Let’s get the first part out of the way, FUBAR is a delightfully enjoyable way to spend your afternoon. Watch it from front to back, you will not be disappointed that you did. Well, unless you did so to avoid a friends wedding, then you may have some regrets, but those will not be directed at the show, so not germane to this discussion. The thing to focus on is this, two thumbs up and head nod ‘yeaahh’ to watch.
What FUBAR provides is the fun-feeling spyworld of Burn Notice blended into the world and body of work (which is a hilarious pun considering the actor) of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Who may be the single best human example for an explanation of the term ‘larger than life’. As in, Arnold is Larger than Life. For anyone who wishes to debate this, dear lord, why? Is life not tough enough? Who would stick their hand up to defend the position “Arnold is not larger than life”? A FOOL! That’s who.
Ok. Full disclosure. I am a lifelong Arnold Schwarzenegger fan. But, it’s almost not even my fault. I was nine years old when Conan the Barbarian was released and there is an entire generation, although numerically small compared to other generations, who just like me, grew up watching Arnold build his body of work (ha! used it twice) in real time as we grew from childhood. We remember where we lived in 1984 when we saw the Terminator, and we can contrast that to who and where we were when we saw True Lies in 1995. After that, things get fuzzy with careers, kids, and less Arnold. But not really. He was always there, running California or getting flying double side kicked by some jackass at a high school meet and greet. For those not familiar with the story, Arnold was standing on the floor of a basketball court, talking to people in the stands and taking videos with them, then while his back was turned, a not small high school student jogged across the basketball court, jumped to full air horizontal and planted both his feet into Arnolds back, knocking Arnold into the crowd. Arnold was uninjured. The kid shattered his leg. It has been said that Arnold broke the kids leg with his back. Sure, maybe it was the impact with the floor that broke the kids leg, but if you flying side kick the Terminator, it’s probably not going to be the floor that breaks you now is it?
So we cut to now, today, and FUBAR. What you will find if you choose to reward yourself are exotic gems like Fabiana Udenio (Elena Di Nola/Mutter in the series Jane the Virgin) who plays ‘Tally’ the ex-wife and ongoing love interest of Arnolds character, Luke Brunner. The often stunning Monica Barbaro (Natasha “Phoenix” Trace in Top Gun: Maverick) is playing Emma Brunner, Arnolds daughter who we quickly find out is also in the CIA, and the lovely Aparna Brielle who is playing the librarian-esque Tina, an analyst on loan from NSA. This concludes the eye-candy portion of the review.
The meat of FUBAR though, are the character interactions, and how well the cast and writers develop the characters in a way that can only really be done within the context of a series. You see, it took me a little while to wrap my mind around the fact that this is a series, having been trained passively as a viewer to expect Arnold in a movie. So on some level, as I was watching the first few episodes, I was thinking I was watching a movie, but as maybe the third episode opened up I began to really appreciate what was being done with the supporting cast, the roles they are playing, and the job that each actor was doing in developing the relationships of their characters.
Fortune Feimster (Chick Fight / Bear) and Travis Van Winkle (Bloodwork / Greg) have a great on-screen relationship and their peanut gallery remarks are a never-ending source of comedy gold. Fortune, who is a comedian, is clearly in her element in her role as Ruth, a CIA operative working alongside Van Winkles character Aldon. The two are always on the lookout for a good one liner and make it a point to back each others play, it is a job well done by both writers and actors building these two characters out.
Milan Carter plays Berry, a CIA technical officer on Luke’s (Arnold’s) team. Berry is Luke’s hacker and technical back-up and his character is well played by Milan if a little neurotic is not distracting. If a little neurotic is distracting, then you are going to love Jay Baruchel’s (Hiccup’s annoying voice in How to train your Dragon) performance as Carter, Arnold’s soon to be son in law. Baruchel does a marvelous job of focusing all the awkward energy that he has, which is a lot, into a laser like beam of piss your pants shy awkward weird. It is an award worthy performance except I don’t think he really had to dig all that deep to achieve his goal when bouncing his lines off of Monica Barbaro, his character’s love interest and someday new baby momma. Baruchel’s character already has a baby, which we are left to assume he either stole or created in his basement. No. That’s not true. I don’t really recall if it was explained. The point here is that shy awkward weird Carter has a baby he’s toting around and it’s pretty much all that he is working with in terms of game.
TOM ARNOLD ( in True Lies) plays Norm Carlson, a horribly polite and clearly not all there CIA asset who specializes in enhanced interrogation techniques (Bush-Cheny era doublespeak term for torture). Tom demonstrates his skills on a couple of targets within the first season and dear god does this man nail crazy. It is his gift. Usain Bolt sets records for speed, Tom sets records for crazy, his performance is that good.
This brings me to my favorite part of this review, Scott ‘BUDDY’ Thompson (Himself and others in The Kids in the Hall) plays Dr. Pfeffer, an operational psychologist who counsels the team and helps each member deal with the struggles of operational life. Scott Thompson, who really needs some special recognition here, is a man that pulled off what may be one of the best bits ever made for television when he was with The Kids in the Hall. That bit would be the ‘Faggo‘ bit. Where Scott stands on a small stage, explaining to the audience the problems with the term ‘faggot’. In his monologue he gets to the core of the problem with the word by analyzing each letter. From F which is for fun, so it cant’ be that, to O…well you might as well get mad at a doughnut. To T, which symbolizes Christ suffering on the cross. Which people do not like. So, the solution is to drop the T, which leaves us with ‘faggo’, a much less scary word. The bit ends with Scott calling out “come on faggo’s, let’s sing!” So clearly, Scott Thompson brings a comedic angle to this show that is quite unique.
What we are driving at here is that the cast is quite good, and what is more, they seem to perform well with one another. But with all the Easter egg comments and lines (we do get at least one ‘choppa’ and Arnold’s character does mention that he really likes Danny Devito) I am left wishing for a little more nostalgia. In season two, I hope they find a role for Rae Dawn Chong, Arnolds co-star from Commando (1985) or maybe Vanessa Williams his costar from Eraser. Maybe Jim Belushi, his co-star from Red Heat. The cameo opportunities seem almost endless.
The long and the short, FUBAR is a fun blend of spyworld entertainment, complete with solid to wonderfully dry one liners (which for my dollar, are a requirement for the genre) and well developed characters who create a world for us in which we have not seen Arnold Schwarzenegger before. It is a series worth watching.