A few years ago Mark Wahlberg published his daily routine, and it was punishingly dumb. Up at 2.30am, half an hour of prayers, two workouts, three hours of meetings, an hour in a cryogenic chamber and bed by half past seven. It was preposterous.
Luckily, it’s also a thing of the past. There comes a moment in Wahl Street, a new documentary series that was ostensibly designed to showcase Mark Wahlberg’s unstoppable flair for business, where he’s slumped against a table, the world’s rattiest beard clinging to his face. The pandemic has been raging on for months, and all his investments have begun to nosedive precipitously. In a flat, distant voice, Wahlberg informs us that he doesn’t get out of bed much before 9.30am any more. Mark Wahlberg, it turns out, is human after all.
Make no mistake, the idea of Wahl Street is a terrible one. It was designed to be a parade of Trump-level self-congratulation. At the start of the first episode Wahlberg is in his car, hardballing some off-screen schmuck about the value of his participation in a gym franchise opportunity. The car stops, and Wahlberg gets out to attend the premiere of his new movie. The show wants to demonstrate what a machine Mark Wahlberg is, what a tidal wave of multidisciplinary success he rides. He’s got a gym chain, a clothing line, a burger chain, a nutrition brand, a bottled water business, two production companies and an auto group. Everything he touches turns to gold. He is Mark Wahlberg, more God than man.
Had the show progressed as intended, Wahl Street would have been genuinely unwatchable. It would have been a flat, empty succession of private jets and high ceilings. It would have been Entourage with inexplicably fewer jokes. But then Covid hits, and forces the entire series off the rails.
Suddenly, just as his obnoxiousness becomes intolerably supercharged, Mark Wahlberg is forced to take a shovelful of humility right to the face. His films halt production. Every branch of Wahlburgers closes. Investors cut off funds to his clothing line. His gyms become wastelands. And he’s the guy whose house comes with a wraparound golf course, so people start looking to him for money. Suddenly he’s as limp and listless as everyone else in the world. In a second, the message of the series switches from ‘Mark Wahlberg is a once-in-a-generation entrepreneur’ to ‘Here are all the terrible things that happen when you overreach financially’.
Nevertheless, despite the doom-laden nature of season’s second half, it’s pleasing to know that a once-a-century global pandemic can only distinguish some of Mark Wahlberg’s inherent ridiculousness. If I told you that Mark Wahlberg spent some of his lockdown having Zoom meetings with a Greek Orthodox priest (who is also a hedge fund manager) about how hot their respective wives are, you’d believe me. If I told you that Mark Wahlberg spent some of his lockdown pitching a television series called RV There Yet to executives, seemingly only seconds after hearing about it for the first time, before turning the whole thing into an advert for the RV dealership that he apparently operates in Ohio, you’d believe me. If I told you that Mark Wahlberg spent some of his lockdown teaching his daughter about the world of work, and his daughter starts making and selling hobby horses, and he quickly accelerates it into a thousand-dollar-a-day business that counts the Kardashians as clientele, you’d unfortunately believe me.
However, Wahl Street doesn’t take us any closer to knowing who Mark Wahlberg actually is. He doesn’t devote enough time to his day job to be a critically lauded actor. He’s too humourless to be a Nic Cage-style ironic diversion. He doesn’t seem particularly nice. If Wahl Street teaches us anything about the man, it’s that he’s a growth-at-all-costs capitalist and nothing more. He’s Ray Kroc with a six-pack.
The series ends on something of a crossroads, as Wahlberg looks across his tattered business and wonders where to go next. But don’t feel too bad for him. The final episode contains a full, uncut commercial for his clothing line. And the series, after all, was made by his own production company. Mark Wahlberg is going nowhere. But, hey, it sure is fun watching him get beaten up for a bit.
Wahl Street premieres on HBO Max on 15 April with a UK date to be announced