Netflix is enlisting Arnold Schwarzenegger to star in his first-ever TV series with the debut of the spy comedy FUBAR. This spiritual sequel to True Lies (in a serialized format) is a harmless, cornball adventure that hearkens back to some of the more playful outings during Arnie’s prime.
Luke Brunner (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a family man, a fitness equipment salesperson, and a covert CIA agent. As he approaches retirement, Luke is asked to go out in the field one last time (thanks to his history with a dangerous man) in order to save an agent in jeopardy. To his surprise, that agent is his only daughter, Emma (Monica Barbaro), leaving the two to sort through a lifetime of lies while facing an international threat. It’s up to the father/daughter duo and their eclectic CIA team to take down the bad guys and try to fix their family dynamic.
The True Lies comparison is certainly an intentional and fair one for the series, but it’s clear early on that FUBAR is not in the hands of someone as adept as James Cameron. The series leans heavily into the goofball comedy and occasionally feels like its skewing towards family friendly affair — until our heroes openly kill people with their bare hands and are put in compromising sexual situations. Arnie loves to do over the top humor and his performance here is more like his exasperated father character from Jingle All the Way than Harry Tasker from True Lies. Barbaro (Top Gun: Maverick) is no slouch, rising to the challenge and holds her own playing next to Arnold and the rest of the cast in both the action and comedy scenes.
If this all sounds like an indictment of the show, it’s not: FUBAR is actually quite fun. The ensemble cast is goofy, but has understated comedic chemistry. Luke’s teammates are a diverse and clearly defined bunch. Milan Carter is Carter, an endearing pop-culture geek and Luke’s go-to “guy in the chair.” He’s easy to like, but a predictable stereotype. Ruth (Fortune Feimster) and Aldon (Travis Van Winkle) are an odd comedy coupling that surprisingly works — the show wisely does not go for the easy jokes (most of the time).
Jay Baruchel always improves whatever role he’s cast in and makes Emma’s fiancee, Carter, an awkward, instantly likable everyman nerd that’s clueless about the family CIA secret. Even The Kids in the Hall’s Scott Thompson gets in on the laughs as Luke and Emma’s CIA counselor, putting the father and daughter in some hilarious situations during their sessions. One standout scene has the Brunners holding a puppet recreation of each other and trying to hold a conversation in the other’s voice. Spoiler: Barbaro’s Arnold impression is quite humorous.
The aforementioned “dangerous man” aka the villain of the season, Boro, is played with intense malice by Gabriel Luna (The Last of Us). Luna is a terrific actor and brings an intensity to a villain that otherwise could be copied and pasted from any 90s action flick. To the credit of the writers, Boro does occasionally exude some unusual savvy for an action villain, such as hiring an army of energy drink-swilling hackers to hunt down the identity of the Brunners, rather than a gaggle of mercenaries.
FUBAR is a mindless good time that gives the audience an empty sugar high spy-comedy in a quick eight-episode run. The series evokes the era of Arnold’s work with a more innocent tone, veering deeper into the comedic and surprisingly heartfelt. FUBAR may ultimately be too silly for some viewers wanting something on a more mature level like True Lies, but it’s still a satisfying binge nonetheless.
Score: 3 out 5