TV Review - Blue Mountain State: The Rise of Thadland

Back in 2010, Spike TV premiered a half-hour, comedy series called Blue Mountain State, which focused on the exploits of a college-football team in the Midwest. It ran for three seasons of 13 episodes each before it was cancelled. It built up enough of a cult following that a successful Kickstarter campaign was able to bring the principal cast back together for this movie. It's essentially a sequel that wraps things up for these characters, or does it?

Emmy-winner Darin Brooks (Days of Our Lives and The Bold and the Beautiful) stars as Alex Moran, a back-up quarterback who reluctantly and unexpectedly became the team captain. Alex doesn't have much ambition. He's the jock that slacks off and doesn't mind riding the bench.

Chris Romano aka Romanski co-stars as Sammy Cacciatore, the team mascot who not only dresses up as a goat but also has to care for an actual goat, but every season proves to be bad at it. He's the best friend of Alex who's not only unlucky at goat-caring but also unlucky at hooking up with cheerleaders, which is his top goal.

Alan Ritchson (Smallville and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) also co-stars as Thad Castle, the team's ultimate leader who is very alpha male, very competitive to the point of being mean. He's an aggressive team-builder as well as an aggressive idiot. He's weird, a horn-dog, happy drug addict and homoerotic at times.

The reason this movie is named after Thad is because clearly Thad was the most popular character, not only within the show but also outside of it. Ritchson is the breakout star, and that's probably because his performance was the most hilarious. He's like a hunky Will Ferrell.

The series was mainly, goofy fun, indulging in every bad stereotype about college-football players, a bunch of boys who want to party all the time, get drunk and have sex with girls. It's just about being raunchy and obscene. Yet, oddly enough, it worked. I'm not a fan of the college frat boy-level of humor, which is at play here, but I was tickled by the gags that the writers concocted.

Each gag was always about getting sex or getting by on the football field, while skirting academics. From the iconic "pocket pussy" to what's affectionately referred to as the "oil change," the gags in the TV series were often fueled by some insane idea from Thad who was all about self-satisfaction and self-aggrandizement. I was also impressed at the string of guest stars. Stephen Amell (Arrow) played a sinful, Jesus freak. Miguel A. Núñez Jr. (Sparks and Joey) played a black, transvestite prostitute and Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman played a horny, elderly mom.

I even greatly appreciated the occasional homage to feature films like the obvious homage to Silence of the Lambs in the episode "Ransom." The homages kept coming. We had Rashomon in the episode "Fingering" as well as Fight Club in the episode "Trap Game." We had Field of Dreams in the episode "The Corn Field: Part 1." There were even homages to Memento and 127 Hours in the episode "The C-Word," an episode that dealt with the issue of concussions in a funny way.

Premiering a year after NBC's Community, the second season felt like Community if that show were written by the Farrelly brothers or Adam Sandler, and not Dan Harmon. The series, particularly the second season of Blue Mountain State, was like the anti-Community, or that NBC series being targeted not to pop-culture geeks but instead to the ESPN and Cinemax-after-dark crowd.

In the third and final season, the whole thing ends on a note that's rather satisfying with not much more that needed to be said. If the makers thought there were things left on the table, then they're a tad delusional. There were strings that the series left dangling, but this movie, written by Eric Falconer, Chris Romano and Alan Ritchson, doesn't pick up those strings. It meanders oblivious and actually retcons some characters.

For example, the first season had Sam Jones III (Smallville) as a regular. Jones played Craig Shilo, a black running back who had a very manipulative girlfriend who kept him on a short leash and denied him sex. Craig's sexual frustration was a great comedic aspect of that first season. His breaking free was a big plot-point. However, his character totally vanishes after the first season concluded.

In the second season, Page Kennedy (Desperate Housewives and Weeds) played Radon Randell, the quarterback who wanted to take the spotlight from Thad as well as step over Alex. He became a great replacement for Craig. He was very different from Craig but somehow bridged the gap. However, Radon totally vanishes after the second season concluded.

These are two very big strings that the series left dangling. Both Sam Jones and Page Kennedy make brief and random cameos in this movie, but we get no explanation as to what happened to them. The only two African-American characters get no story and barely anything to do, even after being so integral to the first two seasons. They're basically left dangling.

A character who wasn't integral to those seasons, a character who was a glorified extra, was Donnie Schrab, played by Rob Ramsay. Yet, in this movie, Donnie gets a story and more than barely anything to do. Strangely though, the writers decide to retcon his character. All of a sudden, Donnie announces he's gay, and if it were a case similar to the character of Mac, played by Rob McElhenney, in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia where the writers knew the character was gay and dropped hints along the way, then I would have no issue.

However, I binge-watched the series prior to watching the movie, and there are no hints at all along the way that Donnie is gay. For him to announce so is a total re-write of history. It makes no sense. What's even worse is that the writers don't do much of anything with it. With all the full-frontal nudity and debauchery, why not have Donnie kiss or have sex with a guy? The movie depicts bestiality with a goat, but it can't depict gay sex, or simply a gay romance, or maybe reveal that Donnie had a crush on Thad the whole time. Instead, Donnie says, "It's no big deal," and thus his reveal becomes pointless in this narrative.

It's not as if the show were homophobic. The second season revealed that Coach Marty Daniels, played by Ed Marinaro, has a gay son named Joe, played by Michael J. Willett (United States of Tara and Faking It). Thad has a bromance with Thyrese, played by Ryan Allen, and almost marries a guy in a same-sex wedding willingly. If anything, it would have made just as much sense if Thad came out as gay.

At one point, Harmon, played by James Cade, says Thad burned a field of marijuana. It's a reference to the last episode of the last season. Except, this is wrong. It was revealed in that episode that Thad didn't burn the field, so if the writers or even actors can't be bothered to fact-check this movie, most shouldn't be bothered to care.

Other than that, there are plenty of logic gaps. Alex throws a huge party where he basically constructs a theme park, dedicated to the narcissism and hedonism of Thad, but there's no explanation as to how he paid for it. It's Alex's senior year, but what happens to him after graduation is of no concern, and Thad learning nothing and making no emotional connections leaves this movie completely hollow.

Blue Mountain State: The Rise of Thadland
One Star out of Five.
Rated R for crude sexual content, drug use and language, and some graphic nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.

Blue Mountain State
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Available on Netflix.


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