Let’s get the obvious concern out of the way: Yes, it is extremely odd that TBS is premiering a sitcom that’s essentially a parody of Lost in 2016, 12 years after the series debuted. The timing seems a little odd, as if it might have been a leftover from a pile of 2003 pilot scripts. It’s also possible that we’re so far removed from the original show that most of Wrecked should just fall flat. Yet, somehow, Wrecked mostly works.
On Wrecked, a group of misfit strangers on a flight to Thailand end up crash landing on the island and have to work together — or at least not murder each other — in order to survive. The de facto leader Owen (Zach Cregger) only becomes so because he’s the only surviving member of the flight crew (though he spent much of the flight ignoring passengers in favor of illegally smoking in the tiny bathroom). He’s helped by Danny (Brian Sacca) who obtains respect solely because he lies about being a police officer and ends up in charge of the gun. Neither men should be in charge of anything.
Also rounding up the main crew — most of which have parallels to original Lost characters — are a couple at a frustrating crossroads, romantic Jess (Ally Maki) and her resident douchebag boyfriend Todd (Will Greenberg); a doctor Emma (Ginger Gonzaga) who can’t get anyone to take her seriously because she’s a podiatrist and her best friend Florence (Jessica Lowe), a free-spirit who forced Emma to go to Thailand with her on vacation, therefore derailing Emma from her new residency; Karen (Brooke Dillman), an executive at Bing (yes, Bing) who surprisingly has the most survival skills, ranging from killing boars with her bare hands and callously disposing of mangled corpses; Pack (Asif Ali), a sports agent whose survival skills are exactly zero; and Steve (Rhys Darby), a naive New Zealander who is just happy to be around people who talk to him.
With a character rundown like that, Wrecked certainly has the potential to be a quickly tired sitcom about weirdos eating boars and yelling at each other. And sure, that is what a lot of the first few episodes entail, but Wrecked finds a way to break out of the quirky ensemble mold. Instead of trying to push the characters out of their original stereotypes, the series creators/writers — brothers Justin and Jordan Shipley — have them embrace their stereotypes, finding these little elements and nuances to focus on in order to amplify the humor. Wrecked goes all out when it comes to say, making Karen a terrifying and creepy survival-obsessive or when it wants to drive home how dumb these characters can be; while hammered and literally stuck on an island with no hope of getting home, someone enthusiastically yells, “We’re all gonna live forever!”
Wrecked has no intention of being one of those secretly smart comedies. Its first, and only, aim is to make viewers laugh. The jokes range from the obvious — a heroic Jack Shepard-like character who sprints through the wreckage saving various people from various ailments — to the just-weird-enough-to-work — some unnecessarily mean, but hilarious jokes about whether or not Brendan Fraser is still famous enough to warrant mass worry if he’d been on the plane too. In one episode, Pack gets a satellite phone to work and the easy millennial joke about not knowing any phone numbers by heart gets beefed up when we learn the phone numbers they do have memorized: Florence offers up her drug dealer, Owen suggests his local Papa John’s.
Wrecked isn’t funny because it sends up one of the biggest shows on television. It’s funny because it focuses on the moments that Lost could never portray without losing its necessary self-seriousness. In Wrecked, the characters aren’t plagued with existential crises or unsolvable dilemmas, but instead are concerned with finding a secluded place to use the bathroom in the woods, or to go on a witch hunt to figure out who owns the giant case of sex toys found with the luggage. One of the biggest conflicts they face — bigger even than the island election — is choosing between watching Dumb and Dumber To or Selma as what would potentially be the last movie they ever watch, because no one wants to seem racist with their decision.
It’s those absurd elements combined with throwaway lines (“I’ve ruined a funeral once”) and a commitment to skewing away from the sentimental (one serious moment is punctuated by a blurred-out dick) that help move Wrecked beyond mere parody, a comedy poised to become a Tuesday night go-to when you’re ready to turn your brain off and laugh at nothing.
Wrecked premieres on TBS tonight at 10pm ET.