Netflix’s new Chicago Party Aunt is creating a lot of buzz
Over the years, we were treated to jokes regarding all the number of Chicago shows Dick Wolf has created for NBC: Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Chicago Med. What’s next? Chicago Sanitation Department? Chicago Animal Control?
Well, how about Chicago Party Aunt?
For once, we have a show with Chicago in its title that isn’t created by Wolf and not about city workers. And it’s about a middle-aged woman who likes to party her butt off.
Meet the Chicago Party Aunt, the first-ever animated sitcom based in Chicago and inspired by a Twitter account of the same name. The brains behind the account and the show is Chris Witaske, a native of west suburban St. Charles who lived in Chicago for numerous years. He created the Chicago Party Aunt character as a Twitter account in 2016 and wrote jokes. It quickly became popular and has 54,821 followers as of Thursday.
“I started the Twitter [account] in 2016, so I had five years of backlogged jokes we could pull from while we were writing the show, so that was nice,” Witaske told WTTW’s Chicago Tonight. “So we had this strong character developed.”
After rounding up some Chicago writing talent in Hollywood, Witaske pitched the series to Netflix who loved it and ordered sixteen episodes right off the bat. The first eight drop Friday.
The show is about a woman named Diane Dunbowski (voiced by former Chicagoan and Second City alum Lauren Ash), a part-time hairdresser at a North side salon who lives with her eighteen-year-old nephew Daniel who is set to attend Stanford. Diane is certainly a free spirit, with her anything goes approach to life – which not everyone appreciates.
Witaske – who voices a TSA agent on the show – says Party Aunt is a “love letter to Chicago”. And the program is truly authentic – from the obligatory and welcome Chicago references (the Fridge, Wrigley Field, deep-dish pizza, etc.) to even the no-parking signs on the streets. Clearly, the humor should remind a few of Chicago native Bonnie Hunt’s short-lived CBS sitcom The Building from 1993, critically acclaimed but wasn’t able to find an audience. Adding to the authenticity, much of the voice cast are either Chicago natives or lived in the city for a significant amount of time.
Now this isn’t the first time a Twitter account spawned a television show. Eleven years ago, Justin Halpern’s Shit My Dad Says Twitter account led to a CBS sitcom of almost the same name, with the profanity censored of course. Starring William Shatner, the series was poorly received and lasted only one season.
The debut of Party Aunt is part of an adult animated series boom on streaming services. Just about every major streamer has one in development, or already on the air. Netflix was home to the very popular Bojack Horseman, Paramount Plus has Star Trek: Lower Decks, a comedic take on the iconic franchise, and HBO Max has gone all in with numerous shows in development from Ten Year Old Tom to Velma, a more sophisticated take on the character from the Scooby-Doo series. Meanwhile, Apple Plus has Central Park from the creators of Bob’s Burgers which is an animated musical comedy – a first.
And to think all of this started more than 30 years with the still-chugging-along Simpsons on Fox.
The arrival of Chicago Party Aunt raises the city’s profile on the small screen. In addition to Dick Wolf’s shows, Chicago is home to Showtime’s The Chi, Comedy Central’s South Side (now on HBO Max), and Showtime’s Shameless, among others.
Party Aunt exposes a fun and positive side of the city not seen outside of Chicago. If you’ve read this blog over the last fifteen years, the city hasn’t been portrayed in the best possible light in the national and international media – especially when it comes to conservative outlets such as Fox News. “I think Chicago kind of gets a bad rap, and people don’t understand that it is a huge, wonderful, amazing place to be, Katie Rich told Block Club Chicago, who voices Diane’s friend and co-worker Zuzana and is from the South Side. “And so I think that’s what was so exciting about it, was that we got to showcase the people there as opposed to a new story there.”
So far, Chicago Party Aunt has received a terrific review from Richard Roeper at the Sun-Times, but scores from the two major critic sites (Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes) are yet to be available; this site will be updated once they come in. But from the looks of things, Chicago Party Aunt is already a winner and be a viable franchise for years to come.
Party on, Chicago Party Aunt. Here’s the trailer below: