Review: "Green Eggs and Ham" on Netflix
An....adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic
When I was editing this, this was the placeholder space I left for a spoiler warning. Isn’t it twisted how Internet Cotillion has drilled this vernacular into us? I don’t know if the short fork or the long fork is the salad fork, but I do have a fleeting worry about a friend of mine getting annoyed at me for spoiling the plot of a kids show they will never watch. Seems dumb!
Green Eggs and Ham, the Netflix Original Series, follows protagonists Sam-I-Am and Guy-Am-I as they go on a Planes, Trains and Automobile style road-trip through a Seussian-world. Tasked with bringing an endangered mammal to its ancestral home, they must evade the pursuit of a Trumpesque magnate and his paid lackeys. Along the way, they form an unlikely friendship that gets tested, confront their personal demons, and even find love. This is an adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic, Green Eggs and Ham
Before I get too ahead of myself, you may find yourself asking “who is Guy Am I?” Come on! You know Guy-Am-I! Guy-Am-I is the grumpy counterpart to Sam-I-Am with the moppish brown hat is constantly turning down Green Eggs and Ham, no matter the circumstances! Finally earning a name in this adaptation, we also learn he is an amateur inventor, whose creations always explode once he uses them. As a result, despite having the undying support of his family, Guy-Am-I harbors great feelings of professional malaise and cannot shake the feeling that he is a failure to his family and his own ambitions, which has made him a very bitter and solitary person. This is one reason he does not want to eat the titular food, because keep in mind, this is an adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham.
When Guy-Am-I’s latest job interview ends in him buffeting the panel with shrapnel from his latest botched invention, he accidentally gets mixed up with Sam-I-Am, a plucky foil with an indomitable spirit. Sam-I-Am has recently liberated a mythical “Chickeraffe” (Chicken Giraffe) from the Zoo and is smuggling it to the same town Guy-Am-I is retreating back to after his latest professional failure. Their fates entwined, this unlikely duo embarks on a buddy-road trip of sorts loosely based on the book. Will you eat them on a train? Cue train episode. Would you eat them with a goat? Cue evil goat (G.O.A.T) with tattoos and an eye patch trying to steal the Chickeraffe. Would you eat them with a fox? Cue fox inexplicably voiced by Tracy Morgan who is in love with a chicken, but has to restrain his impulses to eat her eggs (which is a Freudian psychosexual nightmare in itself). All of these random elements all make sense when you remember that this is in fact, an adaptation of the Dr. Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham.
Eventually, Sam-I-Am and Guy-Am-I’s (these are their Christian names apparently) intersect with the mother-daughter pair of Mrs. Shelly and EB (who inexplicably, like everyone else in the series, have normal names). Mrs. Shelly is an overbearing mom who abandoned her dreams as an artist and took a sensible job as a literal “bean counter” to provide a steady but dreadfully boring life for her daughter EB, who resents her for being so overbearing. It’s only when Mrs. Shelly and Guy-Am-I, who both have naturally grouchy posture, start to fall in love and warm each another’s hearts they both loosen up towards Sam-I-Am and Shelly respectively.
As you’d expect, Sam-I-Am tries to get Guy-am-I to try Green Eggs and Ham quite a bit throughout the series, but he typically relents. It isn’t until the big triumphant moment in the final episode, Guy-Am-I finally reluctantly tries Green Eggs and Ham to prove his friendship and devotion to Sam-I-Am, ends up liking them, and does a proud public declaration portraying he would eat them in the rain, on a train, on a boat, with a goat, et cetera, making good on the iconic conclusion to the Dr. Seuss book of the same name. This is poignant because shortly thereafter, Sam-I-Am reveals that the reason he loves Green Eggs and Ham so much is because they are one of the few pleasant memories he has of his mother before she was abandoned by him and forced him into a life of petty crime and scamming. The source of his love for Green Eggs and Ham (Remember? The Book?) is an endless hunt for the ones that taste just like his moms to used make in an effort to find her, and sure enough, when he does at the series conclusion, a whole new misadventure is set up between this unlikely pair.
I tried not to be overly frothing with disdain in describing the plot above, and apologies for my lack of critical nuance here but who wants or likes any of that shit!?! Who was pining for an emotionally raw Green Eggs and Ham origin story written with the passion of a Tennessee Williams play? WHO IS THIS FOR!?
Certainly not my kid. Since the aforementioned plot is totally above her head, she loves Green Eggs and Ham for the reasons you should love a cartoon. She loves Sam-I-Am who, voiced by the affable Adam DeVine, and is friendly, magnetic and wacky enough to draw a toddlers attention. She loves the Rivers Cuomo-penned theme song, which burrows into your brain with the velocity of an unloaded sniper rifle clip. It’s funny to imagine, given every other embarrassing, trend-chasing rock Cuomo has forced his band to turn over, that this theme song was the final straw that the rest of Weezer could not sign the bands name too.
