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Recommended: Sprung on Amazon Freevee

Like a sitcom Breaking Bad, this savagely funny caper follows Covid-era crooks on a semi-noble mission.
  • Shakira Barrera, Martha Plimpton, and Garret Dillahunt in Sprung. (Photo: Dennis Mong/Amazon Freevee)
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    Sprung Season 1 | Amazon Freevee
    Half-hour comedy (10 episodes) | TV-MA

    What's Sprung About?

    After spending 26 years in jail for selling weed, Jack (Garret Dillahunt) gets unexpectedly released because of the pandemic. He's determined to turn his life around, so he recruits a rag-tag group of crooks to help him commit felonies for the "right" reasons, starting with an elaborate scheme to rob a Congresswoman who dumped stocks just before Covid shut down the economy. Along the way, there are side hustles involving hoarded toilet paper, public school music programs, and an engagement ring that's accidentally eaten by an exotic dancer.

    Who's involved?

    • The show was developed by Greg Garcia, who created Raising Hope and My Name Is Earl. He also writes and directs each episode.
    • Raising Hope alums Garret Dillahunt and Martha Plimpton join Garcia back in the fold. Dillahunt plays Jack, while Plimpton plays Barb, the chain-smoking mother of Jack's old cellmate, Rooster.
    • Phillip Garcia plays Rooster. He's pretty dumb, but he happily invites Jack to live with Barb and him on the outside.
    • Shakira Barrera is Gloria, a grifter who also moves in. She and Jack had a prison romance, but since it involved shouting at each other through plumbing pipes, they never met each other until they got released.
    • Kate Walsh is the perfectly named Paula Tackleberry, the Congresswoman the gang decides to rob.
    • James Earl is Melvin, a crook who lives in Barb's neighborhood. His business selling toilet paper on the black market gets him entangled with the crew.
    • Clare Gillies is Wiggles, Melvin's girlfriend and Rooster's ex. She sleeps with a weighted blanket, but needs help getting out from under it.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    Sprung is funny from the start, but by the fourth episode it's clear it has larger ambitions than simple wisecracking. It's more like a sitcom version of Breaking Bad.

    For one, the show boasts a visual style uncommon to most comedies: Every episode opens with a cinematic wide shot of a street or bedroom or building, with black bars at the top and bottom like we're watching a letterboxed DVD. There are several scenes with rapid-fire editing, so that when Jack is robbing Melvin, we see the people in prison who taught him what to do. Likewise, when it's time for the closing credits, they run over a long, uninterrupted take that usually calls back to an earlier joke, like Wiggles struggling to escape her weighted blanket.

    This isn't like the world building on The Simpsons or 30 Rock, where every corner of every frame is crammed with throwaway gags. Garcia's approach is calmer and more sweeping. It teaches us to see this story on a larger canvas, where small, interconnected details add up to something epic. Just like Breaking Bad teased us with a mysterious teddy bear, eventually revealing how it connects to a season-long theme, Sprung will pan across the head of an Easter Bunny costume for weeks before letting us know it was part of an obscene viral video that Barb made a few years back.

    And that video is funny! And crude. And totally infantile. That's part of the show's charm: For all of his grand narrative ambitions, Garcia also crafts raunchy, inappropriate, and lovable characters. It's fun to follow him wherever he wants to go as a storyteller — and the plot does get dense — because the jokes are so good.

    His zippy writing lets Garcia get away with some pointed critiques of America's pandemic mania. The marquee on a shuttered strip club reads, "They made us close. Please masturbate safely at home." When we see a group of kids trying to have Zoom wrestling practice, they have to use their moms as partners. (Except for one kid who uses his dog.) When Jack asks why everyone is banging pots on their front porches, Barb tells him it's because "the creepy guy" who works at the grocery store is a hero now.

    The cast plays all of this with a light touch, delivering their lines so nonchalantly that it takes a moment to register the savage satire.

    This edge helps keep the show's gentle streak from feeling overly sentimental. For instance, each time he commits a crime, Jack gives some of the proceeds to people in his neighborhood who are struggling to survive supply chain shortages, Covid layoffs, and lockdown loneliness. Dillahunt injects these moments with such glee — like when he's helping Rooster toss rolls of stolen toilet paper into people's yards — that they're part of the zany fun, not clucking sermons.

    It's quite the coup to deliver this kind of serious artistry and deep cultural thinking in a package that works as pure entertainment, and Sprung gets it just right.

    Pairs well with

    • The Outlaws, Amazon Prime Video's dark comedy about crooks doing community service. (Read our review.)
    • The Knights of Prosperity, ABC's short-lived sitcom about blue-collar friends who decide to rob celebrities. (Purchase on Amazon.)
    • Enlightened, another auteur comedy that packed rich artistic achievement into hilarious half-hours. (Streams on HBO Max.)

  • Sprung (Season 1)
    Two episodes premiere on Amazon Freevee August 19. New episodes Fridays through September 16.
    Created by: Greg Garcia.
    Starring: Garret Dillahunt, Martha Plimpton, Phillip Garcia, Shakira Barrera, Kate Walsh, James Earl, and Clare Gillies.
    Directed by: Greg Garcia.

    TOPICS: Sprung, Amazon Freevee, Clare Gillies, Garret Dillahunt, Greg Garcia, Greg Garcia, James Earl, Kate Walsh, Martha Plimpton, Phillip Garcia, Shakira Barrera