Burning Love: “Burning Down the House”

/ Apr 9, 2013

KenMarinoBurning Love

We ranked it:

A-

In its short time on this earth, Burning Love, produced by Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Digital, has scorched its name across the web content scene. Premiering in 2012, two seasons have already run on Yahoo! Screen: The show has won awards, been edited into a TV-friendly format, and brought mainstream comedy talent to the web. It has also made a lot of people laugh.

The third season, subtitled Burning Down the House and set to premiere April 12th, has one big handicap in comparison to Seasons 1 and 2. While the first two seasons satirized the well-established tropes of dating shows, Burning Down the House deviates from the formula to parody a more obscure reality TV format: The ABC series Bachelor Pad, which threw former Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants together for a much less matrimony-focused adventure.

However, even if audiences aren’t familiar with Bachelor Pad, Burning Down the House isn’t inaccessible — thanks to host Bill Tundle (Michael Ian Black), the parameters are clearly laid out: A bunch of sexy adults come together to have sexy fun and win a huge cash prize of $900. (Every time the $900 is mentioned, the contestants lose their minds, and every time, it gets just a little funnier.)

The challenges from Bachelor Pad‘s three seasons — which included kissing, pie-eating and Twister — are ridiculous enough to make parodying them a challenge. Fortunately, creators Erica Oyama and Ken Marino (who also stars) aren’t afraid to rise to the challenge, and the show has easily one of the most comedically skilled ensemble casts in web series history.

That’s always been Burning Love‘s not-so-secret weapon — Oyama and Marino’s ability to assemble some of the sharpest and funniest comedians currently working.

Burning Down the House lacks a few of the heavy-hitters from previous seasons, such as Adam Scott and Kirsten Bell, but this actually works to the show’s advantage, as it gives people like the hilarious Kumail Nanjiani and Natasha Leggero additional time to shine. Everyone, from established talents like Marino and Ryan Hansen to lesser known players like Janet Varney and Rob Huebel, gets great material to work with.

In the episodes screened for critics, hearts are broken, alliances formed, and twists revealed, with the bulk of the action focused on former Burning Love bachelor Mark Orlando (Marino) and Julie Gristlewhite (June Diane Raphael) scheming to win the big cash prize.

Burning Down the House has its flaws: For one thing, it’s hard to resist the temptation to nitpick why the number of contestants fluctuates irregularly from episode to episode. (The problem with creating such strong, memorable characters is that in group settings, it doesn’t take much work to figure out who’s missing.)

And after three seasons, it’s starting to feel like Burning Love is treading the same water, over and over. Riffing on Bachelor Pad does help freshen the formula, but Oyama and Marino are a clear comedy powerhouse. It’d be nice to see that talent applied not to mocking established television formats, but creating something original.

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