The Adventures of Suzy Boon isn’t a new web series. It was released almost a year and a half ago. Before watching the series for review, I was completely unaware of it. Having watched all six episodes of Suzy Boon’s first season, I can definitely say this series deserves more attention.
Suzy Boon (Kura Forrester), the series’ titular main character, is a half-Maori, half-Chinese woman who works as an immigration officer at Auckland airport. Although she’s well into her adult years, she still lives with her aging father (Charles Chan) and struggles with relationships and finding her place in the world. Although she loves her job, she’s only working as an immigration officer on a trial basis, and her trial period is coming to an end. She must compete with her colleagues Mitch and Paul (Thomas Sainsbury, Scott Cotter) for the two permanent positions that are available.
Although this is an intriguing inciting incident and seemingly injects stakes into the series, The Adventures of Suzy Boon never takes these plot contrivances too seriously. The series has an almost lackadaisical approach to its season-long narrative. It’s a foregone conclusion that Suzy isn’t going to keep her job, which allows her ineptitude with her colleagues and boss (played superbly by Yvette Parsons) to become a running gag.
The series’ biggest asset is its star, Kura Forrester. Forrester’s comedic timing and vibrant optimism bring a warm heart to Suzy that could potentially be lacking if another performer played her. Suzy is an intentionally oblivious character that is obnoxious to most of the people she interacts with. She’s in the same vein as a David Brent or a first season of “Parks and Rec” Leslie Knope in this respect. The way Forrester inhabits the role though makes her New Zealand’s answer to Alan Partridge. Yes, the show really is that good. And it is great to see a local series hit that target. Forrester elevates all of the material she is given. We root for Suzy, even as she’s bumbling into one social faux pas after another.
Forrester does a great job of talking to herself on camera and the creators take every opportunity they can to make Suzy’s interior monologue’s exterior. There are several scenes where Suzy is scrolling through online dating profiles and talking to the profiles. Often, a character talking to themselves can come across as tropey or hacky. But in Forrester’s hands, it is some of the funniest material I’ve seen in a web series.
Another strong aspect of the series is how well it uses the short form web medium. The theme song and score for the series are pitch perfect and each episode at roughly five minutes a piece are at a perfect running length. The greatest technical achievement of The Adventures of Suzy Boon is its visual storytelling.
There’s a moment in the first episode where Suzy is in the break room listening in on her co-workers discussing plans to all go to a lumba class (like zumba, but with lullabies) and excluding her (intentionally or not) from their plans. Suzy is in the foreground of the shot and her reactions are both hilarious and heartbreaking.
My only criticism against the series is that it relies too often on tried and true sitcommy premises at times. Two of the first season’s six episodes feature storylines involving nightmarish online dating scenarios. The focus of another episode is on a trendy new diet that Suzy tries. These premises have been done to death in a number of recent web series and have been staples of broadcast sitcoms for a while. The ‘trendy new diet’ episode does have some laugh-out-loud visual gags, but for the most part Suzy Boon doesn’t offer refreshing new twists on these stale premises. This is a shame because of how strong the other aspects of the show are. Again, Kura Forrester’s game performance elevates all of her material, and these tried and true premises almost go by unnoticed.
There are a few jokes throughout that would only work for a New Zealand audience. For example, Suzy’s boss Linleigh absolutely butchering Te Reo and Suzy describing herself as “half-Chinese and half-Maori – like Bic and Bo.” But overall, I see this series having a global appeal.
The series is confidently directed by Cristobal Araus Lobos and shot in a cinema verite/pseudo mockumentary style by Roko Antonio Babich and Pepe de Hoyos Ramos.
While the main immigration sets look nothing like a major international airport to a laughable degree, this only adds to the series’ charm. The creators have confidently embraced the advantages and limitations of making a web series.
The part that drew me in the most to The Adventures of Suzy Boon was its titular character – Suzy Boon. Where many web series run the risk of trying to make their characters too cool, Suzy Boon embraces her outsider status with self-deprecation and plenty of oblivious social embarrassment humour. The creators of the series know who Suzy is and love her. And this makes the audience love her too even if she’s not so lovable in the eyes of people she shares the screen with.
Story: Three Stars
Characters: Five Stars
Production Value: Four Stars
OVERALL RATING: Four and a half stars (out of five)
Watch The Adventures of Suzy Boon: www.webserieschannel.co.nz/webseries/the-adventures-of-suzy-boon/