Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

I'm a Virgo Review: Boots Riley's Series Is a Gleefully Messy Good Time

The Prime Video series stars an excellent Jharrel Jerome

Allison Picurro
Jharrel Jerome, I'm a Virgo

Jharrel Jerome, I'm a Virgo

Pete Lee/Prime Video

Let it never be said that Boots Riley doesn't know how to commit to a bit. The writer-director's fantastical new series, I'm a Virgo, is his first venture into television and his first screen project since his 2018 film, the surreal, darkly comic Sorry to Bother You. That film, about a telemarketer who becomes involved in a bizarre conspiracy, was a bold debut that established Riley's passion for blending surrealism and biting social commentary. That same spirit is present through all seven episodes of I'm a Virgo, which premieres June 23 on Prime Video and centers on a 13-foot-tall teenager drifting through a world that has no place for him. It's also about fighting to survive in America as a young Black kid. It's also about activism. It's also about fame and cartoons and superheroes. It's a tall (sorry) order for one show to pull off seamlessly, and there's often so much going on with I'm a Virgo that it doesn't know how to handle it all. And yet, even in its messiest moments, the fun of watching something so entirely, shamelessly out-there approach its premise with such vigor is enough to keep you watching.

The 13-foot-tall teen in question is Cootie (Jharrel Jerome), whom we first meet as a very large newborn in what appears to be the ruins of a destroyed hospital. He's smuggled out by his aunt Lafrancine (Carmen Ejogo) and uncle Martisse (Mike Epps), and we watch as they keep him hidden in their normal-sized Oakland apartment, terrified for his safety. The series has a blast playing with the grotesquely funny sight of Cootie's enormous body crammed into tight spaces: He ducks his head to avoid hitting the ceiling and accidentally tears down walls. An early gag finds Martisse painting the house two colors — one side designated for Cootie, the other for Martisse and Lafrancine, though that's just a temporary solution to a tough problem. It's a very literal way of making it clear that Cootie, a gentle giant with a lot of curiosity about what exists outside the confines of his home, is just too big for the place he's stuck in. The show wastes no time letting Cootie act on his curiosity as he goes against his adoptive parents' wishes by finding himself a group of friends, a girlfriend who might just be his perfect match, and a level of fame no one, including Cootie, is prepared for. 

The show is anchored in the relationship between Cootie and his aunt and uncle, who love him in the only way they know how and have dedicated their lives to shielding him by limiting his understanding of reality. At one point, the three flip through a scrapbook Lafrancine has made, full of newspaper clippings of the horrifying fates other giants have met — a reminder that society is tough enough on young Black men without the added hardship of Cootie's height. Still, their protection has made him naive and strange: "My parents told me that if you don't get a job, they send you directly to jail," he says during his first ever hang-out with kids his own age. The show is at its strongest when it leans into that strangeness, and Riley, who directs every episode, is often able to capture it. He relies on clever camerawork and shifts in perspective to make Cootie's height believable, and if the effects sometimes look warped and wonky, those cobbled-together visuals only help imbue it with a scrappy, dreamlike spirit. A sex scene between Cootie and the human-sized Flora (Olivia Washington) is as disgusting as it is sweetly funny. A madcap late-in-the-game detail involving a super tiny group of people is delightfully goofy. Walton Goggins plays Cootie's idol, a comic book author turned vigilante superhero (who calls himself The Hero) who flies around with a jetpack, policing the streets as he sees fit. 


I'm a Virgo


  • It's having so much fun
  • Its central theme is strong
  • Jharrel Jerome's performance is great


  • The supporting characters aren't as well developed
  • Some of its ideas are messily executed

The Hero's brutal approach to justice is one of the things Martisse and Lafrancine are most afraid of as Cootie begins to venture out into Oakland. They fear that people will use him, and they fear that the world isn't safe for someone like him. Thankfully, the series is great at allowing Cootie, coming of age all at once, to experience things for himself. He approaches each new experience with wide-eyed, childlike wonder (the scene where he has his first taste of fast food is treated with the utmost sincerity), and his innocence makes his eventual confrontation with the reality of the violence of the world feel appropriately sobering. 

So much of the success of I'm a Virgo relies on Jerome's nimble performance. He nails the many oddities of playing a person who has not spent much time around others, like Cootie's messy eating and his stilted speech patterns, and his work only grows more fascinating as Cootie becomes more integrated into society. He spends so much of the series squeezing into places he can't fit and makes it feel like a win every time Cootie gets to stand at his full height. Epps is hilarious (a joke about Martisse making up songs on his electric keyboard to express his distaste with Cootie's antics is particularly funny), Ejogo is a joy to watch, and Goggins is incredible, but I'm a Virgo belongs to Jerome. Cootie is the show's most finely drawn character, to the point where it's almost a detriment to the rest of the ensemble. An incident that occurs with Allius Barnes' cartoon-obsessed Scat goes at the end of Episode 3 goes on to have a great impact on the trajectory of the rest of the season, and it's tough not to wish it would hit harder. Still, the very lovable Cootie makes it all worth it.

It's a good year for oddball shows, with I'm a Virgo joining Peacock's brilliant Mrs. Davis in the weird TV hall of fame. Maybe some of its ideas don't entirely work, and maybe I did wonder a few times whether this wouldn't have been better suited as a film, but I couldn't help but be thrilled that something like this gets to exist. I'm a Virgo has about as much subtlety as a 13-foot boy with a mysteriously oozing wound on his belly (I definitely don't want to spoil what ultimately happens with that), but it's immensely, charmingly watchable. The end result is a series as impossible to look away from as its protagonist.

Premieres: Friday, June 23 on Prime Video
Who's in it: Jharrel Jerome, Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo, Walton Goggins, Kara Young, Olivia Washington
Who's behind it: Boots Riley
For fans of: Sorry to Bother You, coming of age stories, weird stuff
How many episodes we watched: 7 of 7