Corn Nuts. Fotomat. A Truckasaurus rally.
The ’80s are alive and kicking in the San Fernando Valley courtesy of “Cobra Kai’s” Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), a hard-drinking, heavy metal holdover from an era when Twisted Sister ruled the charts and “No Fat Chicks” bumper stickers were commonplace.
The karate dramedy’s lead carries Season 3, which premiered New Year’s Day on its new platform, Netflix. The streamer picked up the YouTube Premium series last year, delighting loyal “Kai” fans by adding the first two seasons to its catalog and announcing there would soon be a third.
Season 3 of the self-aware, kitschy soap takes place 36 years after the original “Karate Kid” movie, on which the series is based. Although Johnny and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) are now in their 50s, their long-simmering rivalry has spilled over to the students of their competing dojos. Now the Valley is home to an all-out struggle between karate gangs. These food-court warriors include LaRusso’s earnest daughter, Samantha (Mary Mouser); Johnny’s delinquent son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan); and Johnny’s neighbor, high schooler Miguel Diaz (Xolo Mariduena). And Johnny’s former teacher, Kreese (Martin Kove), who stole his dojo, is more than happy to fan the flames.
Campy, fun and nostalgic, this series from Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg continues to build pop culture lore around the aging film franchise, looking toward the future by drawing from the past. The main characters’ fortunes have reversed since they battled it out at the All-Valley Karate Tournament way back when. Rich kid Johnny is a broke, divorced handyman who lives alone in a crappy Reseda apartment. Poor kid Daniel is a successful businessman who lives in the upscale West Valley with his seemingly perfect family.
But while a lot has changed since 1984, Johnny is not part of the evolution. Watching the Coors Banquet-drinking, “Tango & Cash”-loving waster navigate today’s Valley, with its vegan menus, overpriced rental market and confusing array of craft cocktails, is a blast.