Music, Arts & Culture » Movies

Bingeable: Abandoned

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When? 2016

What's it rated? TV-14

Where? Hulu, Amazon Prime

EXPLORING EMPTY SPACES In this Viceland series, professional skateboarder and videographer Rick McCrank explores abandoned locations throughout North America. - PHOTO COURTESY VICELAND
  • Photo Courtesy Viceland
  • EXPLORING EMPTY SPACES In this Viceland series, professional skateboarder and videographer Rick McCrank explores abandoned locations throughout North America.

On prom night my senior year of high school, a few of my friends and I bailed on a low-key gathering we were at to explore the remnants of an amusement park that had closed three years prior.

Much of the infrastructure remained in place, but everything else was different. The roller coaster's tracks still stood tall, but they were missing the sound of roaring carts. The water slides still twisted and turned, but now they led to empty pools. It was oddly surreal taking all this in, while walking through a previously bustling park that I visited countless times throughout my formative years.

There's something alluring about visiting spaces that people once occupied. I imagine this feeling is what drove professional skateboarder and videographer Rick McCrank to host the documentary series Abandoned, which aired on Viceland in 2016 and is now on Hulu.

Throughout the series, McCrank explores abandoned malls in northeast Ohio, empty schools in St. Louis, and desolate fishing villages along Canada's east coast, among other locations. All of these spaces are beautifully shot. I seriously can't overstate how much I enjoyed just looking at this show; it's visually stunning.

But more important than the scenery are the people you meet in each episode. McCrank visits with locals who still cherish and occupy these empty spaces that most people have long moved past. They talk about the location's glory days, what caused it to fall into such a state of disrepair, and whether or not there's any hope in saving it.

It's these conversations with the people who still care about these spaces that really make the show for me. It becomes more than a show depicting abandoned buildings, and more of a series about hope and resiliency. This is emphasized in the closing sequence of each episode, which features a clip of each person McCrank meets staring defiantly into the camera. After hearing these people's stories—which were almost always tragic—it's an incredibly powerful moment.

Despite the often-heavy subject matter, McCrank usually keeps things light with his awkward sense of humor. The episodes are also broken up with sequences of McCrank skating through these abandoned spaces. Given that I didn't know who he was prior to watching the show, it was somewhat jarring the first time McCrank started cruising through an empty Ohio mall, but a quick Google search connected the dots.

Skating ends up becoming an important part of the show. In multiple episodes, McCrank meets up with people who've turned abandoned spaces into makeshift skate parks, such as a group of kids McCrank meets up with in New Orleans who've built ramps and other features in an area left abandoned after Hurricane Katrina.

But overall, this isn't a show about skating or abandoned buildings. More than anything, Abandoned is a show about people. Δ

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