Featuring a niche cult with an obsession for buying and selling shoes, Netflix’s “Sneakerheads” attempts to highlight the phenomenon in which peoples’ love for sneakers ends up compelling them to spend $5,000 on a storage space chock-full of partially-identifiable shoeboxes.

“Sneakerheads” stars Allen Maldonado as Devin (“Unstuck”), known for his recurring role on ABC’s Black-ish, and Andrew Bachelor as Bobby (“The Babysitter”), a former Vine star frequently featured in Netflix’s formulaic romantic comedies. 

The show plays it as safe as possible: a stay-at-home dad who misses his crazier times and gets pulled back into the past by an old friend is an arc that feels as familiar and overdone as the barely-laughable jokes that push the episode along. The pilot opens with an attention-grabbing sequence of each character’s sneakers walking along a city street and then cuts to protagonist Devin failing to get his kids ready for school. Frustrated by his situation and his wife’s hostility toward him as she takes the kids herself, Devin decides to check out a nearby sneaker shop. 

To show the enthusiasm and dedication of this fringe group, the characters who meet at the shoe store fiercely guard their spots in line and bicker over deals. Here, Devin runs into his old friend Bobby, and they reminisce over their crazy shoe-related adventures as Bobby looks with disapproval at Devin’s plain, suburban Toms. Bobby serves as a foil to Devin’s uneventful lifestyle with his irresponsible handling of his money in favor of paying for shoe school (which, believe it or not, is a real thing). Bobby’s fast-paced and carefree ways convince Devin to spend $5,000 on a storage space of shoeboxes that end up only containing one of each shoe, rendering them worthless. This waste of money lands Devin in trouble when he opts to lie to his wife about the credit card charge and says he knows nothing about it, setting up the rest of the season.

The problem with this show is not that it’s innately bad, it’s just not good. Half of the cast acts with the skill of an amateur high school theater group, which often distracts from the more enjoyable performances of Maldonado and Bachelor. Between its bland sense of humor and lack of character depth, an already formulaic plot feels even less realistic. However, the show does do an adequate job at showing the emotional difficulties Bobby and Devin face, whether the characters are aware of it or not. 

In one of the episode’s only thoughtful moments, the emphasis on Bobby’s unhealthy and immature nature is set up before the audience is even introduced to him. A young boy, presumably a friend of Devin’s son, gets into their minivan and makes an angered yet random remark: “Jason Hoodak got traded to the Lakers and nobody cares.” About 15 minutes later, Bobby also angrily mentions the same fact, emphasizing his childlike irresponsibility and lack of understanding of his priorities as an adult. Even though the majority of the episode felt lazily written, that moment provided a more symbolic and artistic method of showing Bobby’s internal flaws. Furthermore, Bobby wears his uniform from his job at Foot Locker for the duration of the episode, constantly reminding the audience that his confidence and bravado cannot save him from his impulsive and irrational decision-making. 

Overall, “Sneakerheads” feels like one of those shows that gets drowned in the endless and constantly growing sea of Netflix shows. For those specifically interested in its plot, it will definitely stick out and reach a small but loyal audience. However, for the average viewer, the show is likely to end up hidden in the shadows of smarter, more innovative sitcoms.

Contributor Emily Blumberg can be reached at emilybl@umich.edu.

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