Comedian John Mulaney doesn't have kids by choice, he says as much in his new Netflix special, John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch. The comedian refers to the special as a "kid's show made by adults with kids present." So with that said, you might be wondering if John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch is actually appropriate for kids to watch with the whole family.
After watching myself, I'm here to tell you that parents will enjoy this, but listen to Mulaney's description. It's a children's show, but it's really an adult version of Sesame Street if the producers perhaps enjoyed a particularly boozy holiday lunch before writing it. Which is to say it's very delightful, but probably not best for little kids.
The question of whether or not Mulaney's new show for kids is meant to be ironic or earnest comes up in the opening sequence. One of the precious kids in the special asks him to explain the tone and he explains that, if people don't like it he'll simply pretend it's ironic. But if they do, he'll take credit for that. Which brings him to his first lesson of the show: "You can go very far in life if you pretend to know what you're doing." And there you have it.
While Mulaney's show might be a little mature for some kids, I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand. If you were a fan of Sesame Street, but wished it was made for adults in mind and yet also included kids, this is exactly the show you want.
For example, there are some seriously fun musical numbers, like the ode a child version of Mulaney sings to his grandma's boyfriend Paul. And some older kids, say 13 and up, might appreciate his honesty with the rest of the Sack Lunch Bunch. For instance, when he asks kids to tell him about the things they're afraid of, their answers are genuine.
It can be seriously tricky to strike the right balance when trying to watch a TV show with young teens. Not so adult that you're cringing but not so childish that they feel as though you're being condescending. John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch could do the trick.
As for guest stars, there are several, but one stands shoulders above the rest. At the end of the hour-long special, Jake Gyllenhaal shows up as the kooky, psychedelic "Mr. Music" and already Twitter can't handle his wonderfully bizarre performance.
Common Sense Media suggests John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch is best for children 8 years old up due to some strong language and discussing violence.
As a mother of four, my advice for watching Mulaney's Netflix special? If you have little kids, wait until they're asleep, they just won't get it anyhow. But if you have a teen you're hoping to connect with in a way that feels sort of relaxed and organic, try watching together. It could bring up something special for both of you. Or you'll just laugh, either way it's a win-win.