6 Shows like FUBAR: The acronym FUBAR is something quite related to things Arnold Schwarzenegger is usually deployed on to restore order in reel life. Well, that is the case after he is done with something- the ending of Commando sees him reply with “just bodies” when General Kirby asked if he had left anything behind for them. Be it in Eraser, or Commando, he has always had missions that are Fucked Up Beyond All Repair/Recognition.
Hence, this was an apt name for the former Governor’s streaming debut. In this Netflix series, the septuagenarian actor plays Luke Brunner. He is a CIA agent on the verge of retirement who can’t just savor his final days in the agency. Brunner has to return to the field, where he discovers he is not the only one in his household with a secret.
As FUBAR would be done and dusted over a weekend binge, the natural thing to do would be to seek shows that are similar to this one. Netflix is quite helpful in that, but most of their recommendations feature their regional catalog of Arnold Schwarzenegger films. The keyword here is films, and not shows, as FUBAR is the Austrian’s debut on the small screen.
This list will provide you with show names; ones beyond the usual suspects. The usual suspects will be there as they would be the obvious picks that must feature.
Most of the series in this list focus on one person leading two lives, CIA-based series, shows focusing on agents returning to the field, and spy comedies. When reading the broad themes on this list, a name that would come to mind is Homeland.
1. The Family Man (2019 – Present)
This Indian Amazon Prime Original focuses on the life of Srikant Tiwari (Manoj Bajpayee), who quite literally is a Family Man. That’s what it seems like to everyone who knows him as he maintains his cover admirably to lead as normal a life as possible. However, his real source of income is from his work as an intelligence officer at the TASC (Threat Analysis and Surveillance Cell). In this show’s first season, the aim is to thwart the attempt of terrorists and their ‘Mission Zulfikar.’ It is his task to ensure that things are prevented before they become Fucked Up Beyond All Repair.
This series, like FUBAR, focuses on how agents conceal their true identities from their families. Of course, these things eventually leak, but not in the usual manner as per this show. The Family Man makes this list for the iconic “Don’t be a Minimum Guy” scene that provides catharsis to…well, upon seeing it y’all will realize. Season 2 of the show took audiences down south, which saw TASC combat a threat from Sri Lankan Tamil militants. It also provided a glimpse into how agents need not forget their past as revenge is lurking just around the corner. This show’s third season will arrive later this year.
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2. True Lies (2023)
Based on the original La Totale! and James Cameron’s film of the same name starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, True Lies focuses on a CIA agent who maintains a deep cover as a salesman and family man. His family has no idea who he is, which is quite similar to FUBAR, where both Luke Brunner and his Emma Brunner have no idea that they are, in fact, colleagues. In True Lies, the series, Harry Tasker’s family, during a dinner, believes, “It’s not like he’s saving the world.” That is how well he has maintained his cover!
For fans who have loved 1994 original, there is the retention of some characters like Dana, but she has a brother in the series. Unfortunately, the horse does not make a cameo in this offering. Also, Helem Tasker plays an agent here. Apart from the Arnold Schwarzenegger connection, this show is like FUBAR as it has comedy elements and focuses on spies and their daily non-work lives both when they are reinserted into society and when they are on the field. While this didn’t work for me in an episodic setting, it did led me to watch the 1994 film again. If you do watch the show first, you may like it, but vice versa may not be as appealing.
3. K.C. Undercover (2015 – 2018)
A Disney show is on the list. Yes. Why shouldn’t it be? It fulfills the criteria of being a spy show and even manages to weave in the comedy elements that made me think about it while watching FUBAR. Starring Zendaya, this Disney TV series focuses on KC Cooper exhibiting the genius that sees her discover the truth behind her parents’ jobs. Her genius is actually drawn out through a test to see if she qualifies to be a spy for The Organization. Once K.C. Cooper clears the test, she realizes that her life is not entirely that of the average school kid.
Apart from education, extracurriculars, and friends, she must embark on missions along with her family to save the world, such as the one she is tasked with in the opening episode, i.e., retrieving a phone with a virus. While doing so, K.C. Cooper must ensure she is undercover. This includes keeping her identity secret from her brother, who was not privy to her double life, and her best friend, who, in typical Disney original fashion, eventually discovers the secret identity.
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4. Homeland (2011 – 2020)
When one thinks about TV series about CIA agents and their activities, Homeland is a name that comes to mind. This Showtime offering kicked off with agent Carrie Mathison receiving information about a POW who had been turned and released. She suspected the returning hero Nicholas Brody and keeps a close watch on him. What makes things even more interesting is Mathison’s past actions that don’t earn her many factors. Coupled with the suspected target, things get tricky, forcing her to use sneaky tactics to secure the proof she needs.
The series then focused on Mathison’s journey as she was kicked out, reinstated, and then fought to clear the name of the one she suspected. A testament to this show is that it continued well after the initial storyline, with audiences getting to explore Mathison as station chief and as an unofficial agent who did covert work for her ex-colleagues and country. Later seasons see her out of the CIA, but she pays the price for her past and the company she keeps. Claire Danes, who plays the lead, delivered a tour de force with 2 Emmy and 2 Golden Globe wins.
5. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (2018 – Present)
Played by John Krasinski, a former soldier named Jack Ryan does his job as a deal analyst. However, as he is the expert and the foremost authority on the relevant subject at Langley, he is dragged back into the field in a rather bizarre way. Jack Ryan finds himself in the Middle East and then in Paris. It is in the older place that he surprises the antagonist, who incredulously questioned him about his profession. Was he just an analyst? Not quite, as Ryan took to the field with aplomb.
When away from the field, he even looks the part of a common man; his new boss even referred to him as Lance Armstrong as he cycled to the workplace like a regular Joe. It would have been a task for this character to stand out. Having appeared in movies before, it took the flashing out of a TV series to help Jack Ryan shine and earn renewals. Season 2 saw the character head to South America, while season 3 saw the former desk analyst prevent a plot to recreate an old enemy of the USA.
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6. Agent Elvis (2023)
‘The King’ Elvis Presley would be renowned as an entertainer, but Netflix opted to give his character a fictional spin. Agent Elvis sees the singer don a fake identity and become a spy to deal with threats to the country. He did so as he wasn’t just going to sit around and wait for the threats. The singer’s tours allowed him the cover to travel frequently.
This series’ adult spin sees it veer into South Park, Bojack Horseman, and Rick and Morty Territory. A reason I included this adult animated series in the list is because of the chaotic fights. The one between Agent Elvis and the Manson family is as gory and exaggerated as they get. Though not as bloody, with an Arnold Schwarzenegger offering, they are a tad funny.