Even though six years have passed since Lost went off the air, TBS’ new comedy Wrecked hopes viewers have been waiting patiently for the right sitcom parody to come along. After a flight to Thailand crashes on an unknown island, a group of survivors must come together to find food and shelter and maintain order. The pilot makes the Lost references clear. An attractive, survival-oriented Jack Shephard stand-in becomes de facto leader of the group. When two characters stumble upon a locked briefcase that appears to have been purposefully hidden, they giddily refer to it as an “island mystery.” While these moments are cute, Wrecked soon surges past this premise and focuses on how its unique cast of characters adapts to the situation at hand, squashing the Jack premise early on. The show then finds its feet when an optimistic alcoholic (Brian Sacca as Danny Wallace) and unmotivated flight attendant (Zach Cregger as Owen O’Connor) are forced to take control.
While it’s clear who our main protagonists are, fun background characters like “Diane from Toledo” add layers and keep the possibility of plot extension open. The show also uses some flashbacks and dream sequences to keep things from feeling claustrophobic on the island, just like Lost did. When Danny has to clear bodies from the plane, a dream appearance from his father hints at a more interesting story for the character than “lazy slob forced into action.” Todd Hinkle (Will Greenberg), an arrogant, douchebag frat bro, makes the best case for the flashback tactic. Initially, his character seems very one-note: He loves The Hangover, he cares more about his Oakleys being lost than helping survivors. Naturally, he treats his girlfriend (Ally Maki) badly, but a brief flashback to the frat party that brought them together gives his character a little more weight.
Adding a tragic plane crash to the equation makes it difficult for some jokes to land. Unlike Gilligan’s Island, this crew of survivors wasn’t simply shipwrecked. Their plane crashed; the images are graphic. The survivors spend an entire episode gathering dead bodies. Wrecked answers this problem by moving forward at an almost alarming pace and focusing on the jokes. While the giant funeral pyre is played for laughs, they’re still burning their loved ones. But before things can get too sad, an over-the-top vomit gag erupts after the survivors realize it’s probably a bad idea to stand so close to a pile of burning bodies. By the next episode, there’s no mention of the people who died. Although Steve Rutherford (Rhys Darby) has his legs crushed in the crash, he’s walking with makeshift crutches soon after the pilot.
The survivors even find a working phone, but since it’s not a smartphone and none of them have memorized a phone number in years, the battery dies before they can reach anyone. They also discover a DVD player that only has two hours of battery life left. They’re lucky enough to find two DVDs: Dumb And Dumber To and Selma. Even though there are bigger issues at hand, watching the characters navigate the weight of this choice given their circumstances is hilarious. They originally choose to watch Selma so that they don’t appear racist or tasteless, but they soon realize it doesn’t matter. The moment cements them in their new world; they’re far-removed from familiar social norms.
The focus on comedy without consequences doesn’t work when little is done to address the danger the survivors are in. When Pack Hara (Asif Ali), a high-strung sports agent, decides to do drugs with one of the other survivors, he runs deep into the jungle. An episode passes, but his character isn’t seen again and no one asks what happened to him. While other shows can have a character sit a week out, Wrecked can’t really afford this luxury when the stakes feel so high.
In these moments, Wrecked’s saving grace is its incredibly talented cast, as the characters quickly find their rhythm together. Darby proves yet again that he can keep anything afloat. Karen Cushman (Brooke Dillman), a no-nonsense statistical analysis, is hilarious as the only castaway who seems to have actual survival skills, but lacks the social skills to become a leader. The show’s ability to handle serialized storytelling is hinted at when frat bro Todd secretly steals the remaining food and the issue of justice on the island must be addressed. While the premise and election plotline that follow are flimsy, the cast is clearly capable of handling anything that’s thrown at them. They make Wrecked worth watching.