Synopsis: Follows a family father who lives a not-so-secret identity as the titular hero who possesses a burning passion to snuff out petty crime.
Format: Eight 25-minute episodes all streaming on Disney+ (Star) now
Cast: Michael Cusack, Sarah Snook, Demi Lardner, Hugh Jackman, Jemaine Clement, Alexandra Daddario, Rachel House, Angus Sampson, Hugo Weaving, Justin Roiland, Miranda Otto
Directors: Robert Fino (1,4,7), Andrew Bowler (2,5,8), Maik Hempel (3,6)
Created by: Michael Cusack, Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit
Writers: Michael Cusack (1,8), Dan Hernandez (2), Benji Samit (2), Nina Oyama (3), Georgie Aldago (4), Lucas Gardner (5), Dario Russo (6), David Ashby (6), Anca Viasan (7)
I’d been looking forward to Koala Man because it has the characters Damo and Darren in it. Two bogan personalities that Koala Man creator Michael Cusack first shared on his YouTube channel nearly ten years ago. They showed up again in Koala Man’s origin, a 2019 episode of Fresh Blood on ABC. You see both Damo and Darren before we even meet Koala Man, and they make regular appearances throughout the series. But starting with them is a good place to point to test whether this show will be for you. Because someone between those YouTube animations and Rick and Morty (Justin Roiland is a producer on Koala Man) lands this new Star (Hulu) Original.
Michael Cusack voices Koala Man, a mid-forties dad whose mid-life crisis has him taking up a superhero mantle. However, unlike most versions of the superhero story, Kevin/Koala Man has no powers, cannot fight, and spends most of his time keeping lawns at the regulatory height. Koala Man is protecting the small town of Dapto, a parody of Australian life with each episode focusing on a mundane task, the premiere itself being about “bin night.” The entire town relies on Kevin to remember bin night, so they can remember to put their bins out (there’s always that one house in the street), but when he forgets, everything goes wrong. This is where the fantastical elements of the show kick in as a literal “tall poppy” comes out of hiding after not receiving its weekly dose of rubbish to feed upon. The one-two punch of mundane into ridiculous is the formula that Koala Man’s episodes roll with, and it works. However, I wonder if the jokes will go over non-Australian heads.
Koala Man can get rather violent and over the top, which, if you’ve ever watched Rick and Morty, you’d know what to expect. But the animation here makes watching any of the more violent scenes a lot of fun. The animation is good but leaves a little to desire as the mix between Ricky & Morty and YOLO: Crystal Fantasies character design has become stale over the years.
Kevin/Koala Man’s family all get little side narratives, but they don’t all feel as strong as one another. While his daughter Alison’s (Demi Lardner) quest to become the most popular girl in school is a constant throughout all eight episodes, his son Kevin (also Cusack) feels like a one-note bore with little going on. Kevin’s wife, Vicky (Sarah Snook), although getting a stronger arc of self-discovery in the second half of the season, does feel like a waste of talent when you have Snook voicing.
There are many fun voice actors in Koala Man, from Hugh Jackman appearing as the series regular Big Greg, to Angus Sampson taking on several characters, Jermaine Clement as the school principal and even Justin Roiland, Alexandria Daddario and Miranda Otto popping up as voices.
Koala Man takes an idea like Australia running in the legitimate future of America and having time-police stopping us from warning them of significant future events work. Dumb ideas constantly work in Koala Man. They’re the dumb jokes you’d joke about with mates, but Cusack and the team have taken them to the tenth degree and made an entire episode about them. It’s a fun afternoon watch, especially if you’ve been a fan of any other animated series I’ve mentioned.