January 26, 2012

Web Series Observer - Homeschooled

Created by Matthew Morgenthaler

The Story: HOMESCHOOLED is an online sitcom in the vein of ‘Arrested Development’ and ‘Saved by the Bell!’ After getting himself expelled from high school, a delinquent teenager discovers that all the things that he hated about high school followed him home. The show is a high school comedy with the archetypal high school roles played by family members. There’s a bully, a nerd, a queen bee, a punk, a strict teacher, and even a dick principal- all under the same roof.

The Observation: Despite what the above synopsis says this show is in the vein of, I found much more Saved by the Bell in it rather than Arrested Development. In fact, I found this series chock-filled with nods to a number of teen movies and television shows from the 80s and 90s. Homeschooled is an amusing concoction of the John Hughes collection. A simpler time for entertainment of this nature, inspiring this comparatively simple concept for a web series. I must stress that I do not use the word simple in a negative fashion. Homeschooled is refreshing in its humble approach to tell a comedic story complete with an eccentric cast of characters.

Homeschooled revolves around Mickey, who sports a Zack Morris/Ferris Bueller type cynicism and charm. Due to poor grades, poor attitude (and drug use) Mickey is kicked out of high school and finds himself being taught at home by his mother and elderly stepfather with a big chip on his shoulder against him. He also has to put up with his bully of a gardener, wunderkind of a little brother and an ostentatious stepsister. And then there’s the young, punk-clad maid, whom Mickey has taken quite the liking to. Despite all of these distractions making his life a live-in hell, Mickey does his best to retaliate by any means necessary.

The Bottom Line: A witty comedy with a great lead and well-rounded supporting cast, Homeschooled is a fun show I definitely recommend you check out.

The Info: Homeschooled is currently streaming their six episode first season on their website, and are starting to air the series on KoldCast. You can also follow them on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Check out episode 1 below!

January 19, 2012

I Don't Understand What the Bleeping Problem Is


Oh Parents Television Council...when will you learn to STFU*?

Yesterday, a "controversial" episode of Modern Family aired titled "Little Bo Bleep" where 3-year-old Lily curses. The curses are bleeped, and of course the child in question did not use the real words when the episode was being taped.

Modern Family is a show for families, it's a highly acclaimed television show that has won multiple awards. The reason the show is so popular, other that being hysterical and having a fantastic ensemble cast, is that is deals with real issues that families have to deal with all the time.

The fact of the matter is that adults curse all the time, probably more than they should, and a lot of the time it's going to slip put in front of their impressionable kids. Sometimes those kids are going repeat what their parents say, and those parents are going to have to deal with that. So why not portray that very popular occurance on television so families can laugh and relate to it?

The bottom line is that the episode did not center around Lily, it was one of the three story lines that were happening in the episode. It was something that the parents dealt with (Cameron laughed, Mitchell was mortified, both were embarrassed) and that was really all their is. BFD**. 

I am not a parent, but I can tell you when I am one I will not care when a harmless television show shows a three year old pretending to curse. All I will do is laugh.

For your information:
* STFU stands for shut the bleep up
** BFD stands for big bleeping deal

The episode is available to watch on Hulu:

January 18, 2012

Web Series Observer - Up All Night with Kurt Magnum

Created by Jack Swiker

The Story: ‘Up All Night with Kurt Magnum’ is a comedic web series following the greatest late night talk show host you've never heard of. Hot off his long-time gig as a host for the college TV late night talk show "Up All Night", Kurt Magnum has landed a talent agent and is headed to L.A. With delusions of grandeur, he attempts to bring together all the elements necessary to make a hit TV show in hopes of beating his rival, Conan O'Brien, in the ratings race. Unfortunately, as his crew slowly finds out, Kurt really doesn't know too much about making a TV show and is more concerned with his own self-image and making a name for himself. Each of them, with something at stake, decides to stay and help Kurt but have to maneuver their way through a very stressful work environment on and off the set - all in the name of making great TV!

 The Observation: Ah yes, the tragic, yet common tale of a bright-eyed, aspiring artist or performer trying to obtain that, however small, juicy bit of stardom. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out the way we would like it to. So many of us strive for it, and so little of us get much in return. It’s a good thing that downright pessimistic outlook never even crossed the mind of late night hopeful extraordinaire Kurt Magnum.

