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New Netflix Series Has A 100% Rotten Tomatoes Score To Celebrate Alongside Top 10 Ranking (But The Audience Scores Tell A Different Story)

Rotten Tomatoes can be a helpful tool when trying to figure out if a new show is worth checking out. The site that compiles critical reviews alongside audience reactions can give potential viewers a quick idea of how a movie or series is being received. One of Netflix's high-profile March premieres seemingly had something to celebrate, garnering a 100% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, coupled with the fact that it’s been in the streaming giant’s Top 10 releases in the U.S. But what happens when the Audience Score tells a different story?

Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. is a new Netflix limited series that has found itself in that predicament. Despite a 100% Fresh critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes — a feat achieved by few Netflix series before it — the four-part docuseries has received just a 27% score from its audience. This wacky true story about a celebrity restaurateur and her relationship with a man who claims to be able to summon the powers of immortality seems to have found an audience on Netflix, as it held the No. 1 spot in the streaming site’s “Top 10 in the U.S. Today” rankings, and as of this writing is No. 2 on that list.

Sarma Melngailis is the subject of the scammer docuseries — a true crime sub-genre that’s exploding in interest right now with shows including the Shonda Rhimes’ series Inventing Anna on Netflix and Hulu’s The Dropout starring Amanda Seyfried as the Theranos fraudster. Bad Vegan shows how Melngailis went from a successful New York restaurant owner to being accused of larceny and fraud after starting a relationship with Shane Fox. The series’ description said the story all leads to the couple’s arrest in a Tennessee motel because of a Domino’s order.

It's definitely an interesting and thought-provoking premise, and the critics who reveiwed the show apparently all agreed on that point. The series received an average 7.4 out of 10 rating in its 100% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes (though it should be noted that average came from 15 critical reviews, as opposed to a larger pool). 

So what did they like about it? Tim Surette of TV Guide said the lesson of how a person falls victim to a scam sets this apart from other series:

While most true-crime documentaries rely on the heinous, grisly, and gruesome for kicks, Bad Vegan captures a substantive story with a lesson we can all chew on.

Another critic, Alissa Wilkinson of Vox, took away the same lesson, since the series allows the viewer to experience a little bit of the scam themselves:

By not just telling us about the scam, but letting us feel a little of it ourselves, Bad Vegan gives us something less smug -- and a little more of a story worth telling.

But maybe Bad Vegan turning the camera around on the viewers was not as appealing to the audience? The 27% Audience Score came from a larger sample size of 52 user comments, many of whom said Sarma Melngailis was unsympathetic and unlikable. (Perhaps they'd like her more if she was portrayed by a Hollywood starlet invoking a weird accent.) Other critiques accused the series of being too slow and too one-sided. One viewer, Larry B., was among many who thought the docuseries’ subject wasn’t taking enough responsibility for what happened:

I have watched most of the Netflix true crime series. I didn't feel bad for Sarma if she is supposed to be His victim she doesn't come across as one. Her lack of answers to everything was just proof she was either a useful idiot or a willing accomplice. Dull and boring.

Like it or not — and to be sure, many people did — Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. has attracted viewers and definitely has gotten them talking. Fifteen critics’ reviews may not be a ton in the scheme of things, but it’s not for nothing, given their average score is above 7. 

The four-part series is available for streaming now with a Netflix subscription. You can also check out what we think are the best shows on Netflix, as well as our 2022 TV Schedule to see what premieres are coming soon.

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.