CBS Television Studios, Funny Or Die and 3 Arts Entertainment for Netflix
It was inevitable that the recent explosion of true crime documentaries across various media would spurn parody, but nothing else about “American Vandal” is inevitable. On its surface, the series created by Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda is a juvenile rewriting of “Serial,” “Making a Murderer,” or “The Jinx,” with Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) using the documentary form to expose the truth about a case of spray-painting vandalism in the Hanover High School staff parking lot pinned on noted prankster Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro). And on this level, it delights. But while the show mines the absurdity of applying serious investigative methods to a less-than-serious crime, the world it uncovers is never reduced to a joke, grounded instead in the realities of high school experience. The deeper Peter and his friend Sam (Griffin Gluck) dig into the private lives of Dylan and other suspects, the more “American Vandal” shifts focus from the crime itself to the consequences of solving it, and how the ethical questions of the true crime genre intersect with the harsh realities of being a teenager in the age of social media. The show’s careful realism and straightfaced performances are part of its comedy (alongside bad Kiefer Sutherland impressions, outrageous “prom-posals,” and “baby-farting” escapades) but they are also the foundation for a climax that finds the tragedy in Dylan’s infamy and the injustices behind the crime itself, foregrounding our complicity in the series’ unexpectedly profound lesson of what is unearthed when a quest for the truth loses its way. For this, “American Vandal” wins a Peabody Award.
PRIMARY PRODUCTION CREDITS
Executive Producers: Dan Lagana, Tony Yacenda, Dan Perrault, Joe Farrell, Michael Rotenberg, Josh Lieberman, Ari Lubet. Co-Executive Producer: Joe Hardesty. Director: Tony Yacenda. Writers: Tony Yacenda, Dan Perrault, Dan Lagana, Mike Rosolio, Kevin McManus, Matthew McManus, Amy Pocha, Seth Cohen, Jess Meyer, Lauren Herstik. Director of Photography: Adam Bricker.