The series has sadly lost much of magic when moving to the small screen.
I found myself feeling pretty torn on Monsters at Work when it was first unveiled for Disney+. Sure, all the ingredients were there for a perfect TV show, but with the film and its successor Monsters University being so flawless, I feared that their legacy could be tarnished if things weren't handled correctly. These fears only escalated too when I discovered that creator Pixar would not be at the helm and that the series would instead be focusing on a brand-new group of characters. Still, I decided to stick with the series throughout its entire ten-episode run and my thoughts, well...they are a little bit mixed if I am being completely honest.
Something that I loved right off the bat is Monsters at Work directly follows after the events of Monsters Inc. With Waternoose now being behind bars and the company shifting to the power of laughter, Mike and Sully are promoted to heads of the company and much of the series follows the hilarity of them being out of their depth and struggling to adjust to their newfound responsibilities. One hilarious scene, for example, sees Mike handing out packets of money to employees and splashing on priceless artwork inspired by Andy Warhol and Michelangelo's David. The Mike's Comedy Class segments that cap off each episode are equally great too, with them poking fun at Mike's lack of awareness and inflated confidence.
The scenes featuring this lovable pair do manage to deliver the laughs, but sadly, they are only present for about 20% of the show and they take a backseat to a completely new cast of characters. The show instead mainly focuses on Tyler Tuskmon (Ben Feldman), a monster who has trained for years to be a top scarer only to find out that his dream company has now made an inconvenient shift to comedy. Tyler might have excelled at giving children nightmares, but his comedic abilities aren't exactly up to snuff and he is instead set to work within the MIFT department (Monsters Inc. Facilities Team). The season mainly focuses on Tyler's resentment for the role and his unfolding plan to make it back onto the laugh floor.
Tyler isn't the only new face here as there are a range of colourful new characters that we are introduced to and many of these are played by big-name talent. Amongst the new cast, there's the crafty promotion-hungry Duncan (Lucas Neff), the overly quirky but awfully lonely Val (Mindy Kaling), and the soft-spoken and good-natured Fritz (Henry Winkler). My biggest problem with all these characters is that they feel one-dimensional and we are shown little depth to them besides their prominent character traits. Tyler is the exception though, as we see him move from being completely bitter and spiteful to putting himself in some sticky situations to try and protect his newly forged relationships.
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Many of the plotlines here also either filler or simply concepts that we have seen already before. The Damaged Room episode, for example, is basically a copycat of the first film, but it's Mike this time that shows his sensitive side to the newly adopted child. The episode The Big Wazowskis gave me huge flashbacks to The Simpsons, as here Tyler is left in a tough spot and must decide whether maintaining his relationship with this colleague is more important than winning a bowling competition. The Vending Machine is also just flat-out filler with it following the team's struggles to adjust to a brand-new vending machine. With the series being as short as 10 episodes, there really is no place for throwaways like this.
Something else that the show really lacks is the emotional punch that the duo of films managed to deliver. Monsters Inc and Monsters University contained the perfect blend of heart and silliness and you'd be lying if you said that you didn't shed a tear during moments such as when Sully was forced to see goodbye to Boo at the end of Monsters Inc and when Mike discovered that the final round of the Scare Games was rigged in Monsters University. This is something that Pixar is a masters of doing within their storytelling and it's just one of many tell-tale signs that their involvement wasn't present within Monsters at Work.
So, should Monsters at Work be renewed for a second series? Well, I'm pretty unsure. The first season, whilst showing a few glimpses of promise, feels just like an empty shell of the duo of Pixar movies that many of us fondly remember our childhood. Sure, it shares a similar title and Mike and Sully are present, but it's completely absent of heart and I struggled to connect with its new cast of one-note characters. Hopefully this isn't the standard that Disney will hold other Pixar adaptations to in the future, as they are certainly worthy of better treatment than this.