Writer: Jarrett Crepeau
American Vandal comes from the minds of Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault, veterans of short form comedy sketches like Funny or Die and Collegehumor. The show is an eight episode mockumentary satire of true crime shows like Serial and Making a Murderer. Expect instead of an actual criminal act, the story focuses on a high school, where someone vandalized the teachers cars by spray painting rather…crude depictions of male genitalia on them. Yes I know, ridiculous, but stick with me because I think this series is more than what it looks like.
I won’t spoil the whole plot, but I will look at a few main points. Our prime suspect, repeat offender, lowlife stoner, Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro, known for his role in 22 Jump Street) is quickly expelled due to a surprising amount of evidence, but is it credible? Thats where the Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez, who had a small role in Orange is the New Black) and Sam Eklund (Griffin Gluck, the lead in Red Band Society), two students from the school’s broadcast class set out to find the truth by making a documentary, and exonerate Dylan. So that’s the setup, and it only gets deeper each episode.
The show is done really well, the cinematography is clean, but also believable, which is essential for mockumentary shows like this. The acting is also superb by every single teen, especially the three I mentioned earlier. They feel like real kids, kids that would go to my highschool, that have personalities and problems that a modern day teen would have, and of course this is boosted by the strong writing. While this show won’t make you laugh out loud very often, it will keep you engaged, and relatively entertained if you need something to turn your brain off to.
When I mentioned that the characters felt like real teenagers, that’s where this show shines. It’s what sold me after the first episode. This series is akin to our generation’s Breakfast Club or Mean Girls in terms of how excellent it shows the time period that young people live in. Many sub-plots in the show deal with social media apps like Instagram pictures and Twitch streams as evidence in the case, sometimes even delving deep into the vernacular used in texts and DM’s to show someone’s true intentions. The show doesn’t push these scenarios to the point where they seem artificial or tacky. A majority of the scenes are something that could happen at a high school tommorow. The main cast was extremely relatable, while the supporting cast were mostly stereotypes in terms of their personality and label ( jock, cheerleader, nerd, etc.), they were all given their modern twist that makes them fit with today’s society.
All in all, I would recommend this show to anyone, invite some friends over and watch it together so you can theorize and speculate as the story unfolds. While the comedy isn’t hilarious in every minute, it still has great moments with clever writing. The believable characters also really bring the show together and make it seem real for today’s high school students. American Vandal is a good time all around, and has something for everyone. If you like it, don’t worry, Netflix is in talks with the creators for developing a second season. As for what direction it will go, there’s no word on it yet, but I hope it’s just as good.