14 February 2024

Killing It: Snake it till you make it

In the comedy series Killing It, series co-creators Dan Goor (Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and Luke Del Tredici tell the tale of disaster-prone wannabe entrepreneur Craig Foster (Craig Robinson, The Office and Brooklyn Nine-Nine). Driven to financial desperation after he loses his job, Craig enters the Florida Python Challenge –.a competition to see which weirdo can kill the most invasive snakes – hoping to use the prize as seed money for his business. It’s a comedy centred on the low down, dirty and dangerous fight to survive in the modern United States. The struggle is real … and really funny.

Watch Killing It Season 1 on Showmax now. New episodes on Thursdays.

The Florida Python Challenge?

First of all, yes, it’s real and it has been around since 2013. You can make a little bit of money by catching big snakes like Burmese pythons (escapees from the pet trade) that are disrupting the local ecosystem in the Florida Everglades. The challenge has its own website, corporate sponsors and even guides for planning your trip.

This year’s main prize for the person who captures the most snakes is $10 000 (around R188 546). And when Luke Del Tredici first heard about the Challenge, he was horrified that people would risk life and limb wading into a wetland to hunt snakes the size of telephone poles in exchange for a relatively small prize. So while the show wiggles the facts by making the prize $20 000, it spotlights reality by noting that it’s the price of just one of a rich socialite character’s purses.

Combining blood sport and a cash prize attracts enthusiasts from around the world, along with normal folk who enjoy ending a peaceful day out in nature by dragging a massive dead snake to a weigh-in station. And that’s what Killing It really promises – a fun time in the company of some folk with a passion for pythons and a willingness to kill to escape poverty.

Snakes & ladders

The series begins with Craig in the future, telling his housekeeper the story of how he came to be a multi-millionaire. But before we get there, as in any good game of snakes and ladders, we have to slither back all the way to the bottom again.

Craig Robinson as Craig, and Claudia O'Doherty as Jillian in Killing It S1
Craig Robinson as Craig, and Claudia O’Doherty as Jillian

At the bottom, Craig is staring poverty in the face in the midst of the 2016 elections in the US – at a time when many of the ladders out of poverty have had their lower rungs smashed out, or just been pulled out of reach. The lower part of the board is mostly snakes, and it is really easy to slip down, as we’ll see through the lead characters’ backstories.

Get rich or die trying

Growing up, Craig’s father told him, “Work hard and have faith everything is going to work out.” Yeah. Are you sure about that?

As the first episode shows, hard work is not enough when the deck is stacked against you from the start. We see how everything from the way Craig looks, to how he talks, to how he dresses is used as a strike against him. Despite him consciously code-switching his language in a business pitch, several racist bank loan officers prove reluctant to back Craig purely because he is a Black entrepreneur.

In reality, 19% fewer Black-owned enterprises were approved loans compared to loans approved for White-owned businesses in the US in 2016, and of those who were approved, 28% fewer Black applicants received the full loan amount they requested.

Claudia O’Doherty as Jillian and Craig Robinson as Craig in Killing It S1
Claudia O’Doherty as Jillian and Craig Robinson as Craig

Craig also has family issues that set him back and lead to him losing his job. He loses both his apartment and his car to accidents and doesn’t have the legal or financial backing to recoup those losses. And with no social safety net, his only option is to buy a membership to a 24-hour gym and sneakily start living there.

Then there’s his dream itself. Without a foot in the door in larger, more profitable industries through connections or access to networking circles (which shows even in how he makes his business pitches), Craig has to pick a niche. He wants to start a farm to grow Saw Palmetto berries for the largely unregulated health supplement industry. Our man Craig is out there trying to get rich as a literal snake-oil salesman!

Dog-eat-dog

Killing It’s other characters show the alternate financial routes open to Craig, and where they lead…

Jillian Glopp (Claudia O’Doherty), a cheerful Australian woman who’ll become Craig’s hunting partner, has been sucked into the gig economy. She works a number of informal jobs through rideshare providers like Uber and gigging sites like Taskrabbit that bring in so little money (guess who the money actually goes to) that she has to sleep inside the signboard that she’s towing behind her car.

Jillian has a vague idea that you need to fake money to make money. For her that’ll mean pretending to be rich to lure in a rich businessman at a conference for entrepreneurs, and by using her house sitting side hustle to gain access to rich people’s properties and lifestyles to back up her story. If Jennifer Lopez can do it in Maid in Manhattan, why not Jillian Glopp?

Claudia O’Doherty as Jillian and Craig Robinson as Craig

Craig’s brother, Isaiah (standup comedian Rell Battle) is the flip side of the coin. He’s seen what being honest and hard working will get you, and he’s not buying that system. Where Craig goes begging for a bank loan, Isaiah will rob the bank. And he turns from one kind of con to another when he starts working as an adviser to crooked motivational speaker Rodney LaMonca (Tim Heidecker) – the kind of guy who has no trouble killing advisors who double cross him.

Craig Robinson as Craig, Rell Battle as Isaiah, and Claudia O'Doherty as Jillian in Killing It S1
Craig Robinson as Craig, Rell Battle as Isaiah and Claudia O’Doherty as Jillian

Brock (Scott MacArthur, the Devil in The Righteous Gemstones), Craig’s hunting rival, is trying to spin python hunting into fame and fortune as a YouTube influencer with his son Corby (Wyatt Walter). Brock also didn’t start out wanting fame online; he was fired from his job and he didn’t have a lot of options. The comedy digs into Brock’s struggles to collaborate with other influencers in a double-crossing world, and the indignities he suffers trying to figure out how to capture an audience. Python hunting, comparatively, is a walk in the park.

PS: Brock and Corby aren’t bumpkins for setting their sights on YouTube, either. Instagram didn’t launch their monetisation programme until 2018 and TikTok only launched as a platform in September 2016.

Scott MacArthur as Brock in Killing It S1
Scott MacArthur as Brock

And while they’re all out there trying to kill snakes, at least one competitor has spotted the real opportunity … wild python hunting is hard, dangerous work. What if you simply … grew your own?

Watch Killing It Season 1 on Showmax now. New episodes on Thursdays.

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Without hard-earned inherited wealth to help you to dodge the consequences of your decisions along with whatever fate hurls into your face, life is a series of sweaty indignities. And the deeper you slip into poverty, the more the “good” choices get struck off the menu. Try these five working-class comedies on Showmax that give big dreams a price check: Superstore, Rain Dogs, Somebody, Somewhere, The Office, Home Economics.

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