Created by Ed Helms, Michael Schur, and Sierra Teller Ornelas, ‘Rutherford Falls’ is a comedy-drama series that follows two close friends, Nathan Rutherford and Reagan Wells, who live in a small town. When the statue of Lawrence Rutherford, Nathan’s ancestor, is about to be moved from its place of prominence, he vehemently starts protesting against the proposal. Although Reagan wishes to help her best friend, she is conflicted by her own desire to expand the Minishonka Cultural Center, a pseudo-museum that encapsulates her tribe’s native history.
Although the series raises important issues plaguing the United States but is the plot of the show itself rooted in real-life incidents? Or is the premise entirely fictional? Well, if you find yourself asking those questions, then allow us to help you get some clarification.
Is Rutherford Falls Based on a True Story?
‘Rutherford Falls’ is partially based on a true story. The premise of the show may give viewers the wrong impression that the sitcom is inspired by the demolition of statues around the world, followed by the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. But nothing can be farther from the truth. The creators have actually been developing the idea for the show since early 2017.
While talking about the issues of confederate statues and the protests, Ed Helms, who essays the role of Nathan Rutherford, clarified, ”I would say the existence of Confederate and historical statues and their controversies going way back fed into these ideas that we were bouncing around.” The actor further stated, ”But there wasn’t a specific series of events in recent history that triggered it.”
So, drawing parallels between the demolition of Confederate monuments and other statues around the world with the show’s premise will be unwise. However, with that being said, it is also important to remember that the creators were well aware of the severe socio-cultural issues that they were indirectly addressing through ‘Rutherford Falls.’ Mike Schur-produced shows are famous for brilliantly exploring deep socio-political, cultural, and historical problems with their fictional narrative using character-based comedy. For example. ‘The Office,’ one of his most popular sitcoms so far, addresses critical issues like Homophobia, Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, Racism, Sexism, and much more.
The series is, however, also not entirely fictional. The creators admitted in one of their interviews that ‘Rutherford Falls’ explores the complicated histories of towns in upstate New York and their complex relationship with the Native American reservations. Discussing the same, Mike Schur said, ”The original idea was about reckoning about history, which is a thing that, traditionally, America doesn’t do great with. America is not great at reckoning with its own history.” The producer and writer continued, ”That’s what the last three years of those controversies [about Confederate monuments] have really laid bare.”
The show also tries to address the issue of inclusivity. Sierra Teller Ornelas, who is one of the executive producers, said, ”We have five Native writers, which I think is a first. It’s certainly a first for me.” She elaborated further, ”A lot of times on a show you’ll see there’s one type of person and they have to represent their whole community. [But] in the writers’ room we had five Native writers who all saw things differently. We all had different opinions on casinos, on border relations and it was really great to have that kind of reflect in the show.” So the sitcom not only explores serious social issues but also delves deeper into real historical problems, which is brilliant considering that it’s a comedy series.
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