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American Vandal: Courageous Nerd Hall of Fame

by Conor O'Brien

The October 2020 inductee for the Courageous Nerd Hall of Fame is Netflix Original series, American Vandal. Read on to find out why this show is being honoured in the HOF.

American Vandal, a true-crime mockumentary, first debuted on September 15, 2017, being streamed on Netflix. The series is the brainchild of Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda, parodying true crime documentaries such as Making a Murderer and Serial. The series ran for two seasons which starred Tyler Alvarez (Orange Is The New Black), Griffin Gluck (Locke and Key), Jimmy Tatro (The Real Bros of Simi Valley) and Travis Tope (Boardwalk Empire).

Alvarez portrayed Peter Maldonado, a student filmmaker attending Hanover High. In the first season, after fellow student Dylan Maxwell (Tatro) is accused of spraying phallic graffiti onto teachers’ cars, Peter creates the (fictional) true crime documentary American Vandal to investigate the case. In his efforts to determine who was actually behind the crime, Peter was assisted by his friend and co-investigator Sam Ecklund (Gluck).

Part of the reason why the show and especially the first season worked so well was how seriously played the premise was. Despite being a mockumentary in real life and drawing phallic images being quite a juvenile offence, the show treats Dylan Maxwell’s case with the same severity of a more sombre crime, such as murder.

Furthermore, Alvarez, Gluck and Tatro all deliver fantastic performances to fully sell the situation that the characters find themselves in. In fact, they were so convincing that some fans wondered whether the series was real-life.

In addition to the leads, this season also featured performances from recognisable supporting actors. These familiar faces included Calum Worthy (The Act), G. Hannelius (Dog With A Blog), Saxon Sharbino (Touch), Karly Rothenberg (The Protector) and Lukas Gage (Euphoria).

American Vandal
Jimmy Tatro and Tyler Alvarez – American Vandal, Season 1 (Netflix)

For the second season, American Vandal shifted location from California to Washington. Following the success of the fictitious documentary, new fan Chloe Lyman (Taylor Dearden) contacts Peter and Sam to solve a mysterious case at St Bernadine’s, her Catholic school. From there we are introduced to the “Dylan” of this season – or more accurately his polar opposite. Outcast Kevin McClain (Travis Tope), accused of being the ‘Turd Burglar’, an anonymous student who put laxatives into the school’s lemonade, causing the entire student body to defecate themselves. Even after Peter and Sam arrive on the scene, similar pranks continue.

Unlike Season 1, multiple suspects are explored in great detail. Enter star athlete DeMarcus Tillman (Melvin Gregg) whose growing reputation could be ruined if it turned out that he was the Turd Burglar. Additionally, there was Lou Carter (DeRon Horton), DeMarcus’ friend/de-facto agent who was also acting suspiciously.

Overall, the second (and ultimately final) season was also very enjoyable. The combination of familiar characters in Peter and Sam combined with new faces was very enjoyable. To that end; Tope, Gregg, Dearden and Horton were all strong additions to the cast and played their roles well.

Despite having two well-received seasons, American Vandal was canceled in October 2018. At the time, it was announced that the creators, Perrault and Yacenda, were looking to bring the series to other venues. However, almost two years later, nothing has happened. Nonetheless, American Vandal was gone too soon and this is why it is in the Courageous Nerd Hall of Fame.

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