It’s always fun going into a #WebSeriesWednesday not knowing anything about the show I’m about to watch beyond the name. My first thought was some sort of hipster comedy that took place around a coffee table. That wasn’t it, but I’m sure someone will get on that concept really quick. A minute or so into the show it’s revealed that the coffee table is an antique and a new purchase from some sort of yard sale. My expectations move towards some sort of Paranormal Activity style horror / suspense offering. Ultimately I was way off. The Coffee Table is self described by its creators as being Dr. Who meets Greatest American Hero and that coffee table isn’t haunted, enchanted or trendy – it’s alien technology.I suppose the comparisons are apt – the situations are cheeky, the acting a bit campy and the jokes on the cheesy side. The show’s style makes the effort not to take itself too seriously – ‘aliens’ are purple (or blue, or dressed in sparkly coats) and the cars that drive through space aren’t really meant to fool anyone into actually believing that cars can actually do that. None of these details are meant to be funny but rather be an invitation to the audience to suspend their disbelief for a minute or two.
All in all The Coffee Table wants you to have fun, don’t ask too many questions and like Dr. Who its success is based the quality of the characters. While I tend to be put off by more campy stylings in shows that aren’t outright comedies the question here seemed to be whether or not the characters could hook me in enough to convince me to take the silly details at face value. The result is something of a mixed bag. Most of the characters were defined well enough for me to find myself deftly teetering on the edge of my seat as I waited to learn their fait. In addition the character of Tabitha seems to be the key to the plot line which might be why she is the most intriguing of the group. At the same time though, the series pins its cliffhanger ending on the perilous circumstances of Melody – a character who I hadn’t connected with at all.
As a production The Coffee Table is imbued with a real DIY spirit. The table itself is the work of five artists, including an electrician and a carpenter. It’s got buttons, it lights up, it talks, heck they even made it self aware. The show was shot over 14 days, nights and weekends of course, within the home of series creator Scotto Moore. The behind the scenes video reveals just how much of a mess they made of the place, installing green screen’s over the windows. Not to mention the challenge of living on a movie set, which required constant consideration for continuity. There was no redecorating allowed, nor could Scotto and his wife Jen (who plays ‘Melody’) leave any dishes in the sink.
The porch exterior required the use of a sound stage to be believable. Obviously you couldn’t shoot a scene meant to take place on a porch – in the void – outside on your real porch. To counter the problem the producers built a porch on a stage, and surrounded it with green screens. Scotto likes to comment that the fake porch is a lot better than the real porch. The effect of the porch surrounded by the blackness of the void is all very ‘Dark City’ – a film that ‘The Coffee Table’ occasionally recalls visually and thematically, but not really in tone or purpose.
The show is comprised of a very healthy fifteen episodes, and has built a small following in the Pacific Northwest simply through connecting with as many people as possible. It’s a nice bit of grassroots word-of-mouth marketing that has lead to a Kickstarter campaign to cover the cost of a second and third season. The show is cutting it awfully close with just under $1000 left to raise, and five days left. If unsuccessful Moore says he’ll probably just have to ‘make a comic book’ to finish the story.
You can find all fifteen episodes of season one of The Coffee Table online at http://thecoffeetable.tv & their Kickstarter campaign at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1843733366/the-coffee-table-seasons-2-and-3