“Reservation Dogs” Review: FX on Hulu’s Indigenous Comedy Tells a Universal Coming-of-Age Tale

Lane Factor, Paulina Alexis, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai and Devery Jacobs in “Reservation Dogs.” Photo Courtesy: FX Networks

Rating: 9/10

Shot on location in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, and completely written, directed and starring Indigenous people, the new Reservation Dogs is not the kind of show we’ve gotten used to watching on TV.

It stars a group of Native American teenagers who share the dream of leaving rural Oklahoma and searching for a brighter life in California. The FX on Hulu (FX-produced content available exclusively on Hulu) eight-episode, half-hour comedy premieres with the first two episodes of the season this Monday, August 9, and has a new-episode-per-week rollout pattern after that.

The show was co-created by New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Jojo Rabbit) and Oklahoma native Sterlin Harjo (Mekko), who is Seminole/Muscogee Creek. They both met through the Indigenous program at Sundance Labs and have remained friends for years. Waititi, by far the most prominent name on Reservation Dog’s team, co-wrote the pilot episode with Harjo and is an executive producer but mainly allowed his co-creator to tell this story. “My involvement really is to kind of push this thing out into the water, and Sterlin was the one who paddled the boat and made sure that there weren't any holes in the bottom of it,” explained Waititi during a virtual press conference he and the team of Reservation Dogs held in front of the Television Critics Association (TCA) on August 4.

This is not the first show centering Native Americans we’ve seen this year. I’ve already told you about Peacock’s Rutherford Falls starring Jana Schmieding and co-created by Sierra Teller Ornelas, who is Navajo and one of the five Native writers on that show. But other than the fact that both these series are comedies, tell Indigenous American tales and share some talent — Schmieding plays a hilarious and indifferent health clinic receptionist in episode two of Reservation Dogs — they don’t have that much in common. Reservation Dogs is more intimate, more meticulously crafted, and it lacks any traces of Rutherford Falls’ broad humor while still being genuinely fun.