Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to his action-comedy roots with “Fubar,” a Netflix series that echoes his 1994 blockbuster “True Lies.” The show marks the first time the former movie star and California governor has headlined a scripted live-action TV series, but it’s hardly a fresh or original concept.
The premise is simple: a father and daughter who have both been leading double lives as CIA operatives find out each other’s secrets and have to work together as partners.
Schwarzenegger plays Luke Brunner, who is about to retire from his spy career when he learns that his daughter Emma (“Top Gun: Maverick’s” Monica Barbaro) has followed in his footsteps without his knowledge.
He decides to postpone his retirement and his plans to reconcile with his ex-wife and Emma’s mother (Fabiana Udenio), who left him because of his constant lies.
Emma, meanwhile, has her own challenges balancing her spy life with her personal life, especially her relationship with her clueless and geeky boyfriend Carter (Jay Baruchel), who has no idea what she does for a living.
The series is executive produced by Nick Santora (“Reacher”) and Schwarzenegger, among others, and features a supporting cast of quirky characters, such as Luke’s desk-bound sidekick (Milan Carter), who Emma grew up calling Uncle Barry.
The series tries to capitalize on Schwarzenegger’s charisma and humor, as well as his knack for delivering witty one-liners while kicking ass (see “Commando”). Barbaro also proves to be a capable co-star, showing off her skills in action, drama, and comedy scenes – not to mention her ability to withstand intense flight training exercises for “Top Gun: Maverick.”
However, the show suffers from a lack of originality and creativity, as it recycles many tropes and clichés from previous spy movies and TV shows, such as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “Chuck,” and “Spy.” The dialogue is often cheesy and predictable, and the plot is thin and formulaic.
Streaming has become a popular destination for aging movie stars who want to extend their careers, as seen by the Taylor Sheridan-produced dramas that have attracted Sam Elliott, Harrison Ford, and Sylvester Stallone. Schwarzenegger fits well into Netflix’s strategy of attracting viewers with big names and familiar genres. The streaming giant has also ordered a docuseries about him, “Arnold,” which will debut in June.
That project might be more interesting than “Fubar,” which is not terrible but rather uninspired – a binge-worthy option for fans who have recently watched a movie from Schwarzenegger’s glory days.
Not surprisingly, a CBS reboot of “True Lies” was recently scrapped, though Schwarzenegger’s version might fare better in the less competitive environment of streaming. The show does its best to hook viewers with its cliffhangers, but the best moments come from the smaller interactions between Schwarzenegger and Barbaro, rather than the generic storyline.
As the title implies, “Fubar” doesn’t take itself too seriously; however, if Schwarzenegger had to “be back,” as he famously said as an unstoppable cyborg, it would have been nice if he had chosen something more original than this.