By Radhika Menon, Daily Arts Writer
Published April 15, 2013
Netflix is expanding. What started with cult excitement in the announcement of an “Arrested Development” resurrection quickly moved to actual original programming — most noteworthy of which is the political thriller “House of Cards.” The online streaming service is branching out, now trying its hand at original comedy. Unfortunately, unlike its predecessors, “Bad Samaritans” is far from brilliant.
After Jake (Brian Kubach, “Piranha”) and Drew’s (Julianna Guill, “Crazy Stupid Love”) anniversary-turned-breakup ends with a park fire, the duo is sentenced to 2,000 hours of community service. They meet a bunch of weirdos during their time, including a socialite looking for a sugar daddy, a stoner with no plans of ever leaving this gig and a tattooed ex-biker with good intentions. It’s an interesting take on the group-based comedies that have recently become the go-to formula in the genre, but sadly there’s no spark here.
A nursing home is the backdrop of the pilot, forcing Jake and Drew to explore their broken relationship in the face of Drew’s grandmother who is a resident there. The former couple diligently avoids telling her about the breakup, and instead takes matters to the other extreme.
The community service angle allows the location of the series to be forever undetermined, adding fresh scenery to every episode. However, this ever-changing setting makes it impossible to create a solid secondary cast beyond the core group of community servants. If we’re likening it to “Arrested Development,” this means that there is no Gene Parmesan, no Ann Veal and no Steve Holt. What makes a lot of comedies stand out is the strength of the supporting cast — often they are the true cult clinchers.
Without this important group, “Bad Samaritans” must rely solely on the talents of the core group, and mainly Drew and Jake. Jake is the typical underachieving boyfriend while Drew is the uptight borderline bitch who has had enough in the relationship; there’s nothing new here. The characters are bland, and their close proximity and bantering will undoubtedly bring them back together by series’ end. Bo-ring.
The main problem with “Bad Samaritans” is that it’s just not funny. The jokes are flat, the characters are dull and the acting is extremely forced. The lack of advertising and low production value makes it almost certain that Netflix wasn’t channeling much money into this project, and it shows. You don’t necessarily need A-list actors like Kevin Spacey à la “House of Cards,” but you do need quality writing, directing and producing — all of which “Bad Samaritans” lacks.
While the premise is a fresh take on the sub-genre of group comedies, “Bad Samaritans” lacks the comedic element necessary for success. A series like this with a lot of potential would be better served with more crisp writing, and realized and distinct characters.
Netflix has shown that it has the ability to create and develop meaningful and exciting drama series. If only it would put the same energy and effort into everything that they produce.