When the remake of Child’s Play came out in 2019, it looked like the original Chucky franchise might be over and done with. Luckily, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The first season of the new Chucky TV series has been a big hit on Syfy and the USA Network.
The iconic Brad Dourif is back as the titular killer doll (which he’s voiced since 1988’s original Child’s Play). So far, the show is an absolute treat and a hit with fans.
1. A fresh new take: What is the Chucky TV series about?
Chucky feels like a fresh new take on the franchise, though in a lot of ways, it’s a back-to-basics approach. After the first three Child’s Play films, which focused on Andy, the boy who first owned the Chucky doll, the movies turned to Chucky himself as the star in Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky. Since then, we’ve mostly seen Chucky interacting with older victims. Until now.
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The Chucky TV series is more focused on Chucky as a children’s toy. That puts him back into an interesting position as a horror monster. He gets to wind up in unexpected places and influence kids who are less likely to panic at the sight of a sentient doll.
Picking up where Cult of Chucky left off in 2017, the Chucky series sees a teen boy named Jake buying a Chucky doll at a yard sale. As fans will remember, serial killer Charles “Chucky” Lee Ray found a way to plant his soul into numerous dolls in Cult of Chucky, so Jake has just one of many such foul-mouthed, miniature killers.
Things quickly get out of hand as Chucky starts targeting kids in Jake’s class, all while some familiar faces come to town.
2. Horror plus a sweet coming-of-age story
Horror is always best with layers and subtext, and the Chucky TV series is doing some beautiful work on that front.
We get a sense of who Jake is right out the gate when he buys the Chucky doll. He’s collecting parts for an ongoing sculpture project, and Chucky’s a great fit. Jake lives with his dad, a single widower who drinks too much and doesn’t understand his artist son. He also resents the fact that Jake is gay, and doesn’t even try to hide his homophobia, eventually destroying Jake’s art in a fit of rage.
Jake’s queerness is pretty central to the series too. Not only does it invite sympathy from Chucky — who seems ready to atone for mistreating his own queer child in Seed of Chucky — it’s also tied to the show’s central romance.
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In between trying to stop Chucky’s murderous rampage, Jake is developing feelings and a relationship with his classmate, Devon. The Chucky films have always had queer undertones, made literal in later films like Seed of Chucky. The franchise’s creator Don Mancini, who is also showrunner of the Chucky TV series, is himself gay.
Chucky tells a moving story about growing up queer in America.
Mancini told The Advocate that the Chucky series is a very personal project for him. “The protagonist is a 14-year-old gay boy who’s dealing with a lot of issues that I dealt with as a 14-year-old gay boy back in the late 70s,” he said. “This show uses Chucky as a metaphor for bullying, the culture of bullying that, unfortunately, still is present in today’s youth.”
All of that allows Chucky to be a truly moving and even uplifting depiction of youth. “One of the things people might be surprised about with the series is the amount of heart that it actually has,” Mancini continued. “And one of our goals with the show is to make people not only scream and not only laugh in the expected ways, but they might also find themselves shedding a tear as well.”
3. TV hasn’t softened Chucky (or toned down the kills)
If you were worried that a move to TV would soften the carnage you’ve grown used to from previous Chucky outings, that certainly hasn’t been the case so far.
One of the fun things about Chucky movies is the promise of the uncanny. What could be less threatening than a two-foot-tall doll in bright kids’ clothes? The contrast between Chucky’s presentation and his foul mouth and propensity for violence is what makes these movies really land as both comedy and horror.
And that’s just the balance the Chucky TV series strikes.
We get to see Chucky’s dark side at all of its gloriously unhinged extremes. Whether he’s gleefully rolling around in needles full of hospital opiates or treating his victims to electrocution, fire, stabbing, or terminal falls from high-rises, Chucky’s twisted personality intact, and his kills are as mean as ever.
4. The Chucky TV series has a killer legacy
Don Mancini is incredibly skilled at world building. All of his Chucky films are important parts of a whole. Even arguably lesser entries in the franchise are tied into future titles. The Chucky TV series is no exception. While the first few episodes explored mostly new territory, it’s increasingly delving into its own past.
Also back are fan favorites Tiffany and Nica, played by Jennifer Tilly and Fiona Dourif, respectively.
This means we’re approaching some major intersections of different storylines which have been building since 1988.
5. The promise of more Chucky
The 2019 Child’s Play reboot wasn’t especially bad. But it was a far cry from the brilliance of the films that preceded it. By substantially building on the past, the Chucky TV series proves that the franchise still has legs. It never needed any kind of reboot or reimagining.
Chucky manages to perfectly balance building on the franchise’s past with a clear eye to the future. This show is playing the hits while also experimenting and pushing itself into new and fresh directions.
It’s a vital addition to the ongoing Chucky saga and a must-watch for fans and new viewers alike. If you haven’t been keeping up with it, we highly recommend getting caught up as the first season ramps up towards its finale.