After watching "Clean Break," a Schick-backed series in which a pair of outdoor adventurists embark on outdoor adventures, I'm supposed to feel something, man. I'm supposed to start questioning authority, embrace the rituals of bonding with my peeps and chatting up surf rats, and ask my travel agent about bungee tours of the Serengeti. Then I'm supposed to affirm my newly forged emotional bond with Schick, the brand that raised the blinds on my sad stationary existence, by ditching the Gillette razor that I've used for years.
Instead, I'm making a list of every person who I may have aggravated, embarrassed or otherwise offended during my 20s, and spending the next few weeks in full-on atonement mode. Why? Because Schick has told me, in essence, that 20-something guys are loud, adventure-starved louts, quick with a "whooo!" but slow to process anything other than surface-deep impulses (e.g., "surfboard is shiny"). Since Schick believes that the fearless-bro-ism of "Clean Break" is what makes 20-somethings tick - that this audience is wowed by suspiciously approachable bikini babes, water stunts poached from a 1997 Mountain Dew commercial and fist-bumps executed with the passion of two dads at a grade-school grammar rodeo - then gosh, that entire decade of life passed for me without a glimmer of self-awareness, and I ought to apologize for my sins against gracious living.
"Clean Break" is best described as a water-sport travelogue, one that sends two totally-up-for-anything-dude dudes, Brady and Nate, on a series of rad-to-the-max-extreme outings. They cliff-dive, surf, kayak and dive-shipwrecks (that's the official lingo), somehow still managing to find time to ogle girlie-girls and sculpt their stunning abs. Along the way, they interact with individuals described as "Joel, Wake Wild Man" (kind of the Rowdy Roddy Piper of wakeboarding) and "The Indian Carver" (an old Canadian Indian who carves stuff).
The two protagonists - as a tribute to the great Jimmy Serrano, I'll refer to them as "Moron Number One" and "Moron Number Two" from this point onward - do everything with gusto. They just can't help themselves, y'all. Take the second episode's surfing expedition, set to the strains of generic alt-rock by bands with names like Cassettes Won't Listen. Prior to it, the Morons don coconut-shell bras. During it, they totally give each other the business ("if you don't get up today in surfing, you gotta wear the floaties" - oh, it's SO on). After it, they kick back with some drinks - in opaque cups, of course, because god forbid brand-fueled aqua-tomfoolery should be tarred by association with evil alcohol juice.
The footage is shot professionally enough (read: lots of x-treeeeeem close-ups and slo-mo shots of killer waves sloshing into the perfectly positioned hi-def camera) and the pacing never lags. But if any of this sounds remotely authentic or genuinely aspirational, I've got a bunch of Groupons for water park admission that you can have for, like, eight bucks.
Meanwhile, certain sequences in "Clean Break" appear to be staged, or maybe engineered during lulls in the action to enhance the anything-goes vibe. While watching "the expert" Ekolu oar-surf, Moron Number Two pops in to utter an "aww, damn!" with all the enthusiasm of a 12-year-old who happens upon a Joyce Carol Oates novel. Similarly, the build-up to yet another ocean expedition features the following expository exchange between Morons One and Two: "So, this is like the shipwreck capital of the world?" "Yeah, man, there's like hundreds of shipwrecks around these islands." While I can't argue with the economy of the information-delivery here, it sounds flat and scripted amid all the bro-speak.
"Clean Break" fares even worse as a branding vehicle. While a recent hug-job in The New York Times gave Schick folk and adjunct-professor types the opportunity to enthuse about how the series personifies the brand, surely I won't be the only one who labors to connect the dots between "Schick razor with water-themed name" and "morons playing in the ocean." In the NYT story, the Schick marketing guy laments the absence of Schick signage and rockin' shaving sequences. He should've stuck to his guns, as the pre- and post-episode brand mentions make Schick feel like a tacked-on-after-the-fact advertiser, rather than the guys picking up the tab for the entire endeavor.
I couldn't have been more of an idiot during my 20s. I belched like nobody was listening, failed to send a single thank-you note and declined to invest emotionally or intellectually in any activity except fantasy sports. But even in my most insecure post-adolescent moment, I would have seen "Clean Break" for what it is: the 4,200,275th recorded attempt by a marketer in the throes of youthlust to sell the young-man demographic on image rather than substance.
The irony? In this case, all Schick needs to do is talk about the damn Hydro-whatever thingie. "The razor that hydrates your skin as you shave" - hey, that sounds like something I could get behind. But how does it work? Will it render my gnarled chin all dewy and pert? Why, pray tell, won't somebody stop extreme-sandcastling for a minute and tell me about this magical, magnificent, existence-altering product?
Oh well. Off I go to Diapers.com to order another 72-pack of Fusion ProGlide blades.