The new Netflix Original Series American Vandal was created by Dan Perrault (The Screen Junkies Show) and Tony Yacenda (Slumlord). The show was given a true-crime satire treatment, where a high school student is making a documentary about the aftermath of an expensive prank that vandalized twenty-seven faculty cars with spray-painted phallic images. Although the show focuses on the alleged prankster who claims he did not do it, the real star of the show is actually Peter Maldonado, played by Tyler Alvarez (who portrays Gloria Mendoza’s son in Orange is the New Black); a student on the search for the truth about the vandalized cars. He begins to film a documentary along with his friend Sam, played by Griffin Gluck (Why him?, Just Go With It). Tyler and Sam interview students and teachers while they present us with the many possible scenarios regarding all suspects in order to discover who committed the vandalism and his or her motive behind it.
The best thing about American Vandal is its originality; it can be refreshing and doesn’t take itself seriously. It also has good acting that at times makes you feel like if you are watching a real documentary; especially Jimmy Tatro’s (22 Jump Street) charming and natural performance, who plays Dylan Maxwell, the known school prankster who is the one accused of vandalizing the cars and therefore suspended unless there is proof of his innocence. Tatro is able to turn an obnoxious bully into a likable rascal, and after the first couple of episodes you find yourself surprisingly rooting for him. It has well-constructed plot twists that prevent the show from being predictable and boring (it also helps that they’re thirty-minute episodes and not longer) and an overall clever script that keeps you intrigued despite the silliness of it all, compelling you to watch the whole show because you want to find out if it was actually Dylan the one who vandalized the faculty cars or if it was someone else. And while American Vandal seems to be a very light satire which only intention is to entertain, it suddenly takes a serious and moral turn showing the audience the repercussions of judgement, preconceived notions and bad decisions; how “the high school life”, although it’s just a few years in someone’s life, can build or break a person’s future.
The downside is that for a show mocking other shows of likes of Making a Murderer, it lacks comedic moments and can be redundant at times. Although American Vandal has a unique tone to it, there are many phallic jokes that at are funny at the beginning but then they get repeated many times and fail to cause the same effect as before. Having so many stereotyped characters (I believe on purpose), they could have taken advantage of them by creating funnier and more unrealistic situations; if the subject matter was already deliberately immature, there was room to go further and take more risks. The season finale is somewhat anticlimactic and although the mystery seems to be solved, there’s a lingering feeling that it could have been better concluded.