Up All Night with Kurt Magnum was in actuality (as mentioned in the first episode) a college talk-show, created by and starring Swiker while attending Rowan University of Glassboro, New Jersey. The egocentric protagonist will stop at nothing to achieve his dream of becoming America’s foremost talk show host. He’s egocentric, he’s smooth-talking, and he has no idea what he has gotten himself into. When the former host of a college talk-show gets the call of a lifetime from a Hollywood agent, Kurt Magnum (played by series creator Jack Swiker) packs his bags and heads to the left coast. Despite now being a Paedocyris-progenetica (look it up) in the Pacific Ocean, Kurt hires his own assistant via Craigslist, setting off to meet the man who will aide him in his quest to become the king of late night. Will anything put a blockade in his journey? Oh yes, most definitely.

The Bottom Line: What I expect to be an enjoyable blend of zany humor and the tribulations of trying to make it big in Tinseltown, Up All Night with Kurt Magnum is worth the watch.

The Info: Up All Night with Kurt Magnum premiered its first episode yesterday. The rest of the season will air every Tuesday on http://www.kurtmagnum.com. You can also become a friend of Kurt, like his show on Facebook, and follow the legend himself on Twitter.

The Interview: I had a chance to ask series creator (and Mr. Magnum himself) Jack Swiker some questions about his new show. Have a look after checking out episode 1.

‘Up All Night’ was originally a talk show/sketch show created in your alma mater – Rowan University. What inspired you to revitalize this concept?
Honestly, I really just missed playing Kurt Magnum. He was a fun character to portray in the old TV show, and I wanted to be able to give him a little more depth and see what he would be like in new surroundings and dealing with his crew behind the scenes years after he left the college television scene. It was also a pretty great reason to finally start writing and filming something again in LA.

What means of marketing do you have in store for the show?
We are attacking the social media promotion of the show on all fronts. Kurt Magnum has his own Facebook account, Twitter account, a Facebook group and then of course through our own Facebook groups, emails, etc. I'll also be doing a radio show with a Saturday morning show on WGLS in Glassboro, NJ soon. With the lead up to the show we posted a few promos and might possibly do a live event in Hollywood to help promote the show.

What can we expect in this season? Any spoilers you're willing to hint at?
Well, Kurt gets in a little over his head when he thinks he can take on a major production like a late night talk show on his own. So there are quite a few hilarious problems he gets himself into. One of my favorite problems is when he decides to invest some money in an independent film. That might end up being the most talked about episode.

What advice can you give to other filmmakers trying to produce/market a web series?
Well first of all, make sure you love the material because you're going to be working on it for at least a few episodes, and each of them is like filming a different short film. Secondly, make sure your crew is with you on the project 10000%, because what Kurt doesn't seem to understand is that your crew will make or break you. Lastly, if you're not a producer, get a producer. A really good one. The series was basically dead in the water until Adam came along and kicked its ass and helped me get it off the ground.

January 11, 2012

Web Series Observer - Pet Crazy

Created by Chris Bobay and Christopher Gallego

The Story: "Pet Crazy" is a new web dramedy about an entrepreneur named Peter who lives in Los Angeles and is referred to by the media as an "Animal Hitman." His talent to eliminate and dispose of problematic creatures of all sizes is rivaled only by his ability to maintain anonymity in the most high profile city in the world. With the help of his business partner and longtime friend, Emma, Peter runs a telephone service called Pet Crazy. They lend a compassionate ear to people that have been troubled in some way by other people’s pets. These are the people that need a sympathetic ear to listen, and can return to their normal lives after blowing off a little steam. However, if you listen very carefully, amongst these callers you’ll find the people that really need us; the people for whom Pet Crazy was created. The woman whose child was mauled by a vicious animal; the husband whose wife is destroying their marriage to save a terminal pet. It is for these pained souls that Pet Crazy exists. For these select cases, we offer a very different type of solution.

The Observation: It’s not every day one gets the chance to review a web series telling the story of a man whose job is to kill the pets of cheaters, swindlers and wrongdoers. And, despite the potential backlash I may receive from PETA, I can easily say that Pet Crazy is one of the most entertaining, original series I have watched. Don’t get me wrong, I had strong hesitancies before checking this series out. But I gave it a go, because that is what the Observer does. And believe me when I say that you will not regret watching this show.

Yes, this series is massively reminiscent of Dexter, where we get to see a well-groomed man who runs a peculiar business – that of exterminating the pets of those that have it coming one way or another. In the shows rather short four-episode season, we are shown this rather light-hearted world that showcases a dark undertone, again, very indicative of a certain serial killer that airs on Showtime.

My only issue with this show is that it is so short, I was clamoring for more. The creators hit the tone of this show with a perfect pitch – the bright, colorful landscape of Los Angeles; the pristine video quality; and a score to just enhance all of it even further. The performances are also top-notch; I only wish I had gotten to know the characters a little more. There were certain storylines, a romantic one in particular, that I was unable to get into because I did not know the characters well enough to find an emotional attachment.

But that certainly didn’t stop me from enjoying this show for what it had to offer. They considerably pushed their boundaries further in the final episode, which involved a man dubbed ‘Animal Lecter’. I don’t want to spoil anything for you – let’s just say I give their props and practical effects department an A+ for what I saw. I would love for that to continue, even embellished upon, in future episodes.

The Bottom Line: Though too short to form a relationship with the characters, Pet Crazy makes up for it in professional grade production and performances.

The Info: The four-episode first season is currently streaming on www.petcrazytheshow.com, and can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

The Interview: I had a chance to ask co-creator Christopher Gallego about his show. Check it out below after watching the trailer.

This is certainly a...unique concept for a show. What inspired you to create a show like this?
[Chris Bobay] sent me the early drafts he had written and my first thought was "wow, there's no way we can get away with this!" But I really liked the idea of doing something a little edgier, something that stood out from all the other shows out there. I also liked that the material lent itself to a more cinematic style which is how I prefer to shoot.

Producing and marketing a show with this concept must have been difficult to sell. How did you go about doing this?
We knew from the get go that this concept was going to be a touchy one, especially in a town like Los Angeles, where sometimes people treat their pets like they would their own children. So for me, I was determined to make a show that focused more on the complicated dynamics that animals create in people's lives. So we went through each scenario where an animal must be "taken care of" by Peter, and we made sure it was always a situation where good people's lives would improve by the removal of that particular animal. Although Peter Sullivan (our "animal hitman") is a businessman through and through, there is a least a seedling of desire to always help people. For him, if the situation comes down to making a choice between saving a person or saving an animal, of course you choose the human life. That's a sentiment which I can really get behind.

At first people tend to have a very strong reaction about what they think the show is all about. Once they see it though, the reaction is almost always positive. Even fervent animal lovers have watched the show and given us very positive feedback about how we've handled the material. People who have seen Season 1 really seem to get what we're going for, and as we reach larger audiences, I hope that sentiment carries on.

One of the only negative things I can say about this show was that it was way too short. I wanted more. What can we expect in the next season? Any spoilers you're willing to hint at?
Thank you so much! That's actually wonderful to hear, because we worked really hard to make sure viewers got just enough of a taste to enjoy it and want more. We have great respect for this new media platform and proud to be developing content specifically for the web. So your reaction of wanting more thrills us greatly, because we want our viewers to enjoy it on its current platform and say "Yes! We want more!" I will say that there are some really exciting things being planned, and although I can't give too many details about it right now, I will mention that we're working on adding to the cast a very dynamic actress who is internationally known and had such a positive reaction to the show that she offered to help us out in any way possible. So stay tuned!

What advice can you give to other filmmakers trying to produce/market a web series?
Pick up a camera and shoot! The genesis for creating our own series is that we were tired of waiting for Hollywood to come to us and allow us to work on our craft. We have stories we want to tell, that we have to tell, and there's no waiting around for permission to do that. I'm a big supporter of this new wave of emerging storytellers, and the democratization of cinema that's giving voices to people who otherwise may have never been heard from. Do the work, tell your stories, and don't wait for anybody else to give you permission to work on your craft. If you're passionate about what you do, the rest will take care of itself.

January 5, 2012

Web Series Observer - After the Beast

Created by Scott Baird and Rob York

The Story: Benjamin Walker journeys through the wilderness, running from an oppressive regime that rules society. He is not alone in the mountains, however; a woman, a boy, and an old man cross paths with him and each leaves their mark on his soul. When danger begins to haunt every step and marked hunters close in for the kill, Benjamin Walker must decide whether he is a lone man bent on survival, or something more...

