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Well friends, I’ve returned to the weekly Web Series Review Blog. What’s cool is that posting on my Twitter to find new series’ to review really works! Three words came to mind after watching this pilot episode: quirky, funny, and hipster. Not necessarily in that order. Like Tarantino has said, I’m into sub genres. With “Portlandia”, a new sub genre seems to be prevalent in the zeitgeist. The comedies of the hipster-millennial subculture that pokes fun at life and themselves. Recently I completed reviews on “Eighty Sixed,” “Mondays” brings that similar tone and feel. This is not a bad thing, as I tell my writing students, what makes anything unique is not the story or the concept, but the characters.
Mondays and Circumcision
By: Lucas Cuny, MFA
June 8, 2017
I try really hard to not get political, but in this day and age it’s a challenge not too. But a good thing, if you will, of the recent power shift in our nation’s capital is an increase in women auteurs in media. Am I pandering right now, I hope not, I enjoy the differences we have in our nation, there our greatest strength and are what make us great. Last night after watching “Wonderwoman” with my wife, I commented that was really a call back to first wave feminism in a sense during the climactic scene (no spoilers) she literally roared. With that said, this show offers us a true heroine in every sense of the word as our main character, Kelly, played by the shows writer and Co-Creator, Kelsey Bascom. She drives the action of the episode, no pun intended especially since she drives the whole episode. As with many of us, she finds herself in that already awkward position of dating in the 21st century.
The century is important because we know we have certainly technology that makes life both convenient and well, not to belabor a point here, but awkward. Being the conscientious millennial that she is, Kelly answers the phone while driving, but she’s completely legal and answers via bluetooth technology. Of course, it is her mother. I can only imagine my mom calling me during a date, that’s one stressor, but what lends it to comedic joy is it’s on speaker phone with your date sitting next to you. She answers out of concern as her date points out her mom called three times in a row. The conversation seems to be a monotonous conversation and mom really had nothing urgent to say, until mom asks about the date. All I can say is after a series of misunderstandings, you will hear the mom say “circumcision,” and if the audience can hear it, so can the date. Yes, modern dating has many facets. This only escalates with more awkward and inappropriate discourse from mom. The voice of Mom, Cean Okada, is brilliantly played, she has no remorse for her comments and as with any good mom, only wants to know if the dating could become something serious.
Great media requires a strong sense of aesthetic and conflict. This first episode provides both. Smartly the producers understand that they have a limited budget of sorts and keep it short and sweet in one location, a car. There’s one set up: a two shot. I’ve noticed this in other web series pilots, “Broad City’s” first show is all done in one set up as well. This works because you want to focus on setting up your story’s tone and characters. Too many cuts in a two to three minute show can be jarring, especially in the first episode when you need to set up everything. Then of course, is the conflict our main character has with the antagonist, Mom. We are already set up for initial conflict with a date but the writer gives us one we don’t really expect and that pays off well. Lastly, the episode ends open ended. This, as we know, is more and more prevalent in our landscape of serialized media- leave audiences wanting more.
That’s what I tell my students all the time in their: writing every scene should end leaving your audience wanting more. That’s why writing these minisodes for a webseries is not only a great way to develop your brand as a writer, but to practice the basics. As an exercise I’ll give my students a scenario and an event to develop into a story. This is a great example of a writer working within parameters. In a tight location, on a date, and then mom calls, what could happen? Well, one thing that could happen is that your mom talks about circumcised penis’ and your date can hear.
Lucas Cuny has a Master's in Screenwriting from California State University Fullerton, runs a film festival in the Inland Empire, Teachers Film and Media at The Art Institute, and Produces Video for California State University, Los Angeles.