I’d lost track of those filmmaking Carolina siblings, Josh and Jonas Pate, since they transitioned from movies (“Deceiver”) to TV (“Surface”).
Born in N.C., they’ve made Charleston, S.C. and environs their stomping grounds. So they may title their latest venture “Outer Banks” and set it on the barrier islands of North Carolina, but nobody should be surprised that they shot this 10 episode series in and around Charleston and the South Carolina Low Country. The landscape is similar enough — beaches backing on marshes and estuaries (SC), islands backing up to shallow water sounds (NC) as to not be worth quibbling over.
But the series? Well, let’s quibble. It’s “Bloodline” with its training wheels on, “Scooby Doo” with swearing, “Siesta Key” with a plot.
It’s a tale of a shipwrecked treasure, a “lost at sea” father, mansion-living rich kids (“kooks”) vs. working class/working poor (“pogues”) fishing shack dwellers and “marina rats.”
The drug smuggling trade made infamous in Florida — “square groupers” (named for bales of pot dumped overboard by smugglers) — figure into this, as do corruption, surfing, a concerned sheriff and “It’s my DAD’s handwriting” clues sending our intrepid quartet and their Mystery Machine (OK, it’s a ’60s VW Microbus.) out, one step ahead of guys with guns and bad intent.
The whole affair is kind of laughable, but the milieu — coastal country in the aftermath of a hurricane — and cliffhangers may pull in the youth vote. It has potboiler/”page-turner” qualities, and an absurdly attractive cast to build and audience with.
John B. (Chase Stokes) is our orphaned hero and incessant narrator (BAD Filmmaking 101), our tour guide and storyteller, the kid who lives in Dad’s old fishing shack, joyriding in Dad’s old fishing skiff, working on the docks for a rich boat owner and [pining for the guy’s almost-attainable “queen of the kooks” blonde daughter (Madelyn Cline).
Which is a pity, because the fair Kiara (Madison Bailey), daughter of the owners of a popular local restaurant, is one of his crew and cute, too.
Then there’s hothead JJ (Rudy Pankow) and “the brains” of the outfit — college bound Pope (Jonathan Daviss).
A carefree “We do what we want, when we want” lifestyle is barely established when Hurricane Agnes blows through (surfing during a hurricane, totally a thing). And in the detritus left in the storm’s wake, they stumble across a wrecked fishing boat with cash and clues on board.
Cops, including the sheriff (Adina Porter) are suspicious. Tough out of towners are, too.
And we’re off on an adventure that anyone who’s ever seen any “found money/treasure/treasure map” story will be two episodes ahead of, start to finish.
Setting is almost everything on “Outer Banks,” as it figures into the lifestyle, the architecture and the value systems we sample. The sunken boat they found was a Grady White — the Caddy of inland and coastal fishing boats. How did the poor, drowned local they knew have the cash for that?
“Salt life” is everything — fishing, diving, surfing.
The local lighthouse has been turned into a museum and is thus a resource on all manner of wrecks and local sea lore — a common occurrence all along the coast of the Southeastern U.S., from Maryland to Texas.
And the aftermath of that hurricane is impressively rendered — boats hither and yon, some sunk, some washed inland. Buoys washed ashore, wreckage everywhere making this the perfect time for a bonfire/kegger of the storm-littered beach.
The story, on the other hand, is on the very cusp of “childish.” That lowers the stakes, lessens the drama, removes the surprises and narrows the demographic appeal of “Outer Banks.”
Leave this one to the kids.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence, drug content, teen drinking, profanity
Cast: Chase Stokes, Madison Bailey, Jonathan Daviss, Rudy Panko, Adina Porter and Austin North.
Credits: Created by Jonas and Josh Pate, and Shannon Burke. A Netflix Original.
Running time: 10 episodes, @50 minutes each