When I found out last summer that Netflix was bringing a show about NASCAR to its services in 2021, it was initially excitement. As a sport and culture, a show about what it’s like being in NASCAR had the potential for something interesting, and given how well other Netflix Originals have played, there was the hope that this show could follow that same path, and be something that captivated people, even those who may not be fans of the sport.
And then I found out Kevin James was going to star in it/produce it.
Once you find out Kevin James is in something, you know exactly how it’s going to be: Entirely predictable, a few funny moments, and then just as many more that make you sigh, or shake your head at just how terrible that was. But again, maybe this show being on Netflix could be different without the restraints of network TV, or him having to be a mall cop.
It was not.
For 10 episodes, it’s the same Kevin James stuff it’s always been, making fun of the lowest hanging fruit, some fairly amusing bits (I really enjoyed the Fake Steak commercial shoot), and a number of moments and jokes that just make you cringe, or wish that they had stopped two joke attempts ago. Once again, if you’re a fan of Kevin James and his views on comedy, this series will be right up your alley.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment in this show is not that it’s so familiar to all other Kevin James stuff, but just how familiar it is to all the other crap you see on network TV, just with NASCAR as the backdrop for the stories. You could have had this set in any office, bar, construction crew, group of friends, and the content of the show would not have changed at all, except for swapping out a joke about a vague NASCAR reference, to a joke about computers or beers that everyone gets. There is almost no racing action that you see in the show (this despite an actual NASCAR team covering their car in ‘Fake Steak’ logos for a real race last season) aside from quick wipes to other scenes that are broken up by 2-3 clips of actual NASCAR races, and no real NASCAR talk or anything. About the only thing they got right in regards to NASCAR was plastering ads all over the place for real businesses.
There are a few appearances from a handful of NASCAR drivers that most fans will know, but for casual fans, they may not, and let me tell you: If you thought the acting a jokes were rough coming from the professionals, just wait until you watch Austin Dillon try and nail comedic timing.
This was essentially a network sitcom, complete with all the usual stereotypes you see, but on Netflix instead. There’s the computer nerd who takes the brunt of the other cast members jokes, the hot dumb guy, the smart young girl with an education who is trying to take charge in a ‘Good ol’ boys’ world, and of course, Kevin James pretending he isn’t a chunky middle aged guy but is in fact the perfect embodiment of what women everywhere want. It’s just all so tired, and all been done a thousand times before.
Honestly, if I’m disappointed most in anyone for this, it’s Netflix. Like I noted above, this is an outfit that has been on the cutting edge for a lot of its new shows, documentaries, and one-off specials, including the amazing ‘F1: Drive to Survive’ series that followed around the actual world of F1 for two seasons. Instead of something like that for NASCAR, we got this. A sitcom with a laugh track and Kevin James making the same jokes he has since he was a package delivery driver in Queens 20-plus years ago.
I have no idea how many people are watching it, but it seems like we’ll get at least at Season 2 of this given how the first season ended, and maybe like a lot of other sitcoms it finds its footing after a rocky first season, but I’m not holding out hope, or likely tuning in to find out.
Treat ‘The Crew’ like you would a slow car if you were on the track racing: Pass