‘Whatever this is’: A Better Kind of Web Series
We ranked it:
“Whatever this is,” like the recent crop of Millennial-focused TV comedy/dramas (dramedies if you will), examines life after college. Those formidable years where food is paid for with change from under your couch cushions and one stroke of bad luck is all it takes to put you on a road of financial ruin for at least the next year. If this sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve probably been there. Hell, we’ve all been there, yet watching it, watching other people suffer the same way, is somehow compelling. Maybe the knowledge that other people (fictional or otherwise) are going through, or have gone through, the same thing makes us feel better about the sorry hand we sometimes are dealt.
But as hit cable shows like HBO’s “Girls” blends the stark reality of being young and down on your luck with the absurd, “Whatever this is” does its best not to wallow in joylessness and ends up delivering a charming, sometimes flawed, web series.
The series from production company Rascal Department, follows Sam, Ari, and Lisa: three broke young people slugging out life in New York. Sam and Ari work a terrible job as production assistants, which degrades and humiliates them on a daily basis. “Whatever this is” examines what it’s like working a lame, thankless just so you can scrape by and be poor at the end of the day. Do you wait it out until it gets better or do you start over and try something new? It’s not an easy question to answer, but “Whatever this is” tries to answer it the best it can.
The series, much like its financially-drained leads, does lack some direction. While it may be a directorial choice, many scenes in “Whatever this is” drag on for far too long. In one scene, Lisa, a teacher by trade, discusses running into the father of a student. From start to finish Lisa’s dialogue runs around one minute and thirty seconds. Although long tracking shots featuring complex dialogue work in a Tarantino or McQueen film, these lengthy sidebars often fall flat. Exposition can be stunning when done correctly; it can flesh out a world and characters in vivid detail, but only if it is done with razor precision. It’s not that Lisa’s speech is unnecessary, it just paints her complexities too fast and too wide.
Despite some missteps, “Whatever this is” takes risks that few modern web shows take. The golden ticket to web series stardom seems to be parody rap songs and slapstick sketches, which is why it’s so refreshing to watch a show that asks questions of its audiences. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s a damn good start.