There is a strange subgenre of television and film where it feels like the stars have a vacation planned, and to make more money out of it they decide to bring a film crew along and turn it into a project. Adam Sandler’s comedies of the last decade seemed to exist entirely because of this trick, and I have a theory this is how most food travel shows get greenlit. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have done four movies just tooling around Europe and eating at fancy restaurants. It’s a great concept, if you can convince somebody to pay you for it.
Netflix’s The Cabin with Bert Kreischer is the latest series to work this system. Essentially living the life of a rock star in his prime, performing show after show in different cities every other night, comedian Bert Kreischer decides it’s time to slow things down a bit and take a trip out to a cabin “somewhere in the mountains” outside of Malibu, California. Depending on who your talent is, this is not an inherently bad idea for a show. But because of Kreischer’s frat boy sense of humor, it feels like attending a bachelor party with your old friends from college who just want to recreate the hijinks from their youth.
Somewhere within this show there is an interesting pitch that Kreischer and friends don’t always know how to execute properly. There is structure in that each episode is given a theme to help the group along their journey to enlightenment. The five-episode series covers “Release,” “Mind, Body and Soul,” “No Pain, No Gain,” “Tough Love,” and “Fresh Perspectives.” These topics are sort of touched on, but they are mostly used as punchlines in the joke that Kreischer doesn’t really know how to relax or take things seriously. Nobody clicks on a show like this expecting it to go full drama, but if they wanted to explore these deep ideas, I wish they made the choice to lean in a little more.
In a show full of weird moments, Caitlyn Jenner’s guest appearance in episode two is the crown jewel of weird. It’s no fault of Jenner’s, but having her on a show full of comedians without really knowing any of them prior to the episode just makes her stick out like a sore thumb and it feels more like stunt casting. I respect the sweet intention behind Kreischer’s mission statement of “wanting to bring people together,” but sometimes the people he chooses just do not mix. For every bright spot like Joel McHale or Fortune Feimster, you get a Joey Diaz in episode one that made me audibly cringe when he walked through the property gate.
Even though the show can feel like a headache, there are some moments that stick out that almost makes the project worth producing. In an attempt to add a bit of heart to the series, the episodes periodically cut to Kreischer video chatting with his wife and children to talk about his day and progress he may or may not have made. Clearly, they are the voice of reason in the family as his wife reminds him over and over that this is supposed to be a relaxing time away from the spotlight and his two daughters make a plea for him to stop strolling around the house in just his underwear. A reasonable request by them considering nearly every episode opens with a scene of their father completely naked as his guests arrive. Most comedic highlights came from guests calling out the absurd behavior taking place, especially Ms. Pat, who tells Kaley Cuoco right to her face that she does not get The Big Bang Theory and will never watch it.
The Cabin is the type of show you watch and wish that a better version of it had been made instead. Kreischer’s father makes a video appearance in the final episode to give his son advice on discipline, saying “balance is good in every aspect of your life.” Making this a scripted series instead of a reality show would have given this a clearer shape and could have balanced the themes and gags a little better. Instead, this journey showcases the exhausting side of going on vacation with comedians.
Christian Becker is a writer and comedian based out of NJ. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheAmazingBeck.