Pretty Smart was the most underrated Netflix show of 2021, and I don’t care what anyone says

Pretty Smart. (L to R) Gregg Sulkin as Grant, Emily Osment as Chelsea in episode 101 of Pretty Smart. Cr. Patrick McElhenney/Netflix © 2021
Pretty Smart. (L to R) Gregg Sulkin as Grant, Emily Osment as Chelsea in episode 101 of Pretty Smart. Cr. Patrick McElhenney/Netflix © 2021 /

It’s that time of the year when everyone ranks the best and worst TV shows of the year, and a few of our favorites will inevitably end up on what we deem the wrong list. For many 2021 year-end rankings, the Netflix original sitcom Pretty Smart will probably land on a lot of “worst” lists.

Pretty Smart stars Emily Osment as high-brow writer Chelsea, who finds herself moving in with her low-brow sister Claire and her three equally low-brow roommates. It’s a fish-out-of-water comedy that plays for feel-good laughs above all else.

The sitcom debuted in October 2021 and had the daunting task of being the latest multi-cam sitcom launch from Netflix this year, following the one-and-done misfires The Crew and Country Comfort. Personally, the series was the true comfort in another year of the unknown.

While it was neither the best nor the worst show of the year, Pretty Smart definitely wound up severely underrated and, in turn, undervalued. In a year filled with some objective stinkers (hey, He’s All That, looking at you!), we shouldn’t write off a show that just wanted to make us laugh.

Pretty Smart is an underrated Netflix show

In the past few years, comedy has changed so much. With hit comedies like Ted Lasso and Hacks hailing from streaming services and upping the ante for what we expect from the shows that make us laugh, it’s even harder for the old-school sitcoms to stand out.

Netflix has many of its own original comedy series that attract critical acclaim, such as Never Have I Ever, Dead to Me, Gentefied, Grace and Frankie, and others. Sure, you could say Pretty Smart isn’t as “good” as those series, but the show is still solid as charming, lighthearted escapism.

Even Emily in Paris, a through-and-through guilty pleasure that was seemingly hate-watched into a second season pickup and Emmy nomination after its 2020 debut, has been dragged for being bad when — clearly — it’s doing something right.

You could say the setup, the jokes, the stories, whatever on Pretty Smart aren’t as strong as other comedies, and that’s fine because it’s a valid critique. But Pretty Smart doesn’t need to be high-concept with the high-brow humor (that Chelsea would love) and ground-breaking stories that move the needle forward for comedy. That’s not what the show is.

Instead, it’s an oddball comedy, something of a reverse Big Bang Theory in premise, with reminiscent tones of Osment’s Freeform sitcom Young & Hungry. What makes Pretty Smart shine is its cast, which has insane chemistry on arrival and makes the heightened humor work.

Two of the most revelatory performers in the cast are Olivia Macklin as Claire and Michael Hsu Rosen as Jayden, who are as dynamic as independent performers as they are against each other and the entire ensemble. Claire and Jayden could be the new Jack and Karen from Will & Grace if given the chance to really dig into these larger-than-life characters.

Look, I’m not saying this is some of the best television you will ever watch or even watch in 2021. There’s an episode centered around the apartment’s previous tenant’s junk mail and another one about a Laura Dern party at a gay club. But that’s the kind of dumb fun the show provides, and there should be space for dumb fun alongside the acclaimed mainstream elite.

Put Pretty Smart on your worst shows of 2021 list all you want. That’s your right! But I’m advocating for being less precious about comedies that just are what they are and aren’t completely, absolutely, unavoidably unwatchable messes.

In spite of the less than stellar reviews and tepid performance on the Netflix top 10, I thoroughly enjoyed Pretty Smart and will continue to watch anything starring Emily Osment, just as a rule. Do yourself a favor as well: Unplug your brain with Chelsea and give this wonderful TV junk food a second shot.

Watch Pretty Smart only on Netflix.

Next. 5 best Netflix original series of 2021. dark