounding Diane, though, is that it only barely exists. O’Malley’s (relatively) more timid Daniel anchors the most other storylines, which Diane inevitably steamrolls. His mother Bonnie (Jill Talley), Diane’s sister, has spent her life cleaning up Diane’s messes, but the moments when she allows herself to be just as messy are some of the series’ more memorable. Meanwhile, Black people somehow barely exist in this version of Chicago outside of Gideon (RuPaul Charles), Diane’s snobby boss at the hair salon where she inexplicably works, and a woefully underused Da’Vine Joy Randolph as her understandably over-it coworker.
If you’re someone who grew up in the same Chicago as Diane and Daniel, maybe “Chicago Party Aunt” will appeal to your knee-jerk “hey, I know that place!” sensibilities. If not, there are plenty of other animated show dirtbags out there who can give you more of a reason to root for them, even if by just providing the slightest hint of a twist on the most expected jokes they could make.
“Chicago Party Aunt” premieres Friday, Sept. 17, on Netflix.
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