The riveting, hugely successful Netflix series “Making a Murderer” demanded the parody treatment, and perhaps surprisingly, that treatment has come from Netflix. The eight-part mockumentary “American Vandal” is the rare satire that works as both comedy and as an involving mystery. Set at a suburban high school and revolving around a vulgar bit of vandalism, it is extremely intelligent and utterly hilarious.
Title: “American Vandal”
Year it began: 2017
Where it can be seen: Netflix
Typical episode length: 26-42 minutes
Number of episodes: 8
Who’s in it: Tyler Alvarez, Griffin Gluck, Jimmy Tatro, Camille Hyde
Brief plot description: A true-crime satire that explores the aftermath of a costly high school prank that left 27 faculty cars vandalized with phallic images.
Why it’s worth watching: There are several key reasons why “Making a Murderer” and the “Serial” podcast have been so popular: they expertly string along audience members over the course of a season, deepening mysteries and occasionally pulling off shocking twists and turns. “American Vandal” works for the same reasons, but it also shows just how ludicrous the episodic, cliffhanger-heavy docudrama format can be.
“Vandal” is the story of Dylan Maxwell, a California high schooler accused of spray-painting, err, phallic images on the cars of faculty members. It’s an undeniably humorous crime, but part of the joy in watching “American Vandal” is seeing the crime and its suspects -- starting with the delightfully dope-y Dylan -- treated with utter seriousness. Dylan, the young filmmakers covering his story, and their classmates and teachers are recognizable “types,” as they should be, and “Vandal” understands what they represent. It’s world we all know, and that makes the this a parody that is both relatable and wise. Not since Rian Johnson’s “Brick” has the high-school-as-microcosm-of-society angle been so brilliantly engaged. “American Vandal” is binge viewing at its finest.