Netflix's new buzzy crime mockumentary, American Vandal, should be boring. The show, released on September 15, tests its audience's patience by stretching a basic dick joke across eight 30-minute episodes. But somehow it's...a time suck. I binged the whole season in one sitting and I don't even like dick jokes. Quick—watch the trailer:
After years of exaggerated praise, Netflix has released a slew of middling TV in 2017. Is American Vandal another mediocre streaming series? The show's recent press doesn't think so.
- American Vandal is the future of documentaries, not just dick jokes
- How to satirize true-crime series: With 'American Vandal,' school is in session
- Netflix’s American Vandal Is an Immature True-Crime Parody That’s … Almost Brilliant?
Lofty claims from lofty papers. But is it warranted? Well, if American Vandal teaches its viewers anything it's that the truth is elusive.
People have their theories on why American Vandal is brilliant. (Spoiler: I have one too.) Megan Farokhmanesh at the Verge claimed this afternoon that "[American Vandal] envisions the documentary process in more modern terms, creating a future where platforms like Snapchat or Instagram become tools of record for would-be detectives." Sure, the show uses a shit ton of recovered Instagram stories and Snapchats. The Snaps help create a show that seems to authentically capture the experience of being a high schooler in 2017. But is it innovative? Hardly. Journalists have been innovatively using social media to cover issues for years, and Snaps/Grams/Tweets/FB Lives have been used in teen shows since their existence.
American Vandal's brilliance doesn't come from its innovation but from its painstakingly faithful commitment to the real-life murder mystery model. The show manages to be as engaging and time-consuming as Serial and Making a Murderer despite its central crime being a dick joke. It's like American Vandal's creators wanted to prove that Serial's success wasn't due to its content, but rather our current obsession with the nature of truth and justice. Serial, Making a Murderer, American Vandal, and the host of copycat real-life murder mystery series like them all waste our time by examing every possible outcome, only to leave us with more confusion. But we're into that nowadays. Post-truth was the word of 2016.
Yeah, I'm unsatisfied with American Vandal's ending, but not enough to want another season. A success, however, must have a second season. Don't worry, fans, the show's creators told Entertainment Weekly they have "a very detailed idea" of what they want to do for season 2.
If they follow true to
their form Serial, the second season of American Vandal will be a meandering romp through Afghanistan. It will also be a failure.