Producer(s):Dan Perrault, Tony Yacenda
Writer(s):Dan Perrault, Tony Yacenda, Kevin McManus, Matthew McManus, Seth Cohen, Dan Lagana, Jessica Meyer, Amy Pocha, Lauren Herstick Mike Rosolio, Mark Stasenko, Jaboukie Young-White
Composer: Darien Shulman
Starring:Tyler Alvarez, Griffin Gluck, Travis Tope, Melvin Gregg, Taylor Dearde, Jay Lee, Susan Ruttan, Jeremy Culhane,DeRon Horton
Genre:Comedy, Crime, Drama
American Vandal is an American television series created by Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda and distributed by Netflix. As the popularity of true crime drama grows with titles such as The Serial Podcast, Making A Murderer, O.J Simpson: Made in America, and countless others, Netflix has quietly stepped into the world of satire. In 2016, Perrault and Yacenda, who had successfully worked on short films for Funny or Die and College Humor, pitched American Vandal to Netflix where they insured a compelling mystery would be the core of the series with elements of comedy.
American Vandal Season 1 premiered on September 15, 2017 to rave reviews, scoring a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and receiving numerous accolades such as a Critics’ Choice Award nomination, a Writers’ Guild of America Award nomination, a prime time Emmy award nomination, and the Award for Entertainment at the 2018 Peabody Awards. Without much marketing, this Mocumentary / Docu-series has developed a large cult following. With such overwhelming reception, Netflix quickly ordered a second season of the award winning satire. Yacenda and Perrault pitched a potentially larger mystery for the second season for the main characters to investigate. On August 21, 2018, Netflix announced the release date of Season 2 with great expectation. Netflix premiered American Vandal Season 2 on September 14, 2018 once again to rave reviews, scoring a 97% on Rotten tomatoes.
Spiritual Content: One student is mockingly over-religious and quotes scripture regularly. One of the main characters professes to be an atheist.
Violence: One student punches another.
Language/Crude Humor: The students often use curse words such as f***, d***, b****, a**,s***, and many others. The core of American Vandal is a crime involving feces. There are multiple jokes utilizing bathroom humor and/or sexual humor.
Sexual Content: Some students kissing other students. Images of sexually suggestive pictures of nudity are blurred out.
Drug/Alcohol use: Students gather at a party where underage drinking and drug use is seen.
Other Negative Themes: The abuse of social media is a major subject of American Vandal. Social Media is used to bully other students. Vandalism is used in order to terrorize and impose fear in the student body.
Positive Content: A look into the dangers of online dating and social media relationships which could lead to cat-fishing or identity theft.
American Vandal Season 2 brings Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Guck) to St. Bernardine High School in Bellevue, Wash. to investigate vandalism unlike any they have encountered. On November 26, 2017, known as “The Brownout,” multiple students were exposed to a substance which caused them to defecate on themselves and across the school campus. Peter and Sam are surprised to discover someone has claimed responsibility for this act of vandalism and warns of more to come. Using social media, the entity, known as The Turd Burglar, continues to haunt the students and faculty of St.Bernardine, and even turns his attention to Peter and Sam—further driving them to discover the true identity of The Turd Burglar.
If you are familiar with true crime dramas, American Vandal is indistinguishable from the rest. If the viewer were unaware that the story of American Vandal was fictitious, it would not be difficult to believe the events and investigation itself was 100% authentic. Upon watching Season 1, I myself had to question whether I was watching a real investigation of a real event. It wasn’t until I watched an interview with one of the cast members promoting the show when I finally realized this was a work of fiction. This can be contributed to excellent writing, convincing acting, and superb directing, and Season 2 is no different. In fact, Season 2 of American Vandal doesn’t just meet the quality of Season 1, but exceeds it in every way.
What makes American Vandal so convincing is its in-depth writing. American Vandal successfully takes the genre of mystery and turns it on its head. American Vandal exceeds in achieving a perfect balance of authenticity by unraveling a mystery following facts and leads with some of the most immature potty humor ripped straight from a teen comedy such as an American Pie or Porky’s. Finding this balance gives a sense of realism to the series by following American teenagers investigating other American teenagers. American Vandal’s Season 2 mystery is much broader than its previous season. With more then one vandalism occurring, with more victims of these events, and a true antagonist claiming responsibility, American Vandal’s twists and turns are so complex and detailed, it feels as if it’s too crazy to not be true.
Another factor breathing life into American Vandal is its believable performances. The two leads, Peter and Sam played by Tyler Alvarez and Griffin Gluck, along with Travis Tope, who plays Kevin, are so convincing in their roles I could see any one of them as a former high school classmate. The entire cast, from the stereotypical geeks, nerds, jocks, and even faculty makes this world feel lived in and convincing. Every character feels as if they have a long developed history and back story no matter the amount of screen time given to them. Without the believe-ability of every cast member, the series could lose its flair of realism. Luckily, American Vandal’s cast was up to the challenge by bringing a sense of satirical seriousness to an otherwise immature subject.
The directing and production of American Vandal can stand up to and even surpass any other true crime drama documentary series on television today. With its neo-noir cinematography, American Vandal looks the part of true crime mystery. The production value of this series is one of the major contributors to its hyper-authentic feel. The pacing of the series allows for the mystery to be easily unraveled and simple to follow. The direction drives the story forward and finally ends with a satisfying conclusion.
American Vandal is one of the most witty and compelling comedic satires on a streaming service. The stylistic cinematography coupled with its crude humor allows American Vandal to stand head and shoulders above the rest. While American Vandal’s mystery centers around one gigantic “poop joke,” it also shines light on social issues such as improper criminal investigation tactics, false confessions, the abuse of social media, bullying, identity theft, social classes, peer acceptance, and social and economic double standards. American Vandal uses vulgar and otherwise ridiculous humor to explore our addiction to true crime dramas. The series is a thought provoking look into our online lives and how we perceive and promote ourselves in the virtual world. The excellent balance of mystery and humor, along with its eight easily digestible 25 to 30 minute episodes, makes American Vandal perfect to binge watch in one entertaining evening.
The Bottom Line
If you are a fan of true crime documentaries, mysteries, and crude potty humor, American Vandal is for you. This mystery satire will hold and take you deep into the ridiculous investigation of the identity of the social media terrorist "The Turd Burglar" before they strike again.