‘American Vandal’ Is One Part True Crime Parody, One Part Teen Drama, And All Parts Great

Editor-at-Large
09.25.17 21 Comments

Netflix

Below, please find a review of American Vandal. The first eight points are relatively spoiler-free. The last two are probably better if you’ve seen the show. Which you should. You should see it. It is extremely good. Allow me to explain.

1. American Vandal is a mockumentary and true crime parody from Netflix. It was created by Funny or Die veterans Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda. The first season contains eight 30-40 minute episodes and is available now.

2. The plot, in general terms, goes something like this: Someone at Hanover High School has drawn penises on 27 cars in the faculty parking lot. Senior class clown and doofus Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro) is the prime suspect. The school board expels him based on one unreliable eyewitness account and a pile of circumstantial evidence including, but not limited to, a long history of drawing penises on things. But sophomore Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) sees holes in the case and launches an investigation/documentary to get to the bottom of it all. It is essentially like Serial crossed with Making a Murderer but about drawings of dicks.

3. If you read that paragraph and thought to yourself, “Hmm, sounds funny but I don’t think they can keep that idea fresh for over four hours of programming,” I am pleased to report that you are stupid and wrong. So very wrong. It is good and it remains good the whole way through. It pulls this off in two ways:

  • American Vandal knows exactly what it is doing. It’s such a good true crime parody that it might even ruin the genre for you, but like, in a good way. What starts as a straightforward(-ish) investigation zooms off down path after path on the hunt for new theories. New suspects are looked at, inconsistencies are examined in painstaking detail, a huge conspiracy wall is constructed with pictures of people and strings of yarn connecting them to index cards with questions marks. A big break in the case stems from the way the penises are drawn. The show spends a lot of time on it. It’s really just delightful.
  • There is a surprising amount of emotional heft to it all. As the investigations twist and twirl, the show takes some time to show the effect all of it has on the subjects. There are tears, and there is yelling, and parts of it will make you feel real feelings about some of the characters, which is not something I expected from a mockumentary about graffiti dicks. But it is all in there. I swear to God. In addition to being a great true crime parody, American Vandal is also one of the best teen dramas on television.

I am sorry for calling you stupid earlier. I just get a little excited.

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