October 10, 2011

Web Series Observer - DeVanity

Created by Michael Caruso

The Story: Ruthless. Tyrannical. Sordid, and sexual. The saga of the DeVanity family unfolds as Jason DeVanity desperately tries to keep his late father's crumbling jewelry empire alive. Trapped by his manipulative and scheming wife Lara, Jason must control his wayward siblings Byron, Bianca, and Jackie in order to restore his father's legacy. At any cost...

The Observation: The notion that a soap opera is a guilty pleasure befuddles me. We must all face an undeniable truth – we love ourselves some good television drama. Granted, you may not be watching the same soaps that your grandmother watches at one in the afternoon, but you are watching something with the same core attributes. Let’s break it down for a moment, shall we - the pretty-faced actors, the romance, the greed, the mystery, the twists and turns, the ‘a-ha’ moments – sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Whether you’re watching All My Children, E! News, Jersey Shore, The Office, or even The Walking Dead, you are watching a true-to-form soap opera.

DeVanity, as the storyline above suggests, involves the murder of a jewelry mogul, and his heirs as they attempt to pick up the pieces and save (or destroy) the empire. Trash-talking, cattiness and bitch-slapping ensue. The first episode does well in explaining the backstory, using the eldest DeVanity’s (played by writer and series creator Michael Caruso) interview to explicate what we are about to get in to. Yes, they are rich, they are cruel and they only really care about money, power and sex – but, hey, that’s what makes these shows so addicting. We love watching the crumbling of a rich and famous family, with none of that guilt that leaves a bad taste in your mouth afterward. 

DeVanity has the over the top dramatics and story arcs that we come to expect in daytime soaps. The show does possess the same campy, yet somehow addictive qualities that draw in an audience day to day. What makes this series work so well is the shortened run time. Running at eight minutes an episode, I found myself clicking on to the next one straight away, itching to know what is going to happen next in this family’s rather out-there happenings, as showcased with over-the-top dramatics. DeVanity walks a fine line between satire and taking itself too seriously, which makes it all the more better. It’s as if the writers and actors are well aware of this line too, and are utilizing it to draw in an audience. 

The Bottom Line: The traditional soap opera is alive and thriving in this web series, with well-crafted storylines and actors that portray their characters with just the right amount of campiness. 

The Info: DeVanity’s seven-episode first season is currently streaming at www.devanity.com, as well as being featured on Koldcast, SFN, Mingle Media, Stay Tuned TV and VBCTV. Also be sure to follow the series on Facebook and Twitter. Season 2 is currently filming and scheduled to streaming January 2012.

The Interview: I had a chance to ask series creator Michael Caruso about his web drama. Check it out after watching the pilot episode!


What inspired you to make a soap opera? Would you say this series is a satire of a typical show in this genre?
DeVanity is definitely NOT a satire, although I can see why you might think that in certain areas. It definitely winks at itself in certain places. I have the upmost respect for the genre and I was inspired to do this because the women in my family have always been enormous soap fans so this is kind of my tribute to them. I am fascinated by the power struggles, and the outrageousness of the situations these people find themselves in. Is the show typical? I would say that DeVanity is a series that embraces what it is and enjoys being what it is. It's definitely a guilty pleasure. Soaps are incredible and a huge part of our American heritage, and we have to keep them alive!!

What can we expect from future episodes? Any spoilers you're willing to hint at?
In season 2 we will pick up 6 months after the season finale and see that there are severe consequences for the character's choices in season one. We are also expanding the world a little bit and meeting some new family members and having some pretty great guest stars. As far as spoilers go my lips are sealed. I will only say that we do have a Christmas episode planned that is going to be a lot of fun, and 2 crossovers with two other web series. One is a soap and one is not.

How will the show stand out amongst other series on the web – given this daytime soap opera drama and the typical web series audience?
I don't think that you can ever generalize about what people want to watch. That's the beauty of the web. It's not like network TV where shows are pitted against each other. I think our show stands out because it is fun and campy, and entertaining. People need that right now with everything going on in the world. They need to be able to check their brain at the door and have fun with this horribly twisted family. As web series creators we need to break down the assumption that there is only ONE type of person that watches web series. My show is for everyone. If the storytelling is good the audience will not be far behind.

What advice can you give to other filmmakers trying to produce/market a web series?
DO IT!! Work hard, pay attention to detail, but most of all have respect for this space, and treat it well. Treat your project like you would a feature film or a formal television series. Quality will always make you stand out in the pack. I am amazed on a daily basis at the epic amount of talent you can find on the web.