Florida Man memes have become notorious cultural touchstones — and now they’ve been adapted as a star-cast Netflix series.
Created by Donald Todd (“This Is Us”) and executive producer Jason Bateman, Florida Man follows Mike Valentine (Emmy-nominated Edgar Ramirez), an ex-Florida cop whose life is in tatters. A gambling addict with a failed marriage, he’s currently under the thumb of inept Pittsburgh mobster Moss Yankov (Emory Cohen, “The OA”).
When Moss sends Mike to Florida to retrieve his runaway girlfriend Delly (Abbey Lee), a chain of events begins to take Mike’s life – and the show itself – that spirals in crazy directions and noir, Mixture of mystery and dark comedy.
The series is ultimately too chaotic and scattered for its own good – but not without some shaggy charm.
It turns out that Mike was having an affair with Delly that Moss doesn’t know about. He’s also reluctant to return to Florida, in part because he has a complicated relationship with his retired cop dad Sonny (Anthony LaPaglia) and always wanted to escape his hometown.
Aside from Mike’s adventures, there’s also an often comedic subplot about Sheriff Ketcher (Clark Gregg), a mysterious, gun-obsessed family man.
There are several subplots that go with Florida Man memes, including news reports that Florida Men are involved in absurd crimes, spurring real-life headlines: “Naked Florida man leads cops on stolen school bus chase.” or “Florida man beats bobcat to save daughter’s dog.”
On the show, this is manifested in situations including an incident where Mike tries to save a woman from drowning on a beach – only to be accused of assaulting her. He adds to this outrage Then his Unmentionables getting bitten by a shark… and the incident went viral on social media.
There is also a plot about a dismembered dead man found in a gully.
In theory, it’s a good idea to base a show around those infamous “Florida Man” headlines that have become ubiquitous punchlines. But the series never quite becomes something coherent, nor does it become so outlandish that it would justify naming itself after those infamous memes.
The visuals are appropriately dingy – candy-colored neon signs, motel rooms, beachside bars – but while the actors all deliver engaging performances and their characters are often fun, we don’t know enough about them to feel invested in what is happening. Is Mike a Walter White antihero? Is he a man we should sympathize with and cheer for? Or is he a guy you want us to laugh and judge without liking – similar to the “Succession characters”? Despite Ramirez’s valiant attempts to bring depth to Mike, it doesn’t feel like “Florida Man” has figured it out. It’s a bloated mess with too many characters and storylines, and an inconsistent tone that varies from one scene to the next.
The series plays like the rough draft of a show that could have been good…if the script had gone through a few more rounds of polishing and sharpening.