10 Things You Might Not Know About American Vandal

Tyler Golden, Netflix
Tyler Golden, Netflix

Just as disaster movies begat Airplane and horror films spawned Scary Movie, the recent onslaught of true-crime docudramas inevitably led to American Vandal. The Netflix spoof series, which premiered in September 2017, followed fictitious filmmakers Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) as they pursued the anonymous, genitalia-drawing vandal haunting an otherwise unremarkable California high school. Superficially a vehicle for sophomoric jokes, the series was actually a clever deconstruction of both the reality genre and the increasing influence of social media.

Critically and commercially successful, American Vandal got a quick season-two renewal. Set to premiere September 14—just a couple of weeks after it will compete for this year's Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or a Dramatic Special—Peter and Sam are set to investigate a phantom pooper terrorizing a Catholic high school. In the meantime, check out some facts about American Vandal’s origins, its approach to fake true crime, and why series co-creator Dan Perrault aimed for something more than “a four-hour d*ck joke.”


Before breaking out with American Vandal, co-creators Perrault and Tony Yacenda garnered some attention for a 2013 parody of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series. The two produced a five-minute “documentary” covering the climactic basketball game in 1996’s Space Jam that featured actual NBA analysts discussing Michael Jordan’s pivotal performance alongside Bugs Bunny. In 2015, they released a similar retrospective for the climactic fight of 1985's Rocky IV between Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago.


A scene from 'American Vandal'

With produced footage under their belt, Perrault and Yacenda began to shop their idea for a documentary satire about spray-painted penises to several different outlets in early 2016. While a few cable networks were interested, Perrault told Vanity Fair that at least one executive expressed concern about how they would depict the phallic graffiti. “I don’t know if we could have done penises the same way,” he said. “I’m not going to name the cable network—but we were told that, like, the pee hole, for example, is an issue on cable.” Netflix had no such reservations.


While the premise of American Vandal is fictional, it did have some unintentional echoes in real life. Showrunner Dan Lagana, who was brought onboard to help Perrault and Yacenda flesh out the show’s episodic format, told Vulture that his stepson was once accused of a similar, penis-related crime.

“I have a 17-year-old stepson, and when he was a freshman in high school he was accused of vandalizing an art project at school with a large phallic image,” Lagana said. “He didn’t do it but he got suspended for it. I remember sitting in the principal’s office, just boiling with fury over the injustice of it, and there was no way to prove his innocence. I told the creators that story and from that day forward we were a three-headed monster, which I was very, very excited about.”


While American Vandal has the visceral feel of a documentary series, it’s comprised of actors delivering scripted lines in a way that sounds spontaneous. But for scenes involving Peter Maldonado, the interrogator-slash-filmmaker, director Yacenda had actor Tyler Alvarez conduct free-flowing interviews with cast mates and reference his own in-character notes. That layer of realism helped the series “feel like this was a real case and we were working with real people,” according to Perrault.


Perrault and Yacenda are often linked to the true-crime podcast Serial and Netflix’s Making a Murderer as the inspirations for American Vandal. But their documentary tastes run deeper. According to an Entertainment Weekly interview with the pair, the show also drew from the HBO series The Jinx—about the wealthy, potentially very murderous Robert Durst—as well as Errol Morris’s acclaimed 1988 feature documentary The Thin Blue Line and The Central Park Five.


The star of American Vandal’s first season is undoubtedly Jimmy Tatro, a YouTube content star who received glowing reviews for his portrayal of slack-jawed delinquent Dylan. (It’s Dylan who is accused, perhaps wrongfully, of drawing penises on 27 school faculty members' cars.) For one scene, Tatro mimed farting in the direction of small children to demonstrate Dylan’s web series on “baby farting,” a prank spree that sets him up as a viable suspect. “I didn’t actually fart on the kids,” Tatro told GQ. “But they just had no context for what was going on. Like, I don’t know what they knew about what they were shooting, but I would imagine it wasn’t enough for them to understand what was happening. So it was just like, mom and kid walking, and I just ran up and stuck my butt in the kid’s face and ran off, and the kid was probably extremely confused.”


Jessica Juarez, Tyler Alvarez, Jimmy Tatro, and Lou Wilson in 'American Vandal'

To create a sequence full of social media footage that eventually pays off for Peter and Sam, the series' producers orchestrated a faux-high school party at “Nana’s,” the host’s grandmother’s house. The idea stemmed from staff writer Seth Cohen, who once attended a party in a “Nana” residence circa 1999. Cohen had videotape of the party, which he showed to the entire writing staff.


Hooking people on its mystery was apparently not a problem for American Vandal. In December 2017, Netflix released a top 10 list of the most-binged programs on the streaming service, which they defined as series that were viewed for more than two hours a day. American Vandal topped the list, beating other shows like 13 Reasons Why, Riverdale, and The Keepers.


When the show caught on and Perrault and Yacenda agreed to a second season, their initial idea was to explore Dylan’s ongoing story of being labeled a penis-painter. Instead, Peter and Sam will be investigating a totally new case involving feces. In the context of American Vandal, they’re now celebrated true-crime documentarians, and the two will likely become the only recurring characters on the series.


Tyler Alvarez in 'American Vandal'

Never in the history of the Peabody Awards—which celebrate achievement in television and other mass media—has an honor gone to a show about badly-drawn penises. In April 2018, the prestigious prize was given to American Vandal, with members acknowledging the show’s deeper ambitions to explore adolescence, social constructions, and technology. “The show’s careful realism and straight-faced performances are part of its comedy,” the organization wrote, “but they are also the foundation for a climax that finds the tragedy in Dylan’s infamy and the injustices behind the crime itself, foregrounding our complicity in the series’ unexpectedly profound lesson of what is unearthed when a quest for the truth loses its way.”

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

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The Surprising Characters on Friends Who Were Originally the Show's Main Couple

Everyone was enthralled by Ross and Rachel's romantic drama—but how would you feel about Monica and Joey's?
Everyone was enthralled by Ross and Rachel's romantic drama—but how would you feel about Monica and Joey's?
Getty Images

When you think of Friends, your mind probably goes to all the hilarious one-liners, such as Joey's "How you doin'?", or all the romantic relationships in the show, most importantly Ross and Rachel's. We watched the pair's love story blossom since their first kiss back in season two, and the couple is widely regarded as one of the best in TV history.

Well, there was another couple planned that didn't make the cut. Just as Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc wanted their characters Phoebe and Joey to get together, showrunners planned for Monica and Joey to be an item. And they weren't just going to be a fling—the two were originally the Ross and Rachel of the show.

Vulture reports that Friends creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman initially had Monica and Joey coupling up, explaining:

"It would’ve unfolded like this: Joey, a 'perpetual horndog,' would’ve eventually been lured and 'tamed' by Monica as he continued to climb up in the world of acting. Crane, however, found himself 'bored' by this version of Joey; he retooled Joey to be a funnier and warmer character within the friend group, and dropped the romance with Monica altogether."

Would've been weird, right? According to Entertainment Weekly, it wasn't just Crane who didn't like the idea. LeBlanc himself, who played Joey, wasn't into his character trying to pursue Monica, not wanting to play someone who was perceived as creepy and hit on everyone.

It seems Joey went through some serious revisions before Friends became what it is today, and it's probably for the best. He doesn't end up married in the end, but at least Monica gets her happily ever after moment with Chandler.

[h/t Vulture]