Me and my wife were looking for something new to watch on Netflix (a very common thing that most people do nowadays). We were scrolling through for a new series that would interest us both, and given that she is quite fickle when it comes to shows, it can be quite a job finding something.
A friend of mine said they were interested in this documentary show that was similar to Making A Murderer, which was about a kid who got caught drawing a bunch of dicks over his school called American Vandal. It sounded amusing so we checked out the trailer and thought it looked pretty good. By the end of the first episode, we were pretty hooked. We finished the season last night and I must say that I did thoroughly enjoy it.
It is only 30 minutes per episodes and only 8 episodes in the season, so you can easily smash it out. Since there is currently only the one season (with a second announced, coming next year) it is not enough to keep your binge addictions at bay for long, but it is good in a way as it does not out stay its welcome.
I must say though, the biggest disappointment for me was when I learned that it was NOT a true story. Where as Making A Murderer is all factual, it is amazing when certain things just line up, or new evidence presents itself, with American Vandal, as it is all fictional, it sometimes doesn’t always connect when new evidence suddenly appears as we know that this has been fabricated in order to push the story forward and make it more entertaining. However, by halfway through the season, you are always heavily invested into the show and so you seem to forget that, similar to a normal fictional TV show when something epic happens at the end of an episode to hook you into watching the next one.
I would probably say that the fact that this show is completely made up, is probably the only downside to it.
It did take the first episode to realise this, so for that episode, I had exactly the same feelings that I did when watching Making A Murderer.
So the story follows Dylan Maxwell, an all round bad student, troublemaker, bully, vandal, disruptor, stoner, and everything else. We all know the type from when we were at school; the kid who would just want to dick about and ruin the lesson for everyone, regardless if he was funny or not. Anyway, Dylan is known for drawing dicks on whiteboards in class and on his work, so when 27 spray painted dicks appear on the teachers’ cars, Dylan is expelled from the school and faces criminal charges for vandalism. A young moving making enthusiast student at the same school; Peter Maldonado, decides to make a documentary to look into the case, as he believes that Dylan might have been falsely accused, along with his friend Sam. Unlike Making A Murderer where the show makes you feel that Steven Avery is innocent from the get-go, American Vandal points the finger back to Dylan throughout. Peter is setting out not to clear his name, but if he does so then that is a bonus, but more to find the fault in the school’s reasoning for pinning the blame on Dylan.
The episodes cover over a wide area, from the other possible suspects and their reasons, to the teacher who believe that Dylan has a vendetta against her. It goes into Dylan’s alibi and if it would have been possible, time-wise, for Dylan to get to the school, draw 27 dicks, delete the security footage and get back. With social media and the fact that everyone uses things such as Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, Peter is able to piece together evidence to either work in Dylan’s favour, or to find additional clues. Sometimes it does feel a little far-fetched (now thinking back to it, such as the exact spray can), but at the time you do not even realise it and you are just going along for the ride.
One of the best things that the show does is look into the credibility of the schools only witness to Dylan committing the crimes. The kid who said he saw him do it, Alex Trimboli, has a history of lying to make himself popular, such as getting a hand-job from a girl who is far out of his league. It was apparently at summer camp, so the crew head to the camp and look for evidence that might disprove Alex’s story, therefore making him appear like a liar. It is quite a random side project, but given the context of it, it is rather comical.
Some times the show throws in some really funny moments that do have you laughing out loud, but, even though it is entirely fictitious, you do find yourself becoming heavily invested in the kids’ investigation.
They interview teachers, others students, and anyone else that might be linked to the case somehow. All of this has Peter narrating over the top, giving it a real documentary feel.
Like Making A Murderer, the show does a good job of making you question who could possibly do it all the way until the very end. And while the ending does give you a hint of who MIGHT have done it, it is not entirely definite.
Another great aspect of the show is that it goes into how being suspended from school has affected Dylan’s life and what it will do to his future. There is a bit in the last episode of the show that I thought was going to lead into the second season, like an “ah it’s happening again!” kind of moment, but it is actually something far deeper that leaves us with a lot of food for thought in terms of how peoples’ opinions of us can define who we become. It also covers how something like a documentary into people’s personal lives can greatly affect them. Having all of their “Would Do” lists, or who they fancy, or what people really think of them when they are not around, shown to the world, can cause some serious issues later down the line.
For a show about cars vandalised with dicks, ball hair evidence, hand-job digital re-enactment, and baby farting, it does have a very powerful overall message that it wants to tell, and by the end of the season, they have told us it very well.
If you are expecting a hilarious comedy, then this is not what you are after, sure the show is layered with comedic undertones, the mocumentary is more of a true to life story that could happen to anyone in this day and age.
I would highly recommend this and suggest that you go into it with an open mind. If you liked series like Making A Murderer and Serial, then this is definitely one to check out, even if the fact that it is complete fiction does disappoint, but only marginally.
I for one am very interested in checking out the second season next year, with hopefully a completely new story and cast of characters.