The Observation: - One of the first things that stuck out when watching this series was the vast setting of the Uinta Mountains (that’s in Utah). It’s open and unpopulated terrain certainly enhances the desolate feel we are meant to get in this post-apocalyptic world. Much like the way the New Zealand landscape helped make The Lord of the Rings trilogy the grounded, yet fantastical cinematic experience it is, After the Beast utilizes its surroundings to create an atmosphere of emptiness and solitude.

As the synopsis explains, After the Beast introduces us to Benjamin Walker, a young wanderer who encounters various individuals, both good and not so much, trying to survive as best they can. They rely solely on the elements, as well as faith, to endure the cutthroat world they find themselves in. The filmmakers give us a story and characters packed with mystery and tension. I found myself wanting to watch the entire season, if only to discover why the main character was being hunted.
While I do admire the scope of the setting, as well as the tone of the story, a number of the aesthetics kept me from true appreciation. I honestly adore the fact that, with the power of HD flip cameras, even cell phone cameras, that the ability to tell a visual story is easier than ever before. Anyone with a drive to tell a story can do so with the push of a button. However, without the proper equipment or technology, it does take something away from what the creators had intended. The video was a bit dulled and grainy, and the camera was too shaky at times. As well, the sound was too muffled at times, most likely due to surrounding water streams combined with an internal microphone.

Unfortunately, another aspect I have to take aim at is the performances. I know with limited budgets and resources, it’s quite difficult to find quality actors willing to work for free. Regardless, I found the performances sub-par for what is meant to be a high-tension drama.

The Bottom Line: Showcasing a bleak world and an effectively mysterious storyline, After the Beast is a decent watch that could be so much better with proper equipment and engaging actors.

The Info: After the Beast is currently streaming their ten episodes on their website at www.afterthebeast.com. You can also “join the resistance” on Facebook and Twitter.

The Interview: I had a chance to ask series creator Rob York a few questions. Check it out below!

What inspired you to create a show like this? We thought creating a series about a guy surviving alone in the wilderness would be fun and relatively easy, given the Uinta mountain range nearby. Somehow the apocalypse came up too and the ideas merged. From that point the story slowly grew more and more epic...

What can we expect from future episodes? Any spoilers you're willing to hint at? We've just entered post-production on a sequel of sorts. I can't give out too many details except to say the setting is incredible and the story revolves around our most deadly character.

What means of marketing do you have in store for the series?
Currently we're doing pre-roll swaps with other series like "Inner Demons" via Web Series Network. As a creator I'd recommend getting involved with WSN.

How will the show stand out amongst other series on the web?
We're really trying to position ourselves as an epic adventure. There are a lot of good apocalyptic/thriller series out there, but not many adventure series period. We really tried to take advantage of the vast mountain setting and amazing scenery with our cinematography. Also our music score by Annie Rosevear is fantastic.

What advice can you give to other filmmakers trying to produce/market a web series? We'd say get creative with your production value instead of just wishing you had more money. Look at what you have access to and focus on creating a great story that revolves around those assets. There's so much you can do with today's technology. Just go out and do it. As far as marketing, don't be afraid to work with other creators. Cross promoting can work wonders. 

January 1, 2012

Happy New Year Everyone!

2011 came to a close yesterday, and although I am still mourning the cancellations and finales of my favorite television shows as well as some celebrity divorces (Katy and Russell...why?!), it is time to move forward with a brand new year of blogging. I regret that I did not update as much as I wanted to in 2011, life and work got in the way as well as extreme laziness. This year my goal is to update this at least once a week, and I hope that I can achieve it.

To kick off my first entry of the year, here is a top 5 favorite best New Years Eve moments in film. Surprisingly, not too many movies take place around New Years. Perhaps that's why they made the terrible film "New Years Eve".

About a Boy: A great film based on a great book, Hugh Grant meets the woman of his dreams at a New Years Eve party and finally decides to get his act together.

Bridget Jones' Diary: Bridget makes a New Years Resolution to change her life. Hilarity ensues. Bridget Jones is one of my favorite chick flick movies as well as my favorite movie starring Renee Zellweger.

The Godfather Part 2: I knew it was you Fredo, you broke my heart! Yes, that famous moment happens at a New Years party.

The Apartment: Classic film starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine revolves around NYE.

When Harry Met Sally: My favorite romantic comedy, stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in a classic film about a pair of friends who realize they're perfect for each other. Best moment of the movie and always a tearjerker happens at New Years Eve -