By Abby Wargo
Fans of the defunct video platform Vine will recognize Nick Colletti’s iconic refrain, “Yo, what the fuck is up, Yonder? No, what the fuck did you say?” as he prepares to fight a SoCal bro in the final episode of the second season of “The Real Bros of Simi Valley.” Clips like this one circulate the internet, but less people are familiar with the show it comes from than the reference it uses.
Created by actor and Youtuber Jimmy Tatro and Christian Pierce, “Real Bros” is a comedy mockumentary series about five millennial best friends living in Simi Valley, California. Tatro plays Xander Sanders, a truck-loving dudebro. What initially drew me to the show is the Vine star-studded cast: Colletti plays Duncan Surf, an emotionally unstable manager at his dad’s surf and skate shop; Tanner Petulla, better known by his DJ persona Getter, plays Bryce Meyer, a washed-up skateboarder; and Cody Ko plays Wade Sanders, an amateur artist and Xander’s younger brother. The group must grow up and move on with their lives a decade after peaking in high school. Bryce often calls back to better days. “Dude, high school was so sick,” he says in the first episode with longing in his eyes.
The first season, financed entirely by Tatro, was uploaded to his Youtube channel LifeAccordingToJimmy in 2017. It follows the bros as they prepare for a group kickback. Don’t let its low budget deter you; the production value increases in the second and third seasons, which were picked up by Facebook Watch. The second season premiered in November 2018. I was pleased to see the show comes into its own with the new platform and increased production quality. Ever since, it has been rising in recognition and popularity. The third season is currently streaming, and new episodes come out every Friday. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, though, filming has been stalled and the final episodes have been pushed back.
According to Variety, one of Tatro’s inspirations for the show was the “Real Housewives” reality series, where absurd drama perpetuated by a group of rich, privileged women reigns.
“One of the original inspirations for this show was talking about how many cities were popping up for ‘Real Housewives,’” he told Variety. “I think they’d just come out with ‘Potomac.’ We were like ‘we gotta do one of these in the most random possible city.’ And then the bros idea came second.”
The show provides a new spin on the mockumentary, popularized by shows like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.” Like in reality shows, characters are aware of the fact that they are being filmed and break the barrier of scripted television. They reference things that happened in previous seasons as “last season” and Johnny Mendez, another of the bros’ cohorts played by Peter Gilroy, laments several times that he is not in the show’s intro. All of the characters have their own Instagram accounts, updated several times a week to make it seem like they are living their lives off-screen as well as on. The show becomes reality itself.
The show alters conventions of reality. The characters often elide the passage of time. While the seasons happen within a few months of each other in the show’s timeline, events are sped up to an absurd degree. Xander’s girlfriend Molly, played by Colleen Donovan, becomes pregnant with her son Hawk at the end of the first season. His growth is fast-tracked, and the second season begins with his first birthday party despite Molly’s pregnancy only being announced two months prior. Hawk is in kindergarten in the last episode of the second season, and by the beginning of the third, which picks up only a few months after the second ends, Hawk is all grown up and out of the picture.
“Real Bros,” at its heart, mocks millennial culture, particularly in Tatro’s native southern California. All of the characters speak in an exaggerated SoCal accent and use ridiculous slang like “taght” and “steez.” Smoking marijuana is given undue importance; a central tension throughout the show is Wade lying that he “burns” despite never smoking. The characters’ wealth and privilege is apparent as well as the fact that they are all freeloading off of their respective successful parents, relying on them for employment and housing. Xander and Molly spend the second season looking for a house after Xander’s parents kick them out of their mini-mansion. The comedic elements are a smart critique of the characters’ myopic worldview.
“Real Bros’” handling of millennial culture is at once dramatized and realistic, highlighting the realities of modern SoCal life while simultaneously poking fun at it.