Bless This Mess of a TV Show

New ABC series emphasizes Nebraska stereotypes


Photo courtesy of ABC

Elizabeth Hahn, Staff Writer

An all-new show premiered on ABC last Tuesday that follows newlyweds from New York moving to Nebraska for “the simpler life.” Bless This Mess gives in to all of the Nebraska stereotypes and attempts to use them in a comedic way.  

Bless This Mess highlights Rio and Mike, a New York couple that moves to a farm in Nebraska in order to escape the craziness of the big city to live a quiet life. The two leave their old jobs and make the drive to Nebraska, but they are surprised to find out the “perfect farm” they were expecting is actually rundown and in need of many repairs. In their new town, the couple meets many people in the community. It seems that the premise of this show will be this couple improving their home while running into obstacles and figuring out how to solve them together and with the help of their community.

Although the show had its moments, it could use some major tweaks.

This show portrays Nebraska in a cliche way. It shows an outside view of what others think living here is like, not real characteristics of life in Nebraska. First, it makes it seem like Nebraska is all cornfields and farms. While driving up, Rio and Mike pass nothing but endless fields of crops. This is inaccurate. If someone was driving from New York to Nebraska, they would likely have to pass through Omaha first. Living in Omaha, I know that there are many cornfields, but we also have so many buildings and houses that make up the city.

Bless This Mess also gives in to the assumption that all people in Nebraska live on farms. There wasn’t one character in the show that wasn’t a farmer. A majority of Nebraskans live in urban areas. In fact, according to the 2010 Census, over 73% of Nebraska’s population lived in urbanized areas. This number continues to grow. In more rural parts of this state, it may be true that people in those towns are farming as their source of income. However, even in those cities not every single person works on a farm.

I think the part of the show that bothered me the most was that the people from Nebraska had southern accents. I’ve lived in Nebraska for my whole life, and I have never met anyone with a southern accent. In my opinion, Nebraskans have one of the most clear dialects in the United States.

The show also used a midwestern stereotype that the neighbors come over to welcome new people to the neighborhood. Nebraskans are very polite and nice, but personally, I have never had a neighbor come welcome me to the neighborhood or vice versa. Maybe others in Nebraska have experienced this, but it has never happened to me.

The final stereotype was that we don’t use screens of any kind. The couple made a promise to fully embrace life in Nebraska by putting the screens down. They thought we used books for everything. Most people in Nebraska have phones and use them for all their needs. I rely on my phone for information on how to to things. Nebraska may be “the simpler life,” but that doesn’t mean we don’t use the newest technology that is available today.

Another issue I have with this show is the overacting. It seemed like many things the actors did was over exaggerated for “comedy”. It honestly came off as cringey and annoying to me. I wouldn’t say the people playing these characters are necessarily bad actors. There were very well executed moments. Overall, the acting was excessive when the characters were showing certain emotions, which made it very hard to watch. However, there are some people that do think this type of over exaggeration is hilarious. I guess I’m not one of those people.

The show’s comical moments were very hit or miss. Some moments, I would be laughing at a joke in the show. For example, the characters were talking about a storm that was coming. The couple asked when it was going to happen, and Rudy, a freeloader that lives in the couple’s barn, just said “Soon”. I thought this was funny because it’s very true in Nebraska. We never really know when a storm is coming, we just know when there’s one on its way. There were other moments that were supposed to be funny that I didn’t see the humor in. An example of this would be that Rio was afraid of cows and ran away screaming when one approached her. I just don’t see how that’s funny. It was part of the over exaggerated comedy that I don’t understand. The show did have many funny moments. There were also some parts that were an attempt at comedy but were ultimately overdone and not funny.

One part that I actually really liked about the show was the community aspect. It has been shown that in many parts of Nebraska that communities come together for the greater good. This was very prevalent during the floods. Lake Bell, who plays Rio and is a creator of the show, drew inspiration from the communities coming together after the flood. She wanted to show the spirit of coming together in her show. This aspect really did shine through at the end of the episode, as all of the neighbors came over to help Rio and Mike with a problem they run into. I think coming together is a really important thing. It makes a community stronger. I’m glad that this is one of the major themes of the show, as it brings a happy mood to the audience.

Bless This Mess had some problems, but it also had some interesting attributes. I don’t know if I will continue to watch this show because I don’t like how they are feeding into the stereotypes about Nebraska and the Midwest. Based on the positive reaction on social media, many people will continue to tune in each week to see what problems Rio and Mike have to overcome next. I feel like Bless This Mess may be more fit for older audiences because it seems like it would be the type of humor that adults would enjoy. It just wasn’t for me, but anyone who enjoys cheesy comedy and a story of a community being there for each other should give this show a try.