The rhetorical questions that leave you hanging, thirsting for more.
The creepy slow-motion close ups to random objects, like a coffee cup, that totally makes you convinced they’re significant pieces of evidence.
The tales of childhood from neighbours and descriptions of how the suspect in question was ‘always such a good kid’ and that ‘no one expected they could do something like this’.
If you’re a fan of Netflix’s Making A Murder, Amanda Knox, or the Serial podcast, you’ll be well-aware of these stylistic techniques that keep you on the edge of your seat and questioning every twist and turn of a true crime story, until its inevitable cliff-hanger ending.
It takes a while (at least it did for me), but eventually, you realize that the dicks are not the joke. Are they funny? Sure, but they are not the meat of the show. No, the beauty of American Vandal is the fact that it does not deconstruct shows like Making A Murderer or Serial; it embraces them. This show does not poke fun at the constant dead-ends, left turns, and false narratives that consistently pop up on its more serious counterparts. Instead, it takes those tropes and crafts its own version of them. Yes, the penises are funny, but the emotional impact that this ride has on Dylan and the Oceanside community is the core through line that carries the show. It is as if somebody combined the best elements of Rian Johnson’s Brick and Superbad, and then added a found footage/documentary layer to it. On paper,
“American Vandal” is one of the most delightful TV experiments of 2017, but it easily could have been something far simpler. In the parody world, it’s hard to be able to sustain a tribute to (or retooling of) a pre-existing genre or specific piece of work. Most of these riffs pick out the recognizable highlights, build a few-minute sketch around a simple tweak of the formula, and a grateful internet marvels at the accuracy or the strength of the twist.
Netflix’s latest eight-episode series nearly became just that.
“We did ‘30 for 30: Space Jam,’ ‘30 for 30: Rocky IV,’ stuff like that,” explained “American Vandal” co-creator Tony Yacenda told IndieWire. “Dan was watching ‘Making a Murderer’ and he knew I was a huge fan of true crime stuff, and he just had the broad idea for a short, to
Dan Perrault, a co-creator of Netflix’s American Vandal (premiering September 15), is particularly proud of one element of his show—a true-crime parody that applies the format to the mystery of whether a teenager drew a bunch of dicks on his teachers’ cars. “We had our own 3-D re-creation of a hand job on a lake, which I’m thrilled that we were able to get away with in general—but also doubly thrilled that it made it into the trailer,” Perrault says. “It’s my favorite 3-D hand job ever.”
In context, this bit of graphic wizardry—presented, like the rest of American Vandal, with an entirely straight face—is used to determine if a horny dork is telling the truth about his sexual exploits, a detail which in turn is crucial to the case of the spray-painted phalluses. The comedy created by Perrault and Tony Yacenda, the latter of whom also directs, sends up the