Nowhere in Netflix’s mission statement does it say that the company specifically aims to create every single TV show that hasn’t existed before, but it sure feels like the implicit directive of all their original content. Teenage Bounty Hunters is not the most surprising or clever Netflix show out there — it’s mostly classic high school drama with some Charlie’s Angels flair — but the new comedy scratches that late-summer show itch with a pleasant if predictable ride.
Sterling (Maddie Phillips) and Blair (Anjelica Bette Fellini) are twin sisters and students at a Christian private school, where Sterling strives embodies the model student and Blair delights in defying every expectation she can. The girls fall into bounty hunting accidentally while trying to cover up a car accident, but show a knack for chasing and shooting down targets. They impress seasoned bounty hunter Bowser (Kadeem Hardison), who doesn’t want to delegate any more jobs but recognizes their skill and assets; two rich white girls can get away with a lot more than their grizzled Black boss.
The best and worst thing that can be said of Teenage Bounty Hunters is that it isn’t too much of anything. Though similar in some of its rich-white-kid drama, it lacks the acidity of The Politician, which may or may not be your thing depending on your relationship with Ryan Murphy’s batshit political dramedy. Even a visual gag meant to let us in on the girls’ psychic twin moments is utilized so sporadically that it’s a surprise every time. The girls’ targets are neither prominent nor sinister, but like everything else on this show, the danger is a slow burn (remember that final pilot shot and file it away for later).
For better or worse, the bounty hunting gimmick is no more than that: a gimmick. The show mostly follows Blair and Sterling through the usual drama of adolescence, like popularity, pressure to be perfect, or sex and the quest to have it. Despite being firmly set in 2020 — enjoy a few clunky references to TikTok and BTS — some cultural elements feel more like they belong in the early part of the century, like phone calls and Sterling’s face frame (she pulls it off, but wow). The realest it gets is when Blair’s relationship suffers under the weight of her new career and the lies it spawns — a conflict straight out of every spy drama in history.
Teenage Bounty Hunters is fun as heck.
But Teenage Bounty Hunters is also fun as heck. The story picks up after a few episodes (if your eyes roll at the boys these two are dating in the pilot, hang in there) and the cast is top-notch. It’s a breakout role for both lead actresses, Phillips with a handful of guest roles and TV movie roles under her belt and Fellini a relative newcomer and complete natural. The sisters-and-BFFs bond provides the show with a solid base, but the girls’ relationship with Bowser is incomparable. He’s a classic begrudging mentor who also loses control of the situation regularly when outnumbered by his chatty, privileged protégés. Hardison strikes a perfect balance between intimidation, humor, and warmth, and it’s Bowser we end up rooting for most of all.
The series was created by producer Kathleen Jordan with a lengthy list of collaborators in writing, producing, and directing — not a rarity in television, but worth noting that Jordan’s teams embody the kind of diversity Hollywood still lacks in almost every department. As a result, the show gets to bring conversations about race, sexuality, and even gender to these girls who were clearly raised to be bastions of the conservative community. Religion is sometimes the butt of the joke, but Sterling’s relationship to God and faith in particular feels organic as she forgives herself for sexual desire and other garden-variety sins.
We get a few head scratchers, like when Bowser insists they take in a mark who’s beheading Confederate statues, not to mention the role of bounty hunters and bail bondsmen in the American justice system at large — but the girls do nothing if not learn over the course of 10 episodes, and will surely continue if the show goes on.
Teenage Bounty Hunters is now streaming on Netflix.