So yeah, I get it—looking through the prism of children’s entertainment, it clears the very low bar I need it to: the kid likes watching it, and while she does, I’m not actively annoyed by it. The production value is high enough that its very presence in the air of a room doesn’t give me a low grade headache. The animation style is lushly hand drawn, which is rare in a world where most of the kids show algo-served to us contain uncanny-valley CGI that threaten to turn into a screamer video at any moment. Considering a lot of children’s television don’t meet this metric, this is good!
But the neurosis-laden plot and insistence on giving narrative reverence to a book that only existed to have funny rhymes with silly pictures accompanying them makes it clear that it wasn’t enough for it’s creators to make a mere kids' show. No, this is a kids show that is actually for the parents, and under that prism, it’s painful and pandering.
I remember early on parenthood, I read this review of True And The Rainbow Kingdom written by a mother who was accusing the main character of trading in colonial white-savior tropes (Read: she gets magic powers from a mythical tree to save her friends) and thinking “wow I hope parenting doesn’t poison my brain this hard”. The irony isn’t lost on me that two years later, desperate for stimulation and meaning, my addled brain and I are Wilhelm Scream-ing into the same vacuous void of children’s television.
While I do think Green Eggs and Ham is bad, I’m not particularly offended by it more than I am fascinated by it: It’s bad in a way that feels emblematic of a general rut entertainment is in these days.
While I watched this show, I tried to imagine the incentive structure of how it came together. What was the conglomeration of corporations and artists that came together to make such a high production version of something with no natural audience?
Part of the blame has to lie with the suits at Netflix. Streaming platforms are an in arms race for original content, and for the same reason SiriusXM will try to buoy its relevance by featuring celebrities that don’t understand the medium and barely appear on air, Netflix probably has to do something similar with it’s programming portfolio. Green Eggs and Ham? As a TV Show? Well people recognize it, so lets make it! What started as a bullet point in some junior executive’s portfolio management .ppt eventually had to become an actual show, and when you look at the stacked voice cast for Green Eggs and Ham, it has the energy of a producer throwing money at a concept with no soul to make it too big to fail.
Part of the blame must lie with the writing staff. How many overeducated, job-starved script writers, subsisting off a diet of Grubhub deliveries and podcast appearances, would jump at an opportunity for a soulless gig of spinning up an adaptation of Green Eggs and Ham? These folks have probably written, shopped and scrapped countless passion projects to no professional buzz, so fuck it right? They know they could demo the suits who approved this project whatever they needed to see in a minute long super-cut (Sam-I-Am? ✅ Guy Refusing Eggs? ✅ Guy Accepting Eggs? ✅), so why not use the remaining run time to smuggle in your own story about insecurities and adulthood despite it being a massively awkward fit? At least your industry peers will see you capable of making something emotionally resonant, even if it doesn’t make any sense for Green Eggs and Ham!
But the biggest problem of all must be with the audience, and what it says about how we consume content. How many thousands of parents like myself would click on a Green Eggs and Ham show over some unknown property? What does it means for our attention economy that, as a whole, we want retreads of things we are familiar with instead of something that can be new and evocative on its own terms? If parents want to have a profound experience of art related to their struggles of adulthood and parenthood, but they have to go to a Green Eggs and Ham to do so, doesn’t something about that feel a bit off?
I felt this problem acutely when I tried and stopped watching Wandavision. Wandavision started as this really unsettling Twilight Show concept of two people becoming increasingly self aware they were in a stuck in a series of sitcoms, like some some caped-up version of Too Many Cooks. But about 4 episodes in, the oppressive reality of the Marvel IP came crashing in, reminding you that this is actually continuing the storyline from Endgame and remember when Kat Denning was in that Thor movie and now she’s back!? From that moment on, the show itself lost all of it’s mystique. But would a concept as strange as Wandavision with that budget even exist without that connective tissue to draw eyes to it?
Something seems a bit broken. A Cruella Deville origin story. A 5th Batman in my lifetime. A 2nd Ghostbusters Reboot. What is this fascination with constantly rehashing or navel gazing at the past, and what does it say about what we go to television and movies for? I’m not exactly sure yet, but it feels like a collective desire for media to coddle us instead of challenge us, which feels like an impulse worth fighting against once you become self aware of it.
Not that you asked, but here is my free idea for a good Green Eggs and Ham show: a Spy vs. Spy or Tom and Jerry type show where Sam-I-Am goes through increasingly elaborate ways to get to get the other guy to try Green Eggs and Ham, involving ridiculous scenarios, conspiracies and crazy contraptions. That’s it. That’s all it ever had to be.