This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
If you were a huge fan of "Breaking Bad" and you miss that show so desperately that you're willing to watch a shameless ripoff, then Netflix's "Ozark" (which starts streaming Friday) might be the show for you.
Not only does it feel unoriginal and tired, but it comes across as a vanity project for star/executive producer Jason Bateman, who also directs some episodes. Like Bateman was out to prove that he's a Serious Actor, and Netflix was trying to keep Bateman happy so he'll star in another season of "Arrested Development."(Season 5 is slated to stream on Netflix in 2018.)
In "Ozark," Bateman stars as Walter White … er, uh, Bateman stars as Marty Byrde, a Chicago financial planner whose company has been laundering money for a drug cartel. He's doing it, at least nominally, to help his family by making a lot of cash.
Unbeknownst to Marty, others have been skimming money from the cartel and in the first episode, drug lord Del (Esai Morales) wreaks revenge by murdering pretty much everybody in Marty's office.
It's very violent and very graphic.
Marty manages to stave off death by convincing Del that he can move to the Ozarks and launder hundreds of millions of dollars in what amounts to virgin territory for the drug cartel. And so Marty has a matter of hours to uproot his family and move them to Tennessee.
Laura Linney stars as Marty's wife, Wendy; Marty and Wendy are the parents of Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner).
Episode 1 is about the collapse of Marty's life; Episode 2 is about the move to Tennessee; and, beginning in Episode 3, Marty discovers that Tennessee is not the virgin territory that he believed. Everywhere he looks, there are criminals hillybilly crooks and everything he does creates a new complication.
"Ozark" is unremittingly dark and completely lacking in humor. It's a lot like AMC's late, unlamented "Low Winter Sun," which is not a coincidence in that they share the same showrunner, Chris Mundy.
And for all the effort to be the Next "Breaking Bad," Mundy, Bateman & Co. apparently didn't watch that earlier show carefully enough to catch that it was sometimes very funny.
No, it's not really fair to compare any show to the amazing "Breaking Bad" or to compare Bateman's performance to Bryan Cranston's as Walter White, because neither is something any show or any actor should be expected to match.
But the folks behind "Ozark" clearly set out to attempt the impossible, so the comparisons are inevitable. And it's no surprise that they don't measure up.