Projects like “Arrested Development,” “The Office” and even “The Hangover” film trilogy have prompted writers to infuse hysterical beats with satire as a way to examine the state of 21st-century American society. These shows and films comment on everything from race and sexuality to work and class. “Cobra Kai” creators Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald put a satirical spin on the action comedy in Netflix‘s Las Vegas-set, “Obliterated.” Unfortunately, instead of an uproarious commentary on the culture of drugs and drinking and the various factions of the U.S. Intelligence Community, “Obliterated” is a baffling, nearly unwatchable hodgepodge of nonsense littered with penises and explosives.
The series opens on a scorching casino rooftop amid a massive pool party. Seven members of an elite special forces team are finalizing a six-month mission to subdue a Russian bomb, and save the city from being annihilated. No-nonsense CIA Agent and squad leader Ava Winters (Shelley Hennig) tries to keep the group on track while ignoring her irritating attraction to Navy Seal Chad McKnight (Nick Zano). McKnight isn’t used to taking orders, and his determination to do things his way causes tension between him and Ava.
Fellow SEAL team member Trunk (Terrence Terrell), McKnight’s’ best friend, is an obsessive foodie with a secret. NSA agent Maya Lerner (Kimi Rutledge), aka Tech Girl, is only in her element when she’s behind a computer screen, or openly lusting over McKnight’s abs. Marine sniper Angela Gomez (Paola Lázaro) is focused on her trigger finger and breaking the hearts of Vegas’ bachelorettes. Air Force pilot Paul Yung (Eugene Kim) is as strait-laced as they come, and is preoccupied with the distance between himself and his teen daughter. Finally, Army explosives technician Haggerty (C. Thomas Howell) is as much of a wild card as the bombs he subdues.
Despite a few missteps, the team defuses the bomb, completing their months-long quest. However, before disbanding, McKnight convinces Ava to let the crew live it up for a final hurrah. He and Trunk throw a mushroom, ecstasy and alcohol-infused blowout involving more dildos and chaos than anyone could have expected. Yet, as they are letting loose and McKnight and Ava are giving in to the long-brewing sexual tension between them, CIA director Langdon (Carl Lumbly) calls to inform the squad that the neutralized nuke was a fake.
Ever the perfectionist, Ava corrals her intoxicated group to get back in action if there is any hope of saving their careers or the people of Las Vegas. The concept of “Obliterated” is pretty hilarious. Watching intoxicated special ops agents try to make clean shots and put together a coherent plan on a seven-hour countdown should be comedic gold. Regrettably, lazy jokes, one too many full-frontals and wearying hour-long episodes make for a confounding show.
Storylines, including the will-they, won’t-they of Ava and McKnight, were evident from the beginning. Maya’s unrequited crush on the blonde-haired SEAL and her disdain for Ava is exhausting and childish. Paul seems to have just discovered he’s an absentee father, and Trunk is labeled with every stereotype about big Black men throughout the season. (Literally, no penis is left unturned.) An acid and mushroom trip leaves Haggerty in a drug-fueled stupor until Episode 6, so the group carries him around like literal dead weight. In addition to the plot points, predictable dialogue removes all of the cleverness that satires need to succeed.
“Obliterated” has an ambitious concept. Yet, instead of giving fans texture beyond the surface of the glossy Vegas nightlife or compelling details of the characters’ backgrounds, save McKnight and Ava, viewers are forced to meet the team where they are, which isn’t a fun place to linger. Aside from a cocaine-charged camel and two clever one-liners, the series is puzzling, chaotic and full of scenarios and stereotypes that lean much further toward the stupidly offensive than fun parody.
If “Obliterated” had been sliced down to 30-minute chapters, moving the story along quickly, it might have upheld some of the wittiness Hurwitz, Schlossberg and Heald were going for. Instead, the episodes never seemed to end. Without real laugh-out-loud moments, the show is just one antic and explosive scene after another, never translating into the thrilling experience it promises. When it all finally comes to a head in Episode 8, “Last Call,” the viewer is left feeling like the only sober person in the room — and for many of us, that’s a terrible place to be.
“Obliterated” premieres on Netflix Nov. 30.