"In one sense, there has never been a show like Rutherford Falls before," says Nick Martin, who is Native American. "Streaming on NBC’s service Peacock, Rutherford Falls is focused on the fictional titular northeastern town and the also-fictional Minishonka Nation. Brought to life by Parks and Rec and The Good Place creator Michael Schur, The Office star Ed Helms, and Navajo showrunner Sierra Teller Ornelas, the series features the first-ever Native-majority writing staff on a big-studio comedy series. Not only that, but half of the cast consists of Native actors playing Minishonka citizens, and the season’s best episodes are directed by Native directors. In another sense, however, there is a lot that is familiar about the show, which follows Helms’s character, Nathan Rutherford, a descendant of the town’s founder and the self-appointed champion of a statue that stands at the center of both Rutherford Falls and the town’s original treaty with the Minishonka Nation." Martin adds: "But there is a deeper familiarity that ends up preventing the show from being the best version of itself. I want to be precise in what I write here, because I very much admire and am inspired by the Native showrunner, writers, actors, and crew behind this show. Jana Schmieding shines in every scene as Reagan—a brief shot of her in the second episode calling the winning number of a bingo card is so full of joy that it’s impossible not to give a full-on toothy grin in response. Greyeyes is great, too: Every cocked eyebrow, eye roll, nod, squint, and incredulous stare feels natural and punctuating. Everyone involved understands the assignment, and they manage to deliver so many beautiful expressions of Native humor out of otherwise heavy material. And so it is disappointing that these pockets of genuine greatness are relegated to playing second fiddle to the show’s white perspective. From the moment Ed Helms’s face fills the frame in the first episode, I understood that I would be watching a show about the removal of a colonizer’s statue through the two eyeballs through which we as a nation have perceived almost every significant historical event. It’s the Nathan Rutherford story that pokes its head up time and again to remind you that, while Rutherford Falls is assuredly progress, it is not quite the answer. Like Schur’s past work, Rutherford Falls never engages directly with our modern political atmosphere, instead crafting a Parks-like universe in which partisan divisions are never spoken of and people by and large can agree to disagree. I’ve spent many working hours watching citizens step up to microphones to address calls to remove Confederate statues, replace Native sports mascots, and update anti-Indigenous school curriculums. Likewise, I’ve covered quite a few lawsuits brought by tribal nations seeking to uphold their treaty, land, and water rights. There is emotional drama and satirical humor to be wrought out of what can otherwise be incredibly life-draining affairs. But forming an entire show around the Good White Man who just really loves his family history and expecting a Native audience to truly engage with and care about his journey of understanding the ills of colonization, capitalism, and blood quantum almost undermines the idea of having a Native-majority writing room." The paradox of Rutherford Falls, Martin adds, is that the show wouldn't exist without big names like Helms and Schur. "You can apply this paradox to a number of other recent films and shows—Hostiles, Longmire, Wind River, among others—that recognize the need to tell Native narratives but whose financiers or creators insist that there must be a leading white character to ensure that white viewers will flock to the screen," says Martin. "But for a show like Rutherford Falls to reach its creative potential, and to subsequently find a broader audience, it would have to move the camera away from Helms and back over to its Minishonka cast and storylines."