Greg Garcia’s series tries to make lemonade out of mask jokes and Robin Hood heists, but it carries no real weight.
America is full of inequality, and most of it has grown since COVID-19 hit. Oxfam reports that 99% of global incomes have fallen in 2020, while the 10 richest men on Earth have seen their fortunes more than double. Underpaid essential workers worked hard while white-collar workers bought stupid shit online and worked from home in sweatpants, and 70 (70! That’s a lot!) Members of Congress were caught trying to throw stocks before the rest of America really learned how bad COVID was about to get. It’s a screwed up system, and sometimes it seems like there really is no legitimate way out.
All of this is certainly reflected in “Sprung,” the new Amazon Freevee series from “Yes, Dear,” “My Name Is Earl,” and “Raising Hope” creator Greg Garcia. The show’s 10 episodes follow three ex-convicts released early due to COVID, who are quickly (and unceremoniously) let loose into society. Jack (Garret Dillahunt) spent 26 years in prison for being caught with a backpack full of weed when he was 18. Rooster (Phillip Garcia) is so dumb almost anything could have knocked him into the slammer, and Gloria (Shakira Barrera) was making time for bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and a bunch more. things like that. Jack and Rooster were cellies, and Gloria was Jack’s girlfriend—until their release they had never met, though they had spent hours talking through the prison toilet pipes. (How romantic!)
When the trio are thrown out into the world, Jack trades the $40 he received for a night at Rooster’s mother’s house. Gloria also comes aboard, having been picked up in the family’s Pacer 76. Barb (Martha Plimpton, in a “Raising Hope” reunion with Garcia and Dillahunt) is a Grade A character. She has hair like Jerri Blank, plans for days, and a no-nonsense attitude when it comes to her new roommates. . If they’re going to be there and eat the various casseroles she makes, they’ll have to be prepared to earn a living. It means committing a crime, even if it puts them at risk of returning to prison.
Jack struggles at first, insisting he is not a criminal, but eventually relents after seeing the group planning a robbery in which they are sure to get caught. He becomes the brains of the team and their conscience, insisting that they only steal from “bad people”. Ultimately, the team centers on a Marjorie Taylor Greene-type congresswoman played by Kate Walsh. She’s one of those insider trading cops, and Gloria notices that her house is filled with whimsical artwork. If they could get in and steal a single painting, they’d be set for life – or at least long enough to get out of Barb’s house.
Nothing goes to plan, of course, and “Sprung” takes a turn toward even more Robin Hood-esque justice when the band realizes Walsh’s Paula Tackleberry has replaced all the art in her house with fakes and has l intends to sell the originals in New York before investing all the money in any companies she discovers are on the verge of getting vaccine approval. She even implicated her Latinx housekeeper without her knowledge, with the goal of blaming her for everything if she gets caught. In short, Tackleberry is horribly despicable, making him an easy target to hate when everyone decides to take him down.
To say if the gang is successful would be a spoiler, but one only has to watch Garcia’s other shows to realize that he has a thing for the underdog. It’s part of what sometimes makes “Sprung” so charming. His story about the destitute shows that each of them expresses much more meaning than the majority of the population. Plimpton’s Barb is a particular winner, and she’s written with all those little characterizations that make her all the more real. (She only drinks canned wine, but she likes to make it seasonal by adding things like candy. She’s dating a guy online who she thinks is big on the Eastern Ohio modeling scene. , but she’ll only send him selfies taken from 20 feet away (She also had a big vest phase in the ’90s.) Ancillary characters like villain with a heart of gold Melvin (James Earl) and Rooster restart/start the Charming silly girlfriend Wiggles (Claire Gillies) also adds a nice flavor to the show, and I really have no idea how Gillies kept Wiggles’ airy accent the whole time.
Dennis Mong/Amazon Freevee
Where “Sprung” falters, however, is in its weight. It’s full of talented actors, and they end up in semi-interesting scrapes, but it doesn’t feel entirely consequential. The show seems to be trying to say something about everything — and especially about the journey we’ve all been on in the first two years of COVID. All the hits are there: the jokes about the garbage we used for masks at the start, the winks about how it was all over in a week, the excerpts from Donald Trump’s press conference where he hinted that people should drink bleach. It was a stupid time, sure, but remembering it over and over again isn’t as fun as the “Sprung” team thinks. He dates the show almost instantly, creating a huge “Sprung” bump never quite recovering from it.
All in all, “Sprung” is a great show. Plimpton is, once again, a legend, and players like ‘True Blood’ and ‘Heels’ star Chris Bauer bring some extra joy to the proceedings. You may not like “Sprung”, but maybe that’s okay. In a world full of deadly germs, economic hardship, and mean congressmen, sometimes all you have to do is be OK.
“Sprung” premieres Friday, August 19 on Amazon Freevee with two episodes. Subsequent episodes will be released weekly, with a one-hour season finale arriving on September 16.