When Arnold Schwarzenegger first announced his new TV series FUBAR, he sold it as “another big action-comedy like True Lies.” There’s just one problem with that statement: True Lies was actually good. FUBAR (now streaming on Netflix) tries to recapture Arnie’s glory days as an action movie hero with a big-budget, explosion-filled tale of international espionage. But based on the first three episodes, FUBAR is unfortunately just a very pale True Lies imitation: a parade of meaningless violence and flaccid one-liners that pairs ludicrous action scenes with hacky comedy. It’s a mess — and not even an entertaining one, at that.
Now you might be saying, “Hey! This show isn’t for critics! Stay in your lane, egghead!” Which: fair enough. But you see, I’m a fortysomething American male who was raised on a steady diet of Commando, Predator and Total Recall. In other words, I’m exactly the target audience for FUBAR. I wanted this to be fun! And yet I couldn’t muster up even a smile at the show’s lame attempts at humor, or resist rolling my eyes at the action sequences that are so far removed from reality, they might as well be Looney Tunes cartoons. The whole series is a depressingly cynical ploy to rope in bored dads who will click on anything with Arnold’s face in the thumbnail… but it fails to clear even that low bar.
FUBAR knows where its bread is buttered: It wastes no time in giving us a shot of Schwarzenegger walking away from a fire in slow-motion and driving a sports car real fast while the Rolling Stones play in the background. He plays Luke Brunner, a seasoned CIA operative who’s on the verge of retiring and eager to reconnect with his goody two-shoes daughter Emma, played by Top Gun: Maverick‘s Monica Barbaro. But he gets sent out one last time to rescue a rogue operative — and hey, the operative is his daughter Emma! They’re both upset that the other one has been keeping their CIA job a secret this whole time, but they have to put their differences aside to track down an arms dealer named Boro (Gabriel Luna) who’s dangerously close to developing a suitcase nuke.
Arnold wasn’t kidding when he compared this to True Lies, since it’s nearly the exact same plot, except with a daughter instead of a wife. Series creator Nick Santora (Scorpion) tries to keep things light, but the comedic banter here is annoying and relentless, with groan-worthy jokes about Viagra, vibrators and, um, cuckolding. (Luke’s quippy young CIA colleagues, played by Fortune Feimster and Travis Van Winkle, toss out so many punchlines that don’t land, they’re just about insufferable.) FUBAR even gives Arnold a new catchphrase, “That’s it, and that’s all” — but that one’s not exactly going in the hall of fame next to “I’ll be back” and “Hasta la vista, baby,” is it?
The action scenes actually come as a relief, then, because at least less people are talking during them. (The scripts still try to shove in lots of jokes, though.) Each episode delivers a high-stakes action set piece, with Luke and Emma employing lots of cool secret agent gadgets that would make James Bond jealous. The action isn’t bad, but the CGI is shockingly cheap, and any sense of earthbound physics is completely thrown out the window — especially when it comes to Arnold’s fighting abilities. Yes, he looks good for 75, but he’s still 75; he was never exactly light on his feet, but now he lumbers around like Frankenstein while he easily pummels trained soldiers who are one-third his age.
FUBAR also wants us to care about the state of Luke and Emma’s father-daughter bond, but the emotional beats are hopelessly clumsy, and not one relationship feels real or rings true. Barbaro definitely has star quality, but the material here does her no favors. (Luna actually makes a decent effort to give the arms dealer Boro some emotional depth as well, but it’s too little, too late.) The whole series feels like Netflix fed Arnold’s old action movies into ChatGPT and filmed whatever came out, unedited. Hollywood’s writers are on strike right now in part to prevent studios from replacing their intellectual labor with AI… but if FUBAR is an example of what that final product might look like, the writers have nothing to worry about.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: FUBAR tries to recapture Arnold Schwarzenegger’s glory days, but it flames out with corny jokes and ludicrous action.
And since FUBAR is now streaming on Netflix, we want to know what you think: If you’ve watched, give the series a grade in our poll and hit the comments to share your thoughts.
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