WakeBrothers

This is the groundbreaking concept behind WakeBrothers: Two athlete guys spend all their time trying to get laid, and in the process say and do dumb things.

Yeah. That’s it. There actually is no story.

This is a terrible, horrible, awful show. It’s actually so bad it really has come around the bend to being funny again, in a mildly horrifying way. Its desperate inability to be interesting is actually what makes it terrifyingly riveting.

The show is about two brothers, Phil and Bob, who are both professional wakeboarders. However, lest you get too excited — it’s only tangentially about wakeboarding. It’s a lot more about trying to get laid. Of course that is, in and of itself, a commendable goal, but in this case it does not make for great television.

I’ve never appreciated the conventions of reality television before, but I now see how much work goes into creating high stakes and tension between characters in shows like Survivor, Project Runway, hell, even Iron Chef. It seems ridiculous at the time, but that’s because real life is not particularly interesting unless you add that veneer of production on top of it. Strangely, it seems like Phil and Bob do have unique lives we could get interested in watching, but the show doesn’t focus on any of those qualities. Instead the pilot pivots around a double date the brothers are going on with Phil’s girlfriend Sarah and her friend Morgan. The major drama is when Bob comes down wearing a “triple-S” — a "silver short suit," which is essentially a suit that looks like it’s been through a shredder. Morgan can’t quite tell if she’s being punked or being hit on. To be fair, it doesn’t seem like Bob knows either.

Then Bob spends the rest of the episode crowing over the fact that he managed to graze Morgan’s “boob” with his elbow, even though later she got upset that he threw her into the pool. The next episode, aired back-to-back after the pilot, starts with Phil waking up with a new woman in his bed who he and Bob can only describe in terms of cup size. This leads to Bob trying to find a nice Jewish girl for Phil to go on a real date with, and before you can blink, any hope of self-reflection, curiosity about the world, or existing believes being challenged goes right out the window.

Some of the show’s appeal, apparently, is in the spendthrift ways of the two brothers, who are obviously independently wealthy. Phil, 23, is the best pro wakeboarder (in... the world?) and as such presumably has some money to throw around. He built his own house on a lake in Florida, next to his parents. There’s a lot of teenage fantasy playing out on-screen — the brothers don’t do much all day except hang out with girls, drink on the lawn, and try to not die while performing ever more ridiculous stunts. It is, in short, the teenage ideal of actually doing nothing. And then, mind-bogglingly, the brothers sit together and comment on the nothingness of their actions in the day-to-day footage, just reality show contestants would after the competition was over, but without providing any meaningful context or insight. Often they just follow the same conversational thread a few lines further.

Bob seems to be more interested in being on camera; in fact, he seems to keep coming up with ideas to hopefully impress the audience. Such as — putting a personal ad of Phil on a billboard; volunteering to be a guinea pig for a new wakeboarding ramp; hitting on Jewish girls for his brother. Too much of the action focuses on his antics, which are not rehearsed, self-aware, or well thought-out. They are the relatively run-of-the-mill antics of a teenage boy that aim for the cheap laugh. He is certainly a charming camera ham, but it’s not comedy for an audience, it's comedy for a high-school locker room.

WakeBrothers’ main attempt to create conflict is sibling rivalry. Bob and Phil, apparently, despite spending all their time together and agreeing to do the show together and having what seems like a very functional sibling relationship, are “competitive.” The hangers-on in their lives encourage them to act out on these half-expressed rivalrous impulses, perhaps out of a desperate need to make something happen on the show. Promos for the show play up their rivalry, but it’s obvious the entire time that the stakes are in fact very low. There is no actual conflict to be played up here, and all the foreshadowing in the world won’t make it compelling. If anything, future episodes seem to be mocking the idea of sibling rivalry as much as it’s milking it for plot: In a promo, the brothers make a joke about getting married and then go to couples’ counseling to resolve their cohabitation disagreements. Also promised for the rest of the season: a llama, pepper spray, and a trip to New York.

So, they’re really desperate.

In a way, the complete meaninglessness of WakeBrothers reminds me of the lost, dissipate drinkers populating Paris in Ernest Hemingway’s literature. The nothingness is the same, eerily present in each scene, like the true protagonist of the story. How will our heroes of this lost generation best amuse themselves, staring out into the abyss, confronted by only endless money, leisure, and the poesy of unsquandered youth? Will it be in the fruitful pursuit of their passions, in the face of almost certain existential oblivion? Will it be in the service of a greater cause, despite the corruption of the bureaucratic system? Or will it be idle sport, meandering from lawn to lawn, from affair to affair, from ice cream carton to pizza box, searching for the next awesome thing?

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