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NBC Series ‘Rutherford Falls’ Reveals the Joke of White Identity Politics

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Nathan Rutherford is a nice guy.

Affably played by comedy veteran Ed Helms, Nathan holds tours for school groups in his house/museum, treats his teenage personal assistant Bobby Yang (Jesse Leigh) with kindness, and supports his best friend Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding, Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux), a member of the fictional Minishonka tribe. He’s even friendly with Terry Thomas (Michael Greyeyes, Nêhiyaw from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation), CEO of the Minishonka casino. There’s no one Nathan won’t greet with a handshake and a nugget of history from his New York hometown Rutherford Falls.

Created by Sierra Teller Ornelas (Navajo), along with Helms and Michael Schur, “Rutherford Falls” is a character-driven sitcom about lovable weirdos living together. Like the other shows Schur co-created, particularly “Parks & Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Rutherford Falls” features a good-hearted doofus living in a diverse community, whose personal foibles strike comedy gold. But where those shows had problems that resolved in less than 30 minutes, the conflicts in “Rutherford Falls” never get fixed.

Over the first 10-episode season, Nathan fights to protect a statue of his ancestor and town founder Lawrence Rutherford, despite its inconvenient position in the middle of the street. When Nathan declares that the statue (dubbed “Big Larry”) must remain because of a “legally binding … fair and honest deal” Lawrence struck with the Minishonka, Terry gets an idea. On behalf of Minishonka Nation, Terry sues Rutherford Falls for breach of contract, hoping to return to his people land stolen by the ancestors Nathan valorizes.

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Joe George
Joe George
Joe George has written for, Syfy Wire, and Star, and he contributes regularly to Think Christian and George tweets too often from @jageorgeii and sometimes updates his website at

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