'Human Resources' is set at the same time as 'Big Mouth,' allowing for some fun crossovers.
The hormone monsters, shame wizards, depression kitties, and love bugs of Big Mouth certainly have their work cut out for them on that animated Netflix comedy, juggling the roller coaster of emotions their tween charges experience. However, they have lives, feelings, and relationships of their own, and they finally get their time in the spotlight in the streamer's spin-off, Human Resources.
"At its core, this show is a show about how hard it is to be human. And as a result, it is really hard to advise a human. And so, we just think of these these creatures as the voices in our own heads and they all have their own issues," Kelly Galuska, Human Resources co-creator and showrunner and Big Mouth co-executive producer, tells Metacritic. "These stories need to come from the creatures' points of view first, and if they're perfect, this is not gonna be a fun show. We talk a lot about who leads your creature team, and the voices in your head are not always correct."
Human Resources follows the aforementioned creatures and many more, including introducing love bugs Emmy (Aidy Bryant), Rochelle (Keke Palmer), and Sonya (Pamela Adlon); Petra the ambition gremlin (Rosie Perez); Pete the logic rock (Randall Park), Dante the addiction angel (Hugh Jackman), and Jose the spider receptionist (Harvey Guillén), as they flip between advising their humans down on Earth and returning to the office to talk about their humans — and often themselves. The show really begins with Emmy, an assistant love bug who gets promoted and ends up working with Becca (Ali Wong), a woman who is about to give birth.
Yes, on this show, the humans are primarily adults, which leads to a whole new slew of complicated, emotional stories and, of course, raunchy jokes and scenarios.
"Part of the creation of Emmy's character was, if we're going to have this new mother, this is a person who's going to experience a brand new type of love for the very first time and has no idea how different it will be — how hard it will be — and mapping that onto Emmy's character," says Galuska. "She's working in this very important job for the very first time and she is going to mess it up the same way the mom is going to mess it up."
"I had just had my first child a few months before these guys asked me to be a part of this project, and we were kicking around ideas for what this first episode should be and when we landed on birth, it was a lightbulb moment because we realized that these creatures are with their humans from birth until death," she continues. "So for Season 1, we told stories from birth until death because you have your creatures from the moment you enter this world until the moment you leave it and everything in between."
Some of the other prominent stories include relationship strife, including an interspecies pairing when a human and a love bug connect in a way no one could have predicted; mental health struggles; and fading away at the end of one's life.
Human Resources is set in the same universe and timeline as Big Mouth, so although Wong voices the character of Ali on the original animated series, Becca just happens to sound like her; she is not a version of her all grown up.
Andrew Goldberg, Big Mouth co-creator and showrunner and Human Resources co-creator and executive producer, tells Metacritic they never really considered setting this show in the future to follow the creatures as they assist adult versions of the Big Mouth characters, in part because that "would create some major timeline headaches." Having them run concurrently allows — and here's where the spoiler alert really kicks in — a couple of the Big Mouth kids to pop onto Human Resources.
"We did bring Andrew in for a story, which felt like a lot of fun. And we also brought Natalie in, which was really exciting for us because on Big Mouth, Natalie is Jessi's friend because Jessi's a main character and that's her role on that show. But on Human Resources, we have this opportunity to meet Natalie's family across many generations, which was really interesting for us," Goldberg explains.
Creatures first introduced on Big Mouth, from Maury the hormone monster (Nick Kroll) to Connie the hormone monstress (Maya Rudolph) and Lionel the shame wizard (David Thewlis) also appear on Human Resources. Lionel even gets an origin story of sorts by meeting his mother, Rita St. Swithens (Helen Mirren), who is the very best at what they do.
"There was a moment in Big Mouth where he mentions his mother to Coach Steve and how much he wants to please her and how you can't and it was like, 'Well, we really want to see what that is!' And Human Resources gave us that opportunity," says Goldberg.
"In a season where we started with motherhood, it just made sense to to meet his mom, and it was so exciting to really see who did a number on him," adds Galuska. She notes that in fleshing out his story in this way, it should help the audience "get some empathy for him because he can really destroy those 13-year-olds, but now you see why he does it and where it comes from."
Getting inside the minds and feelings of the creatures is essential on Human Resources, which makes scenes between them in their office so important. Although Human Resources is much more than a workplace comedy, stuck in a mundane office for each entire half-hour episode, that setting still serves as a place for them to decompress and reset after spending a particularly challenging time down on Earth. Because these creatures are far from perfect — at their jobs or at life — and much of the show is about exploring how much they have to learn and grow, too.
"Sometimes Pete is the quintessential logic rock, but part of his growth is he needs to learn the limitations of logic and that not every thing can be solved by logic. The same for Lionel, who is very good at being a shame wizard, but the problem is [that] he thinks shame is the answer for everything," Goldberg says.
"We brought the love bugs into Season 5 of Big Mouth and knew that the love bugs would be a big part of the spin-off. And we always felt there's a really interesting interplay between love and logic, especially with Pete and Rochelle and Emmy, they're characters that have a lot to learn from each other."