Five episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Picture this: a group of stranded, dehydrated, hopeless strangers are standing around a bonfire filled with the corpses of the passengers on their crashed plane who weren’t lucky enough to survive. Now, imagine that those survivors begin sniffing the air, noses upturned, realizing that burning bodies near where they live isn’t the best idea. Lastly, picture them all beginning to vomit on one another, and back into the bonfire of death, as a chain of regurgitated bodily fluids sparking one by one until they’re all running for their lives.
Are you rolling on the floor in tears? Well have I got the show for you: TBS’s newest sitcom Wrecked tells the tale of a group of stranded, bickering survivors on a deserted island after their flight to Thailand crashes. The Lost references come fast and very, very loose (a character wakes up suddenly, eye focused in the shot, and… spills hot pasta on his crotch), with characters that function at such an impossibly, screeching level of caricature – without an ounce of relatable endearment – that the show never even functions as the National Lampoon parody it so obviously, sadly, desperately wants to be.
It sucks especially for Wrecked, coming on the heels of the gleefully profane The Detour (which offers the Mona Lisa of vomit jokes by comparison), TBS spring sitcom that backed its occasionally cruel streak with an affectionate central family. Wrecked‘s first major, glaring issue is at fault right there: the characters here are essentially speakerphones for jokes, gags, and one-liners, without being realized as vaguely interesting individuals capable of sucking you into their predicament. Which, best case scenario, could have been a new-age Gilligan’s Island – something light and fun and stupidly entertaining. Unfortunately, Wrecked turns out to be its genre’s own worst case scenario.
After the hot pasta spills on sad-sack Danny (Brian Sacca), we’re treated to a rapid-fire roll call of all our major castaways 30,000 feet up in the air. There are resident party girls Emma (Ginger Gonzaga) and Florence (Jessica Lowe); a pristine, douchey sports manager Pack (Asif Ali); a perpetually bickering couple, Jess (Ally Maki) and Todd (Will Greenberg); and lead character Owen (Zach Cregger), whose importance is given away thanks to his wholehearted determination to not be the group’s leader. Which, of course, eventually necessitates his rise to the occasion when ex-British Special Forces agent slash island hottie Liam (James Scott) gets smooshed by the plane’s cockpit.
The cast is expansive, and some have bright spots that feel funnier than they really are because of their location in the vacuum of Wrecked‘s overall sloppy tone. Lowe, as the free-spirited, ditzy blonde stereotype, has some of the opening episode’s best lines, nailing the shocked, confused delivery of moments when everyone else is too scared to speak up. Although Danny (Rhys Darby) is relegated mostly to jokes about his inability to walk after his legs get crushed by one of the plane’s wings, the always reliable Darby classes up Wrecked in pretty much every scene he’s in. Still, the show seems determined to make you hate even the best characters, as it sticks Darby in a painfully forced miscommunication subplot in episode 2 – he confuses another castaway’s lost “baby” with a lost golf club – that lasts about 15 minutes longer than it should.
That’s the best case scenario of Wrecked‘s character problems; the worst come in the form of deplorable people we’re supposed to care about in some capacity. Greenberg’s Todd is a punching bag of macho-bro idiocy, but Wrecked always seems to lean in the favor of encouraging his actions rather than commenting on or skewering them. Pack is the best example of a comic-relief misfire, with his high-pitched, over-this-island ranting and entire joke set (he never takes off his suit, hordes the island’s electronics) waning thin by the opening of the second episode.
He’s the central realization of the fact that everyone on the show is playing this thing to an 11 on the scale of shrill overacting, making it profusely hard to invest in any of the attempted “island mystery” shenanigans. It doesn’t help that an aimed-for tone of self-referential satire misses its target completely. Owen and Todd get goosebumps after they refer to a locked mystery box with the previously quoted Lost-y phrase; other tidbits attempt to satirize the show itself after Danny fails to remember a piece of dialogue that Owen makes a callback to from previously in the episode. That last one wouldn’t hurt so much if the unmemorable lines and writing didn’t put the audience so uncomfortably in the headspace of Danny more often than not.
Repetition is a recurring issue in Wrecked, and the first 5 episodes don’t give any hint that it’ll be fixed anytime soon. The show never comes at its jokes in a new or novel way, and it particularly stings when creators Jordan and Justin Shipley craft a gag that’s actually funny, before it’s dragged through the mud for 30 minutes. In episode 3, for example, when Emma and Florence search for a movie to watch on a portable DVD player with juice left for just one movie, they uncover both Dumb and Dumber To… and Selma. It’s probably Wrecked‘s most skillfully crafted moment of satire, as the two somberly admit that the last movie they will ever watch should probably be something more important than a twenty-years-too-late Farrelly Brothers sequel.
Then it’s protracted for an entire episode, as survivors go through the same moral rigamarole as Emma and Florence, with occasionally welcome risky detours into the opinion of the island’s resident wise black woman Diane (Lela Elam). It’s just never truly funny after the initial punchline lands, and it only keels over in parodic overkill at the episode’s end, when the entire group marches somberly to the portable DVD player, arms linked, chanting something about the righteous responsibility of watching Selma. It’s not that Wrecked is never funny that makes it a disappointing mess, it’s that it is – fleetingly – and then it really, aggressively isn’t for the rest of the time. You get the sense that the writers particularly liked these jokes, and just didn’t know when to break them off and move on.
It tilts into offensiveness every now and then, but I honestly just welcomed such brazenness as a nice escape from the mundanity. That Selma march is one (honestly the show is too dumb, I think, to actually shock anyone by that), another is its treatment of a box of sexual equipment discovered by Owen and Todd. Todd’s reaction leads the tone of the episode, which may excuse the nature of the joke, but there’s an overall gross angle of shaming and cruelty pointed at anyone who uses such erotica.
I might be thinking too hard about this – about Wrecked as a whole – but given its dips into plot monotony by episode 5 (TBS thought it would be funny to state that “the survivors make a discovery that could change everything” in every episode description, maybe it would have been if it weren’t so dreadfully, repetitively true), and there’s a lot of free time for the mind to wander while watching the show. But not in a good way, not in a way that forces introspection about anything actually happening on Wrecked. Around episode 3, Pack mentions that the survivors have been trapped for a week on the island. I’m not saying that the 2 hours of the show I’ve seen are comparably distended, but simply that Wrecked is so unfunny, shrill, and satirically derelict, that the survivor’s desperate need to escape the island is ridiculously easy to sympathize with.
With impossible-to-like characters, annoying overacting, and a satirical tone that's about as accomplished as a fiery airplane wreckage, TBS's new sitcom Wrecked is simply never the one thing it needed to be: consistently funny.