Following gambling addict Mike Valentine (Ramírez), the seven-episode series sees the former cop and divorcee reluctantly return to his home state of Florida after his mob boss, Moss (Emory Cohen), orders him to find his runaway girlfriend, Delly (Abbey Lee). With Delly’s disappearance being of concern to Mike as well, since the two engaged in a very steamy affair for months, his return home is rooted in a sliver of selfishness and a need to get out from under Moss’ thumb. However, what should have been a quick gig for him soon becomes wild situations that rival the “Florida man” memes and find Mike spiraling into some dark family secrets. While he is forced to reconnect with his sister Patsy (Otmara Marrero) and his estranged father, Sonny (Anthony LaPaglia), he is soon tailed by his ex-wife and cop, Iris (Lex Scott Davis), and learns he can’t quite escape the hometown he’s tried to leave behind for years while burrowed up in Philadelphia.
Well known for his role in Carlos, which earned him critical acclaim, Ramírez is magnetic to watch in Florida Man and shows us he is an actor that will make the most of the material, even if it’s borderline chaotic writing. Adding charisma and charm to the role of Mike, a quirky character that is a stickler for punctuation and a sharpshooting sass machine, the Emmy-nominated actor is strong at personifying a down-on-his-luck individual looking to make things right again. Through his ability to balance comedy with enough drama to create some weight to the scenes shared with Cohen and LaPaglia, Ramírez is no doubt the central force that gives the show its appeal — even if he and his co-star Lee lack that steamy chemistry their characters feel for one another. While the two share plenty of scenes and intimate moments, there is a blandness in their dynamic that feels forced and disconnected. On the other hand, the chemistry he has with his co-star and on-screen father, LaPaglia works well as the veteran stage and television actor brings enough gravitas to the story as a man protecting his children and picking up where grief took over following Mike and Patsy’s mother’s death.
Cohen’s portrayal of an underappreciated mob boss living in the shadow of his father is a solid performance that gives audiences a glimpse at both Moss’ insecurities and drive to be taken seriously. While the actor is best known for his breakout role in Brooklyn, like Ramírez he is exciting to watch and shows us there is more behind this performer than the script allows. Though he makes the most of Moss, it’s not enough to see the multiple layers behind this character. The same goes for Lee, whose energy matches her character’s in that there is not enough space for her to perform and show audiences why we need to care about Delly. While we do get a strong glimpse into her background and reasons for disappearing, had the story sprinkled in this kind of character growth throughout the show as opposed to stuffing it into one episode, the series would have been a stronger watch for audiences.
While the series boasts some characters that are unnecessary and useful for only plot devices, one of those whose addition is most welcome and initially plays as comic relief but then gets a more impactful direction is the enigmatic Deputy Sheriff Ketcher played by Agents of SHIELD star Clark Gregg. The gun-loving character on vacation with his family falls into what is one of the most Clark Griswald storylines ever, all because of Mike’s actions in the first episode. It’s funny and hilarious, and seeing him break down over the course of days is exactly the kind of role that is perfect for Gregg and was the type of comedy that the show needed more so from its main characters. Sharing anything more about Gregg’s slow-release arc would ruin the fun, but his character is definitely one of the most exciting to watch and stick around for. If the show were to get a second season, it would definitely need more Deputy Sheriff Ketcher, that’s for sure. Moreover, Gregg isn’t just acting in the series as he also directs the last two episodes of Florida Man, which are by far the best of the series and pick up exactly what is needed for audiences to stay interested.
It’s in these last two episodes that we get more of those edge-of-your-seat thrills, more shock-and-awe, and a lot more hilarity care of the circumstances this motley crew of characters finds themselves in. The show also gives us some crazy Florida man cases that align with news stories, such as a Florida man dying in a Port-a-Potty accident, or a drug-dazed Florida man stealing an ambulance truck. These caricatures of the Florida man meme culture are sprinkled throughout the show and create room for comedy and action. But, by the time we hit the last two episodes, it really is too late for this show to work. Frustratingly filled with fluff across modest escapist pleasures, witty dialogue and action, Florida Man is a series that could have worked in four to five episodes or a two-hour feature-length film. The series stalls after its relatively promising first episode and doesn’t recover until its sixth, which is awful for audiences disengaging from what’s happening on screen. While LaPaglia’s Sonny and his crew bring some action, the laughs and cast playing to their strengths aren’t enough, leaving the show as being flashy, but hollow.
Created by Donald Todd (This Is Us), Florida Man is part of Bateman and producing partner Michael Costigan’s first-look deal with Netflix under their production company, Aggregate. For an initial effort into the multi-year deal, the series works hard to stand out but trundles chaotically into a comedy of errors that should not be repeated. While the inspiration behind the partnership stemmed from Bateman’s time on Ozark and a licensing deal with Arrested Development, Florida Man could have been really great but instead is too focused on being over-the-top by aligning itself with the meme culture. That might be the reason for its eccentricity, but that should be no excuse for its pacing issues and the sheer volume of characters only useful for comedic purposes without progressing the story. Similarly, Florida Man brings in new plots and developments in its final episodes, which feel nonsensical and abrupt, like that of Patsy’s big secret, which was never hinted at before through behavioral interactions with her husband, nor expressed in conversations with her brother, Mike.
Bookended by some biting twists in its first and last episodes chronicling a sunny place for shady people, Florida Man is no doubt original in story and production with compelling spiderwebs and comical elements sprinkled in. But with a staggering potential seen in its premiere and a very capable cast that gives it their all, especially Ramírez who is a standout deserving of more, the series has a multitude of pacing issues, an underdeveloped script, a lack of chemistry between its leads, and what just feels like too much is happening all at once. In that context and with Florida Man making last-minute additions through characters or plots that don’t drive the immediate story forward, a lot of it feels like cotton candy fluff alluding to a feeling that the series doesn’t know what it wants to be. Unfortunately, it’s that kind of tangled chaos that makes the show fall flat and lose its appeal way too early in the game.
Florida Man is now streaming on Netflix.