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Arnold Schwarzenegger’s still got it, but, otherwise, Netflix’s ‘FUBAR’ lacks the goods – Chico Enterprise-Record

For the first time, Arnold Schwarzenegger is starring in a television series.

The longtime action star — and former California governor — hasn’t exactly leaped out of his comfort zone with the one-hour action-comedy “FUBAR,” the eight-episode debut season of which has just dropped on Netflix.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series created by Nick Santora is “loosely inspired” by “True Lies,” an action-comedy movie from writer-director James Cameron. In that well-received romp, Schwarzenegger portrays Harry Tasker, who hides the fact he is a U.S. spy from his family.

In “FUBAR,” Schwarzenegger portrays Luke Brunner, who, well, hides the fact he is a U.S. spy from his family.

The “Lies”-like premise isn’t the problem with “FUBAR,” which, in a fun nod to the film, brings in one of Schwarzenegger’s costars, Tom Arnold, for a guest-starring role in the fifth installment.

What is the problem? It simply isn’t very good.

Let’s be clear about one thing, however: Arnold “I’ll be back” Schwarzenegger is NOT the issue. Whenever the Austrian star — sporting that accent so familiar from many a “Terminator” movie and other big-budget action hits of the last few decades — is on the screen, “FUBAR” has a little bit of charm and something resembling a pulse. When he’s out of frame, the show is about as flat as a kitchen floor.

Whereas in “True Lies” — which, by the way, recently was adapted into what proved to be a short-lived series on CBS — the story largely concerned the secrets between a husband and his wife, “FUBAR” primarily is interested in Luke’s relationship with his beloved daughter, Emma (Monica Barbaro). He still craves daddy-daughter time, and he doesn’t approve of her choice in partners, the kind-but-wussy Carter (Jay Baruchel of “This Is The End”).

We meet Luke on what is supposed to be his final mission before retiring from the CIA in the Santora-penned first episode, “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” Things get a little hairy, but, with the help of his remote-working right-hand man, the entirely nerdy Barry (Milan Carter, “Warped!”), Luke is able to take out the bad guys.

Retirement has to wait, though, as Luke is recruited to extract another agent from an undercover operation. Luke is quire familiar with this bad guy, Boro (Gabriel Luna, “The Last of Us”); after posing as an associate of Boro’s father, Luke killed the man, unbeknown to Boro, and worked to remain a positive influence in the young man’s life, going so far as to pay for his schooling. Now Boro is applying all he’s learned into a plan that could lead to many deaths.

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When Luke reappears in Boro’s life, he discovers the undercover agent is — you guessed it — Emma, neither knowing the other worked for the CIA. And thus begins the backbone of the series: constant arguments between Luke and Emma about secrets and trustworthiness and the need for him to stay out of her personal life. (Emma is pretty mad at her father for making the exact life choice she made decades later.)

Gabriel Luna, left, and Arnold Schwarzenegger appear in a scene from 'FUBAR." (Courtesy of Netflix)
Gabriel Luna, left, and Arnold Schwarzenegger appear in a scene from ‘FUBAR.” (Courtesy of Netflix)

Giving Emma her space proves exceedingly difficult for Luke, who, in the episodes that follow, repeatedly makes decisions that prioritize her well-being over the mission objective that he surely wouldn’t were she not so dear to him.

At first, the scenes shared by Schwarzenegger and Barbaro (“Top Gun: Maverick”) are one of the stronger suits of “FUBAR,” but they occur so regularly and are so repetitive that they wear very thin.

The show’s next best element is Luke’s efforts to win back his ex-wife, Tally (Fabiana Udenio, “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery”), who left him years ago after constantly seeming less important to him than his work, which supposedly was selling fitness equipment. You can’t help but become at least a little invested in this.

Other than that, we mainly get the lukewarm dynamics among Luke’s associates, portrayed by Fortune Feimster (“The Mindy Project”), Travis Van Winkle (“You”), Aparna Brielle (“A.P. Bio”) and Carter.

Travis Van Winkle and Fortune Feimster portray members of a CIA team in the new Netflix series "FUBAR." (Courtesy of Netflix)
Travis Van Winkle and Fortune Feimster portray members of a CIA team in the new Netflix series “FUBAR.” (Courtesy of Netflix)

‘FUBAR” — and by the way, given the first letter of the acronym, you’ll have to Google it if you don’t already know its meaning — isn’t even as fun as its episode titles, which also include “Stole Train,” “Honeyplot” and “Urine Luck.” The show pairs a lot of low-ish budget action with only the rare laugh-out-loud moment, such as the joke stand-up comic Feimster lands regarding her character’s car.

Like so many streaming series, “FUBAR” simply doesn’t have enough story to justify its overall runtime, a real problem considering we’re talking about all of eight hours in this case.

It’s certainly impressive that, now in his mid-70s, the still larger-than-life Schwarzenegger can carry a slice of action-oriented entertainment. Unfortunately, he gets too little help from his co-stars and Santora (“Reacher”) and the show’s other writers and directors.

“FUBAR” attempts to set up a second season in the climactic finale, “That’s It and That’s All,” but it’s hard to imagine that it “will be back.”


What: Eight-episode debut season of action-comedy spy series.

Where: Netflix.

When: All episodes available now.

Info: Netflix.com.

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