Crime documentaries are a very recognisable genre. We know the conventions. By this, I mean, we know that they will include interviews from witnesses, friends, family and the suspects. They would have cut aways, narration, reenactments and professionals/investigators conducting experiments. You can spot the genre a mile away. However, we have finally reached the last stage in a genres lifecycle, parody. Parody is to essentially take the piss out of genre conventions or other texts. Netflix took this definition and turned it onto the investigative crime doc, with its most recent addition, American Vandal. Netflix does describe the show as a satire but the show seems to mock codes and conventions of film/TV, rather than society so I’m just going to call it a parody. (My dissertation was on parody so I apologise if I sound a bit too passionate about it).
When Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro) is accused of spray painting 25 dicks on to 25 of the teacher’s car, Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) create a documentary to find the truth. This 8 part mockumentary will seek to uncover if Dylan is guilty and if not, who is?
The show takes the investigation seriously and follows all the guidelines of a traditional documentary. You could easily mistake it for anything you would see on CBS. This is until you find out that they are investigating dicks. Luckily, the show doesn’t give us dick joke after dick joke. The fact that they take this crime so seriously and even make the show 8 parts is what makes it funny. They really grip you in, making you want to watch more. The humour stems from how this crime is replacing the usual murder storylines and replacing it with a childish crime. They just take the dicks so serious! To be fair so do I. I watched the show in about 3 days because I just wanted to know, who drew the dicks? I often found myself gasping at new bits of evidence and trying to solve it myself. I did pick up on stuff before the investigators did and that just heightened my need to watch it. It was just like watching any other crime show…kind of.
For such an immature crime comes immature suspects and investigation. Those involved are mostly students so their reasoning and methods of investigation are far from professional. They investigate the ball hair on the dicks and the hottest mums in school, to the credibly of a suspect based on whether or not they lied about getting a hand job. It does seem silly but it really works. I just can’t get how the serious everyone takes it, it’s based on dicks! This does however mean, that you will just laugh at how stupid the show is, rather than actual comedy and jokes. Your comedy preferences would really influence If you enjoy this show or not. I do hope this inspires other mockumentaries. However, I don’t want to risk ruining this new genre. This could inspire new shows but also start a trend that could be unsuccessful. Parody can be difficult to pull off but can always result in some great programmes, take Parks and Recreation for example.
For such a non-serious crime, the show really needs to find evidence to discover who it is and why they did it. This is again understandable for the genre. Unfortunately, there is a lot of time wasting. They investigate things that are unnecessary and really drag everything out. I do believe that they could have made fewer episodes to keep viewer interest and avoid wasting time and budget. 6 episodes would have been much more fitting. In addition, when we finally get to the end episode, it isn’t wrapped up very well. I was left unsatisfied. I do enjoy my shows wrapped up in a little bow. However, this could be the show leaving room for a second season. We will just need to wait and see.
The show is also unrealistic. Now hear me out. I know, it’s a crime drama based on investigating dicks on cars. This isn’t what I am talking about. The show is produced by student film makers around the age of 16. Throughout, it is implied that their past projects have been terrible. They aren’t given a budget. They have school level equipment but can still produce really high quality content. My level of work was nowhere near as good as this, not until I was at university. BUT, this does need to be watchable by a real Netflix audience. Maybe I’m just jealous that Peter and Sam can make better work at 16 compared to me at 16.
Overall, I did enjoy the show. I did watch it in about 3 days and I usually like to take my time because I hate it when shows end on me. I put the finale of Pretty Little Liars on hold for two weeks because I didn’t want it to end. If you have a love of parody, I would give it a watch. I found it hilarious and I hope to see more from the mockumentary genre after this.