'The Lake' Splashes Around in the Wake of 'Schitt's Creek' Created by Julian Doucet

Starring Jordan Gavaris, Madison Shamoun, Julia Stiles, Jared Scott, Terry Chen
'The Lake' Splashes Around in the Wake of 'Schitt's Creek' Created by Julian Doucet
Photo: Peter H. Stranks / Amazon Studios
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A dysfunctional family retreats to the backwaters of Ontario, where they clash with the quirky locals and ultimately develop a deeper bond. The Lake is Prime Video's attempt to splash around in the waters of Schitt's Creek — a show that used its Canadiana as a springboard to massive international success.

The eight-episode series has its charms, although The Lake is distinctly shallower than the Creek. It follows Billie (Madison Shamoun), an overachieving 16-year-old who is sent by her adoptive parents to spend the summer in cottage country with her birth father, Justin (Jordan Gavaris), who has returned from Australia after being dumped by his boyfriend. There, they get embroiled in the local politics of the lake — specifically with Justin's ruthless step-sister Maisy-May (Julia Stiles) and her ex-hockey player husband Victor (Terry Chen), as birth father and daughter try to gain control of the family cottage.

As a coming-of-age story, The Lake hits the right emotional beats. Madison Shamoun is likeable and believable as a hyper-conscious Gen Z activist, and it's a testament to her acting that Billie's on-screen chemistry with birth father Justin and crush Killian (Jared Scott) overcomes the often clumsy script.

Otherwise, the rigid dialogue — which feels very much like it came from a writers' room rather than an actual human — drains the life out of show's comedy. The juvenile raunchiness recalls those teen sex comedies from the turn of the millennium (but with the toxic masculinity thankfully toned down), resulting a tedious barrage of threesomes, fish with herpes, and references to past hookups. Adding to the show's unfortunate raunch-com pedigree is Jerry O'Connell, the Tomcats star who appears for the show's most gratingly naughty episode.

The raunch-com genre might deserve this injection of diversity, since The Lake brings a queerness that was decidedly missing from, say, American Pie; maybe it's about time it got some Grindr jokes. But that doesn't make the forced wackiness any funnier. An episode parodying teen horror is slightly more successful in its slapstick silliness, since that episode's director, Jordan Canning, fully commits to the bit with mist, rain and exaggeratedly spooky music. The subsequent episode, about a mushroom trip, is a dismal slog of poop references and jokes that essentially amount to "I'm so high right now."

The Lake's eight episodes don't elicit many laughs — but they do have some half-decent characters and beautiful scenery, which makes it a decent summer watch. Schitt's Creek wasn't great initially either, so maybe there's still a chance for The Lake to go deeper if it gets another season. (Prime Video)