By Alma Lizarraga
The documentary series “Wahl Street” follows actor Mark Wahlberg during his business stint in a six-episode series that did not manage to captivate an audience.
The series follows Wahlberg, his close friends and associates as they attempt to get their businesses rolling, right before the Covid-19 pandemic hits.
The focus is on Wahlberg’s busy lifestyle as he tries to build a burger joint he can “pass down to future generations.” Watching him navigate the actor lifestyle by keeping himself in shape and relocating for filming is interesting – especially seeing as Wahlberg has a charismatic presence– however, there is a lack of tension and purpose. There is not really a need for this business to succeed on Wahlberg’s end.
It becomes evident that he doesn’t have any business sense that would have viewers thinking, “What will he do now?” after a financial setback. Instead, every time he faces a hurdle, the actor falls back into the solution of hiring more experts.
Figures do not show how much money has been lost or gained in the business ventures with Wahlberg. Instead it is simply stated that something bad has happened without much detail. This makes following the story more dull as viewers gain less insight into his world. For a documentary, it becomes less informative.
Many are said to have personal involvement in this as they put money into the business’ success. This makes Wahlberg’s blunders harder to watch when you consider there are people with more to lose.
Throughout the first three episodes, it is emphasized how much time Wahlberg has missed out on spending time with his family.
At first, it is easy to sympathize, but it is quickly overused and he seems to manipulate the audience into seeing his “sacrifices.” This makes even less sense since it seems Wahlberg’s businesses are shown to be more of a hobby, with acting still being his primary focus.
The running of the businesses is also boring. It is mostly contained to Wahlberg receiving phone calls and attending meetings where he simply talks optimistically for most of it.
There was a moment where his burger joint, ‘Wahlburgers,’ is reviewed and receives harsh criticism which the audience witnesses. It was a vulnerable moment and it gave room for Wahlberg to show his character.
A similar moment comes when Wahlberg admits cheekily the origin of the name ‘Wahlburgers’ was a bit cheesy but gave him an amusing anecdote.
Wahlberg comes off as optimistic, humorful and hardworking. The show sometimes relies on his sensitivity to drive a narrative.
His motivations like striving for success, not wanting to let people down — who’ve put money, work and faith into the ventures — are shown to be inspiring to his kids. This makes it easier to follow Wahlberg’s story since it is easy to root for him.
Despite his charisma, a lot of interactions are awkward and weirdly cut. Many CEOs tend to give inspirational advice to the audience behind a white background which comes off as disingenuous and overly dramatic. There seems to be a push for an inspirational story that is followed by “believe in yourself” dialogue.
The series gets interesting when COVID-19 hits as it gives good insight into how the businesses were affected first-hand.
The series does a good job of presenting the stresses at the beginning of the pandemic.
There is actual desperation in the situation — mostly by the people around Wahlberg — as they put more and more of their own money into their failing businesses. Seeing his less wealthy business associates in genuine distress to the point where one of them breaks down in tears is hard to watch, but gripping and a true testament to the situation.
The pandemic also brought change into the cinematography which greatly suffered in later episodes as a lot of footage was shaky and blurry. The footage used consisted of Zoom chats. Needless to say, the change between phone footage and Zoom footage was awkward.
‘Wahl Street’ used a lot of social media during the beginning of the pandemic episodes, mostly Wahlberg’s, to continue telling the story, before becoming accustomed to the changes and recovering quality somewhat.
The documentary ends with Wahlberg moving onto another endeavor that falls through, and Wahlberg finally deciding to spend time with his family.