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Recommended: The Lake on Amazon Prime Video

After a rocky first episode, Prime Video's dysfunctional family comedy becomes a subversive good time.
  • Jordan Gavaris, Madison Shamoun, and Julia Stiles star in The Lake. (Photo: Prime Video)
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    The Lake Season 1 | Amazon Prime Video
    Half-hour Comedy (8 Episodes) | TV-MA

    What's The Lake About?

    Stepsiblings become their weirdest and worst selves in a summer-long battle to claim ownership of their family's lake house.

    Who's involved?

    • Jordan Gavaris (Orphan Black) is Justin, a recently divorced gay man who returns to the lake where his family spent their summers. He wants to heal, he wants to bond with the daughter he fathered when he was in high school, and he also wants to destroy his stepsister's hopes and dreams.
    • Julia Stiles is Justin's stepsister Maisy-May. They've been bitter rivals since they were kids, and now that he's back to lay claim to the family's lake house, she'll stop at nothing to thwart him.
    • Madison Shamoun (All American) is Justin's daughter Billie. Her adoptive parents are forcing her to spend the summer with him after a sexting scandal, and despite her best judgment, she gets sucked into his schemes against Maisy-May.
    • Jared Scott (13 Reasons Why) is Killian, Maisy-May's son, a total hunk, and a good-natured guy with a fear of enclosed spaces. He and Billie have instant crushes on each other.
    • Natalie Lisinska (Orphan Black) is Jayne, one of Maisy-May's high school friends who veers between total insecurity and a willingness to party like she's still 16.
    • Newcomer Travis Nelson is Riley, the sexually adventurous general store manager and all-around handyman who's got a thing for Justin.
    • Terry Chen (Jessica Jones) is Victor Lin, a former pro hockey player and Maisy-May's husband. He gets distraught when the imagines postponing their planned lake house renovations.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    If you like your comedy raunchy, shocking, and morally compromised, you'll likely find The Lake delightful. After a lackluster pilot episode, the series quickly finds its footing as a tale of people who will stop at nothing to have the idyllic summer life they're certain they deserve. If that means having a three-way with a politican in order to manipulate zoning permits, then so be it. And if it means smuggling a diseased fish into the lake in order to make someone else's property less appealing, the ends justify the means.

    There are several reasons this misbehavior ends up being charming instead of repugnant. For one, the stakes are incredibly low; it's a lot easier to laugh when you know that really, nobody's going to get hurt. It's actually funnier that the entire cast behaves as if the right to renovate a log cabin is as important as the right to free speech..

    It helps that the show itself is never mean. There are plenty of subplots about sex, for instance, but none of the jokes are about how people should be ashamed of what they're doing. Instead, the humor rises from misunderstandings, awkwardness, or the way lust makes you stupid.

    The characters also get moments where they at least try to be decent. Justin does his best to bond with his daughter, and Maisy-May tries to listen to her son. She also supports her youngest child's gender queer identity and highly bitchy opinions about everything from film history to crab cake recipes.

    Gavaris is incredibly charismatic, and Stiles is so good that one wonders if she should've been making risque comedies all along. But hands down, Natalie Lisinska steals the show as Jayne. Whether she's whispering affirmations to her own high school photographs or unselfconsciously celebrating the time her husband peed in someone's sleeping bag, she is a creature of pure, chaotic impulse. Watching Lisinska rocket from one mood to the next is like watching a guitarist switch from classical to pop in the same song. The virtuosity is a thrill to behold.

    Pairs well with

    • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix), Tina Fey and Robert Carlock's delightfully deranged comedy is filled with venal characters who think they're flawless.
    • The Larry Sanders Show (HBO), a standard beearer for comedies that embrace chaos.
    • Waiting for Guffman (available to purchase on Amazon and YouTube), one of the all-time best movies about people going wild over a low-stakes opportunity.

  • The Lake (Season 1)
    Complete first season drops Friday June 17 on Prime Video.
    Created by: Julian Doucet.
    Starring: Jordan Gavaris, Julia Stiles, Madison Shamoun, Natalie Lisinska, Travis Nelson, Terry Chen, Jared Scott, and John Dore.
    Directed by: Paul Fox and Jordan Canning.
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    TOPICS: The Lake, Amazon Prime Video, Jared Scott, John Dore, Jordan Canning, Jordan Gavaris, Julian Doucet, Julia Stiles, Madison Shamoun, Natalie Lisinska, Paul Fox, Terry Chen, Travis Nelson