The first season of the new half-hour series Rutherford Falls premiered on the NBCUniversal streaming service Peacock on April 22, as reported by The A.V. Club. The feel-good comedy is created by Ed Helms (The Office), two-time Emmy winner Michael Schur (The Good Place), and showrunner Sierra Teller Ornelas (Superstore).
Rutherford Falls, like Schur’s fondly remembered Midwest-set ensemble farce Parks and Recreation, mines the subject of small-town political decision-making for humor and grounds its story in easily definable character dynamics: “Nathan Rutherford (Helms)… proudly maintains the legacy of his ancestor, the town’s problematic founder, Lawrence Rutherford. Nathan’s unlikely best friend is Reagan Wells (Jana Schmiedling, Broad City), who has been considerably less successful in her own efforts to promote the history of the (fictional) Minishonka Nation, whose reservation is adjacent to the town and to which she belongs,” via The Week.
In order to lend authenticity to the show’s Native characters, Teller Ornelas assembled a writer’s room that is allegedly the first of its kind: “Half of Rutherford Falls‘ ten-person writer’s room are Indigenous, and they pull from a rich, and frequently overlooked, history of Native American comedy,” via The Week. The former Brooklyn Nine-Nine producer has actually made history as the first Native showrunner for a comedy series, The New York Times reports. In an explainer video posted on Peacock’s official YouTube channel, Teller Ornelas details how Rutherford Falls gave her an opportunity to collaborate with like-minded people she had never worked with previously. “I’ve worked in television for ten years and I’ve never worked with another Native writer until this show,” she revealed. You can watch the full featurette, which features additional input from Helms, Schmiedling and Schur, as well as cast members Michael Greyeyes (True Detective) and Jesse Leigh (TV’s Heathers), below:
Indigenous representation in small-screen comedies, like Rutherford Falls, has been on the rise in recent years. While not explicitly credited as a writer, Kaniehtiio Horn (Possessor) reportedly has a hands-on role in selecting outfits and language signatures for her Native character Tanis in the Canadian sitcom Letterkenny, according to The Flare. Furthermore, the series’ co-creator and in-house director Jacob Tierney (Good Neighbors) allegedly revises scripts based on early-stage feedback he receives from Horn and the other Natives in the cast, such as Bradley Trudeau (She Never Died) and Ellyn Jade (Vikings), The Flare reports.
In addition to Rutherford Falls, Letterkenny and Sterlin Harjo (Mekko) and Taika Waititi’s (Wellington Paranormal) upcoming FX series Reservation Dogs, Netflix’s upcoming animated children’s program Spirit Rangers promises genuine representation for its Native characters. Spirit Rangers is reportedly the first television series with an all-Native writer’s room, as reported by Variety. It is set for release in 2022, according to CFWE.
All ten episodes in Rutherford Falls season one are available to stream exclusively via Peacock. The app’s original content is only available to users on the Premium and Premium Plus subscription plans, priced at $4.99 a month and $9.99 a month, respectively.