“Deadbeat” is the sort of show that illustrates the difference between streaming/OTT programming and same-old, same-old network/cable TV. Take a notion that has been around since the ’50s when a wealthy drunk befriended an imaginary rabbit, and add a few twists that make the storyline more fun, relatable, and edgy. Recently renewed for season three, Hulu’s comedy about a sad slacker who just happens to see ghosts touches all the bases with some laugh-out-loud humor and some unexpected pathos that will surprise you with its authentic tenderness.
With season two’s 13 episodes now in play, the story of Kevin Pacalioglu (played brilliantly by Tyler Labine) takes on a few new plot threads as his love-hate (mostly hate) with faux psychic Chamomile White (played far less brilliantly by Cat Deeley) is complicated by the death of White’s trusted assistant Sue Tabernacle (played on-point by Danny DeVito’s daughter Lucy), who perished in an underground explosion at the end of season one. Seems that Kevin and Sue have a thing for each other which is sweetly played out through the show’s second season.
Labine has the magical gift of being able to pull off sight gags as well as odd wordplay to generate large laughs, but turn on a dime to reveal his vulnerable side as an orphan who is not only seeking fame (and perhaps) fortune, but also the personal fulfillment that comes in a serious relationship. In many of episodes, the theme of ghosts needs to resolve some issue before they can move on (presumably from purgatory to heaven) have a surprising tenderness to them that plays nicely against the running gags such as Kevin’s lack of command of the English language and his bro relationship with his best friend/drug dealer Rufus (played with great style by Brandon T. Jackson). With the breakthrough web series “High Maintenance” showing a drug dealer as more than a mercenary figure, “Deadbeat” follows suit with making Rufus a loyal friend and confident to Kevin, leaving his rather unorthodox career to speak for itself.
There is one really odd thing about season two — for season one, and for the first episode of season two, curse words were bleeped out. Beginning with episode two, season two, we get the TV-MA prefix with unfiltered language that won’t offend 99% of OTT viewers. That said, one has to wonder what prompted the change.
Judged solely on its performances and production, “Cam Girls” is an entertaining and socially relevant web series that takes a dramatic peak behind the curtain of the lives of women who perform acts of great titillation on the web for money. Beyond the glossy attractiveness of the concept and setup, the narrative is predictable with little in the way of suspense or tension.
How many times have we heard the story of the young women who finished grad-school unable to find a suitable job. In this case, Liv (played by Kate Bond, also exec producer) gradually moves from repulsion to acceptance of the cam girl concept under the tutelage of the streetwise Alexa (Sarah Schrieber), who is trying to make ends meet as a single mom with little in the way of marketable skills save for her appearance. To tie the package in a neat bow, let’s add Liv’s friend Nikki (Annie Ruby), whose ideal marriage and lifestyle is rocked when it’s discovered her lawyer husband Paul (David Starzyk) is the pervy sort who spends thousands of dollars on live porn sites. Things get rather icky when Paul is caught spying on Liv via a hidden camera, then posting naked pictures of his wife on the internet. Not exactly the actions of someone wanting to be husband of the year.
The execution of the show is network quality (that’s meant to be a compliment) with season one told by Liv in a flashback manner describing how she was drawn into the world of camgirldom. While there is little in the way of mystery to the plot, the acting is very engaging, which makes sense given the pedigree of those involved in “Cam Girls.” In addition to Bond, her husband David Slack serves as co-executive producer and director for season one. Slack has been associated with TV series such as “Law & Order,” “Lie to Me,” “In Plain Sight,” and “Teen Titans” as a writer or producer. Joelle Garfinkel, who worked in a writing capacity for “Lie to Me” and “In Plain Sight,” is billed as writer/creator for the project.
The show is available at its website, www.camgirlstheseries.com, but it’s the sort of show that will easily find a home on one of the OTT majors.
Debuting at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the documentary “Fresh Dressed,” directed by musician and journalist Sacha Jenkins, is an earnest, slightly nearsighted look at the roots and rise of urban fashion from the South Bronx to the global runways and digital pages of social media. Picked up by StyleHaul, an online lifestyle brand hub, and Goldwyn Films, the 84-minute film moves to SVOD on June 26 courtesy of Vimeo.
Punctuated by quick images and interviews with a broad range of music and fashion tastemakers, “Fresh Dressed” perfectly captures the relationship between music, culture, and personal style. It speaks to what it means to be “fresh” — creating an external look that reflects more of one’s aspirations than one’s given station in life. This is especially true in the first half of the film, which does a great job in portraying the tight linkage between street life in New York in the ’70s and the role external influences such as religion and cinema (“Easy Rider,” for one) played in the evolution of looking cool. Furthermore, the synchronicity between hip-hop music and apparel is depicted with unapologetic precision.
There’s even more to like about the first 40-plus minutes, led by the depiction of such legendary characters as Dapper Dan — a man almost single-handedly behind the brand uplift of urban fashion. And then there’s the fascinating, first-person stories behind some early hip-hop recording artists, including LL Cool J, Kid and Play, and Run-DMC, and the role they played in bringing new looks to young, adoring fans. For fans of the TV show, “Shark Tank,” hearing the details of how Daymond John’s Fubu went from rags to riches is an interesting pop-cultural nugget.
Where the documentary goes a bit off the rails is when it swerves to the speak to the influence of music gods such as Puff Daddy and Kanye West on high fashion. The final 30 minutes or so is full of self-important personal opinions about how great it feels to look good. In the words of Diddy, looking at himself in the mirror, “Boy. Goddam, you look good.” This begs the questions that what the folks behind “Fresh Dressed” have on its hands is actually two films — one that is deep in living history and one that is a lengthy narcissistic commercial that is somewhat confusing in its point. Only the last 10 minutes of the film speaks to the role that social media has played in creating a global marketplace for the exchange of ideas and ends with the confusing notion that says urban fashion, once the alternative to name brands such as Gucci and YSL, has now displaced those icons, which are now second-class citizens in the world of fashion.
With those few caveats in mind, “Fresh Dressed” is solid doc that traces the synergy between hip-hop and cultural upheaval seen through fashion. For young people, to whom the ’70s was a time of platform shoes and disco, the film is a worthwhile history lesson of the way things really were during a deeply troubled time.