One of the true joys of watching adult animation is seeing how deftly the genre combines zany humor with earnest insights into our emotional lives. TZGZ’s Devil May Care is no exception, with each crass 11-minute episode filled to the brim with endearing visual gags, witty banter, and smart commentary on the ways that our obsession with social media is basically hell on earth.
The premise of the new Syfy animated series: A young social media manager named Beans (Asif Ali) dies, and is then tasked with being the personal assistant of the Devil (Alan Tudyk). In the world of Devil May Care, hell isn’t a place for exceptionally evil people to be punished for all eternity, but a holding pen for the less-than-perfect who simply aren’t amazing enough to enter heaven. Likewise, in this series at least, Devil isn’t evil at all, just tremendously incompetent and full of bad ideas. And so, it makes sense that life in hell looks, well, a lot similar to life on earth, with a bustling urban center filled with everyday annoyances, and a lot of people working, shopping, hanging out, and just trying to get through the afterlife as best they can. “I want my citizens to be happy!” Devil exclaims to a bewildered Beans. “All the coolest stuff ends up in hell, so why not enjoy it?
And so begins Devil’s foray into social media as a way to bring the citizens of hell together (except for cats who are, in this world at least, irredeemably evil). The result is a hilarious and scathing look at online culture that offers a compelling critique of all the ways that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, especially when it comes to the development of new apps.
There are a few challenges that come from skewering social media in 2021. One is that critiques of new technology, including apps like TikTok and Instagram, can come across as hectoring. The other is that the very speed of modern technological innovations automatically ends up dating episodes, since even things that feel fresh now will be reminders of a bygone era within a relatively short frame of time. But while it’s true that some of the show’s references to the ubiquity of dick pics, unboxing videos, and the weirdness of Goop products don’t feel particularly unique, Devil May Care’s look at technology is built to stand the test of time. Though it pokes fun at today’s digital culture, the show is less interested in clutching its pearls over all the ways social media is tearing us apart than in exploring what our use of technology tells us about what it means to be human.
This investigation of human nature is best seen through the character of Devil, who is, against all expectations, actually a pretty sweet guy, despite his proclivity for torture. He has a sexy and hilarious wife named Regina (Pamela Adlon), pronounced in the Queen’s English, so that it rhymes with “vagina,” and two kids who look and sound exactly like their parents. He treats his employees like family, happily telling Beans that he is proud of him whenever he gets the opportunity. Devil’s desire to upgrade hell is consistently endearing, as well as entertaining, especially since everyone else in his life, from his wife and employees to all of his most trusted advisors, seem perfectly content to enjoy a life full of the more traditional hellish pleasures of fire, pain, torture, and suffering (of which it turns out social media is a major contributor).
In the first four episodes, Beans is the least developed character, the straight man in a sea of entertaining and over-the-top hell citizens like President McKinley (Fred Tatasciore), who serves as Devil’s Advocate, and Head Demon Gloria (Stephanie Beatriz). Getting some additional backstory about Beans and why he ends up in hell would help complicate his character further, or at least give viewers a clearer sense of whether being a social media manager is enough to ruin your chances at getting into heaven.
Devil May Care’s humor is edgy, but warm-hearted. We get a lot of gross-out jokes, as well as some truly biting satire, and some of the best moments of the series are visual gags. Every single scene is packed with interesting backdrops that tell a compelling story. From strange characters doing hellishly amusing things behind our central characters, to the impeccably hilarious signs that adorn each storefront and appear on every office wall, one of the greatest pleasures of Devil May Care may be simply watching to see what is going on in the background.
While many recent animated shows like BoJack Horseman and Rick And Morty focus on antihero protagonists, one of the most amusing things about Devil May Care is how Devil is not a jerk at all, just someone who keeps happily failing upwards. In many ways, this ends up being the most timeless aspect of the series. After all, new technologies may come and go, but bad ideas will always be green-lit, regardless of how ill-conceived they are.