Bubbly even when it’s dark, ever eager to break the fourth wall, the new Netflix young-adult comedy “Fakes” is like an ingratiating friend who wants to show off all their cool new stuff. It plays with chronology. It offers alternative versions of events we’ve just seen. It cranks up the (generally quite good) hip-hop.
It is, like, totally hyped to be telling a story about two Vancouver teens who stumble into running a fake-ID empire.
The high schoolers are Zoe (Emilija Baranac) and Becca (Jennifer Tong), best buds since childhood who have grown into different people. Zoe is a little nerdy and socially awkward; she makes her first fake ID so she can study in the university library. Becca is more of a party girl, wealthy and fashionable; she’d rather drink than study. Together they embody the series’ insouciant tone, a shrug of the shoulders that stays intact even as crises and drama set in.
“Fakes” has more empty calories than nutrition, which is fine except for when it tries to get serious. Both heroines come from broken homes: Zoe’s father is an absent alcoholic, and her brother appears to be following suit; Becca’s demanding mother is never home, and her father is having an affair with his secretary. But “Fakes” doesn’t find much to do with this material besides wedge it into the high jinks. The dark matter doesn’t fit the overall tone. This first season of the series works best on the level of triviality, where the two leads can play off each other and build their hot mess of a criminal enterprise.
Meanwhile, a supporting player all but steals the show. Matreya Scarrwener plays Sally, a not terribly productive employee/accomplice. Sally is what you might call a theater geek, and she more than lives the part whenever she’s onscreen, singing, reciting, puppeteering, gesticulating and generally having an infectiously great time. Sally is social kryptonite within the world of “Fakes,” but for viewers she’s the life of the party. There’s nothing halfway about Scarrwener’s performance. She disappears into this genuine weirdo; it’s a wonder her fellow cast members could keep a straight face.
There’s something refreshing about the show’s British Columbia cast, settings and music, even if some of the Canadian actors, including Richard Harmon (“The 100”), aren’t exactly unknown. The ample needle drops will send some viewers scrambling for their Shazam apps to ID north-of-the-border artists like Tasha the Amazon and Vic Vodka. Most of the hip-hop cuts in “Fakes” would fit right in at a secret all-night party, the kind of place where Becca and Zoe’s counterfeit wares would come in handy.
There are YA projects that keep it relatively clean for the kids, and there are those that talk like actual teenagers. “Fakes” belongs to the latter group, and it’s better for it. A teen who wants a fake ID, or a teen who manufactures them, isn’t going to speak like a church mouse, at least not outside the house. “Fakes” won’t be getting any plaudits for realism, but give it credit for not whitewashing its characters. They want to party. Of course they do. They’re in high school.
“Fakes”: Comedy series. Starring Jennifer Tong, Emilija Baranac, Matreya Scarrwener, Richard Harmon, Eric Bempong and Mya Lowe. Created by David Turko. (TV-MA. Ten episodes at approximately 25 minutes each.) Available to stream on Netflix starting Friday, Sept. 2.