As it is wont to do, the Paley Center for Media made history Monday night, showcasing its first ever web series and thus finally admitting that quality online media deserves as much respect as anything broadcast on television, finally accepting this short form story telling with open arms. Considering its timely subject matter, no show could be more perfect to spearhead traditional media jumping into the 21st century than the show that received this honor, Jane Espenson and Brad Bell's Husbands.
During the evening, we were treated to the first two episodes of this second season, running eight minutes each. When all three segments are put together, the season works very much like one episode of a sitcom. A great effing sitcom smarter than most of the things currently on the air. To spread the show over the course of more than three weeks, between each fictional episode, is a behind the scenes featurette that acts as a documentary of the shooting process. Word from the panel is that the making of is just as awesome as the show itself. Fuck. Yes.
On the panel were Line Producer M Elizabeth Hughes, director Jeff Greenstein, co-stars Alessandra Torresani and Sean Hemeon, and co-creators/writers Brad Bell aka "Cheeks", who also stars, and Jane Espenson.
It was fascinating to hear these folks speak about the show. They are all incredibly intelligent, well spoken, and good at what they do. They clearly love working on the show, and the material is so quality, that a part of me yearns for it to be on television (although Jane and Cheeks' speech about how the internet should actually be called television, because it's way more accurate in regards to what the word fundamentally means, was absolute perfection), just so I can watch them every week. Though it did become clear throughout the course of the conversation that pulling off what they pull off wouldn't be nearly as possible on a network. Maybe cable. Maybe. Ultimately, the web really is a perfect forum for the show - my only complaint is simply "But I want more!"
One of the discussion points that struck me the most was specifically the sexual chemistry between main characters Cheeks and Brady. In watching the episodes, it's impossible not to notice that Brad Bell and Sean Hemeon truly have a wonderful connection. You feel the attraction between these two men in a way only seen heightened yet still somehow marginalized on something like Queer as Folk. Cheeks and Brady are a refreshing couple and by not shying away from their attraction to each other, the show allows the audience to invest in their relationship in a much deeper way. As Cheeks pointed out, being attracted to the same sex is the *only* thing that makes someone gay. So to avoid that completely is akin to just making the characters friends. On programs like Modern Family or Glee, the audience never feels the "heat" between couples like Mitch and Cam or Kurt and Blaine. But the heat is there between Cheeks and Brady, and that should not be taken for granted.
Another big part of the discussion was about Kickstarter and the responsibility the team felt to use the money they so graciously received from fans judiciously, carefully and responsibly. Even though $60,000 sounds like a lot, it's a mere 10% of a typical budget for one episode of a sitcom, if that. So not only does this group have experience with practically no budget for season one, they have experience making the transition to somewhat of a budget, for season two. It became very clear that coming from a very DIY place made every penny count once money came in, a great lesson for all artists aspiring to work in film or television, that starting with zero is just that - *starting* with zero. The product you create, the lessons you learn, the fans you garner, the connections you make - it all helps with the next step, with getting a budget, with figuring out how to best use it, with taking your art to the next level.
Can you tell how ridiculously inspired by these guys I was?
Most importantly, on top of everything, Husbands is just plain good. The show is absolutely hilarious and plays with classic sitcom tropes in a way that feels new, and features consistently outstanding performances. Is it awkward for me to call Alessandra Torresani a comedic genius? Cause I kind of think she is. Plus, season two is chock full of fun cameos, not from people who showed up as a favor, but from past collaborators of the Husbands team who genuinely love the material and wanted to be involved. Keep an eye out as you watch, cause blink and you might miss some, especially Felicia Day's hilarious pizza commercial.
Do yourself a favor, watch season one at husbandstheseries.com, then immediately head to lovehusbands.com and take in the season two premierey goodness. You won't regret it. And to hear Jane and Cheeks speak about the value of the web with other talents who bridge the gap between online content and film/tv, check out the Third Annual No Budget Film Festival: Bonus Features event happening August 25th from 1pm-5pm at The Last Bookstore in Downtown LA.