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DVD Review: American Vandal: Season One

February 18, 2019

By John Corrado

Who drew the dicks? That’s the question at the centre of the Netflix series American Vandal, the first season of which was released on DVD last week from Paramount.

Created by Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda, American Vandal unfolds in a mockumentary style that parodies popular true crime series like Serial and Making a Murderer.

The show centres around Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro), an impulsive and hyperactive student at Hannover High School in Oceanside, California who has a reputation for getting into trouble. When 27 cars in the faculty parking lot are vandalized with crude drawings of penises, the school board finds enough evidence to blame Dylan and expel him from the school.

But budding documentarians Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) decide to dig deeper into the allegations when they notice some of the clues don’t add up, and sense that Dylan might be telling the truth about his innocence. So they start interviewing students on camera and collecting evidence of their own, in an attempt to exonerate Dylan and figure out who actually drew the dicks. But when they start posting their documentary series online, the case becomes bigger than they ever could have imagined.

Yes, this is a show about dick drawings, that treats things like the lack of ball hairs and how the tips are drawn as some sort of revelations. But American Vandal does some surprisingly interesting things with what is essentially a one-joke premise, and the show offers interesting social commentary that makes it more engaging than it initially appears. The show can really be broken down into a study of how high school is built almost entirely around perceptions of good kids and bad kids, with some kids being painted as troublemakers from the time they are young, leaving them destined to live up to this reputation as they fall through the cracks of the system.

The series also comes to explore the effect that social media can have upon an active investigation, as well as how presumption of innocence is an increasingly foreign concept, which is a very timely theme, indeed. The show’s reach does sometimes exceeds its grasp, and there are times when the plot seems to be heading in an even darker direction, only to recede a bit. My other complaint is that, at approximately 35 minutes each, some of the episodes also feel a bit long, with certain elements starting to get repetitive, especially when watching the series in rapid succession.

The majority of the humour is also centred around various dick jokes, which admittedly gets a bit tiring the longer it goes on. But with solid and surprisingly naturalistic performances from its young cast, and a mystery at its core that is more involving than it has any right to be, American Vandal is a fairly entertaining series that takes a one-joke premise and uses it as the jumping off point for a clever dissection of high school politics in the age of attention deficits and social media.

Along with all eight episodes of the first season, the 2-disc also set comes with nearly an hour of bonus content, which sweetens the deal for the release of a show that is already available on Netflix. The first disc has Point/Counterpoint, a piece that finds “good kid” Alex Trimboli’s (Calum Worthy) interview being challenged by Dylan’s group of friends – who refer to themselves as The Wayback Boys – as well as an extended “interview” with Dylan Maxwell. The second disc has an “interview” with the teacher Mr. Krazanski (Ryan O’Flanagan), along with the full school board hearing.

American Vandal: Season One is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. It’s approximately 267 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: February 12th, 2019

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