Aint No Good Guys Here
Chucky: Season 1
There is a history of translating Slasher films over to television. Although early examples where the Freddy's Nightmares and Friday thee 13th: The Series, both of which were more horror anthologies than straight up Slasher brand extensions, even more recent efforts like MTV's Scream and Amazon Prime's I Know What You Did Last Summer show there's life in move Slasher films over to the boob tube (to say nothing about made-for-TV Slasher shows like, well, Slasher).
Despite this, I wouldn't have expected that the Child's PlayAlthough some might have thought that the idea of a killer doller slasheer flick couldnt' support a multi-decade spanning franchise, Chucky certainly proved them wrong, constantly reinventing his series, Child's Play to stay fresh and interesting three decades later. series (or, as it's known now, the Chucky franchise) would make the move to the small screen. The Chucky movies are odd ducks, with a weirdly complicated mythology and a whole lot of cussing and gore. This is a franchise that hasn't necessarily thrived but has certainly managed to maintain a core audience that really cares about the stories, such that they even made direct-to-video sequels successful. But selling DVDs to the fan-base is a little different from a TV show, especially one produced for a basic cable outfit. And yet, that's exactly what we got with 2021's Chucky on Syfy and USA Network.
Although this is a TV series many of the fundamental elements of the whole Chucky franchise are maintained (so this isn't a reboot like 2019's Child's Play). We still have Brad Dourif voicing the killer doll, all the old backstory is maintained (from all the way back in Child's Play '88 through the introduction of Tiffany in Bride of Chucky and then the soft-boot continuation through Curse of Chucky and beyond), and there's still plenty of gore and cussing to be found here. This is a hard TV-MA series that feels perfectly of-a-piece with the whole continuity to come before, which goes some way towards selling this story, to be sure.
In fact, in watching the first season of Chucky, you get the feeling that series producer / writer Don Mancini (who as been with this whole franchise since the very beginning) moved the series to TV because that was the only way he could continue telling his stories. He clearly has a big end-goal in mind, something expansive for the killer doll, and whether it comes as part of this TV show or one more movie to be made down the road, he really wanted to tell it all now before it suddenly became too late. Whatever the motive behind moving the franchise to the small screen, it was a move that actually worked in this instance. This is the rare Slasher series TV-transition that actually holds up in the grand scheme of its own franchise (unlike, say, Scream).
The series opens with new character Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur), an artistic middle schooler who's something of an outsider among his peers (he's poor, in a rich town, and he's also gay, and a weird artist). When he finds a Good Guy doll, specifically a Chucky, at a garage sale, Jake picks it up so he can tear it apart and use it for his art (he likes to build creepy statues out of doll parts). However, the Chucky doll won't easily come apart, and that's because it's not just a doll but actually Chucky (or, as we well know, one of the many possessed duplicates of Chucky). After seeing how abusive Jake's dad, Lucas (Devon Sawa), can be, Chucky kills the dad (he makes it sound like he did it as a favor to Jake but, really, Chucky just likes killing). This sends Jake to live with his uncle, Logan (also Devon Sawa), and his family.
As we learn, what Chucky really wants is for Jake to pick up a knife and join him in killing. Jake is hesitant, even when he has a perfect target in mind: Lexy Cross (Alyvia Alyn Lind), popular mean girl at school. Despite being Jake's biggest bully (as well as the girlfriend of Jake's Cousin, Junior Wheeler, who was played by Teo Briones), Jake just can't bring himself to off the girl. This sends Chucky looking for someone else to help him in killing. Meanwhile, more Good Guys dolls start showing, Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) moves into town, and Andy (Alex Vincent) soon comes sniffing around on the hunt for more Good Guy dolls to kill. Carnage and chaos await for the small town of Hackensack, N.J. with Chucky in the 'hood.
So the first thing that has to be noted when discussing the story of this first season is, yes, everything you've seen in all the previous films still carries through here. Every movie gets a nod in this season of television, and while the occasional little scrap of story doesn't carry through (no one is wondering where Glen and Glenda from Seed of Chucky went), this is a show that very much rewards the fans that have been with the franchise since the beginning. While most of the important details do get explained, this is a continuity-deep series that very much expects you to keep up.
That being said, the show does go out of its way to fill in some details for old and new fans. This does lead to one of the weakest parts of the season: the backstory of Charles Lee Ray. Over the course of the season's eight episodes we get a recurring segment exploring young Charles's past. The issue I had here was that it really didn't add anything. Nothing is gained knowing that he was a homicidal child, or that he killed and killed again in his past. These are all details mentioned in previous films so their exploration here does nothing to flesh out the character in a meaningful way. Frankly, if the show didn't bother with this part of the story in its second season it would be better for it.
The season itself can otherwise be broken up into two halves (which, conveniently, line up with the two discs of the season one home video set). The first four episodes follow Jake and Chucky as we see Jake's like in hackensack while Chucky cuts a bloody swath through the town. The second four episodes then introduce back in Andy, Tiffany, and all the rest of the past continuity, and mix all of our characters, old and new, together. It becomes a bit chaotic as the show suddenly has many more masters to serve, but it does help to make this series feel more connected to the overall continuity, like there's a plan in place for where all of Chucky is going.
While the storytelling does get a bit convoluted and messy, there's no denying the charms of the series. It's great to have Dourif's Chucky back, to have him once again voicing the killer doll as carnage and chaos happen around him (proving this is the definitive version of the killer doll, so we can all ignore 2019's reboot). It's fun to see the threads of the previous films continue to rebound and play out, to know that the series will explore every weird idea in creator Mancini's head. And, yes, it's fun to revel in the kills and Chucky has a grand time doing what he does.
There's a gleeful, nasty streak that runs through the series (which is shared with the best of the films), and it shows just how much staying power this killer doll really has. Whatever flaws this first season has, the overall series still holds the power of the franchise within it. The few flaws can be brushed off as growing pains as the franchise moved to the small screen, and we can hope that the second season improves on everything now that all the piece of the series are fully introduced. Thankfully a second season has already been ordered so we can see whatever crazy plan is in place play out.
If you love Chucky, the character, and this whole weird franchise you'll find plenty to like with this first season of his television show. It's not that different from the late-period movies, and continues to push all the weird ideas of the franchise forward. For those that aren't among the Chucky devoted this series probably won't have much for you to enjoy. The fans, though, get all they way, and more from this gory first season of Chucky.