#WebSeriesWednesday went a little late last night so today our lovely readers are treated to a late Thursday edition of the wrap up article. Of course this week I was joined by the cast and creators of The Digressions, and together we watched and discussed season two. While The Digressions first season was one of my favorites last year I didn’t really expect it to be so damn good the second time around.
I’d argue that the show got a lot better because of a conscious effort to go big for season two. This season is not only longer, with a more compelling story and some improved visuals it has surprisingly better writing. I’m not sure if writers Andrew Dahl and Jordan McArthur were able to put more time into the scripts but they are consistently excellent. On about three different occasions I commented that the show had just had a new *best episode*.
So just how is it that the writing is so good? For every five shows I write about in this column that I mention “over the top characters” there is one show like “The Digressions” that presents the audience with a group of highly flawed yet very relatable characters. As whiny as Spencer gets it’s hard to blame him, as douchey as Preston is, I can’t lie, I can see a little bit of him in the more negative aspects of my personality. Michelle is stuck up yet she genuinely wants to be better, and while Theo is just borderline creepy, Kenley seems excessively normal.
That aspect of the show alone is so refreshing. Relatable characters are grounded in the real world, and as such it is far easier to empathize with them when things go wrong. Spencer and Preston feel like real people and as a viewer I want to see them be friends again. Preston’s some what obvious feelings for Michelle are hidden under that layer of doucheiness he uses as a defense. His comment to her about hoping she wouldn’t move away because her apartment is “conveniently located” is heartbreaking and hilarious simultaneously. That is the value of having relatable characters.
Beyond its excellent portrayal of character, The Digressions features some of my favorite comedic writing techniques. If you watched the first season of the show you might recall that there is a lot of debated over the merits of Cold Play and Mumford & Sons. This season is no different, often referencing those past arguments in more subtle ways. One of my absolute favorite moments in this series is in the last episode, at the engagement party when we hear the first few moments at the start of a Mumford & Sons song, followed by Michelle freaking out, turning it off, and talking a lot of shit. If you hadn’t seen the first season you would think Michelle is just crazy – and she might be, but if you remember that prior argument her melt down is just fantastic. The reminder that Bella spent two weeks working on the playlist is another moment when Michelle realizes just how terrible she is.
Call backs to previous jokes are a classic comedic method which this show does so well, it’s almost like poetry (there is some of that in here too), there are tons of great examples throughout the show. Another fun thing the show does is play off of the unseen. Every storyteller is tempted to show the audience everything, to answer every question, to leave no stone unturned. Far too often though those extraneous details would be better filled in by the audience themselves. In the case of The Digressions there are two important characters who are never seen, but constantly discussed. Those characters are Michelle’s long time boyfriend Kevin, who is compared to Dr. McDreamy (from Grey’s Anatomy) and Spencer’s new fiancé Bella who is compared to a corpse.
While we do ultimately see both characters keeping them out of the limelight is used to great affect. Kevin finally makes a brief appearance in one episode, where he seems just as charming and dreamy as he is described, making Michelle’s complete indifference to him all the more funny. It’s the use of Bella’s reveal that is really clever though. A lot of credit has to go to Rachael Jenison for breathing so much life into a character that had previously only been described as dead. She Is every bit as dim witted as previously described yet simultaneously as adorable and compelling as required to make Spenser’s love for her believable. It’s clear after meeting her that the group is so petty, superficial, narcissistic, and cynical that they would write her off so quickly and harshly. At the same time it’s her refreshingly positive outlook on life that explains Spenser’s new found distaste for his friends. This is a great example of using the power of the unseen. Our expectations are built up in one direction and it is the reveal that gives us the other side of the story and allows us to see the characters in a new an unsuspecting light.
I really can’t believe that I just wrote two whole pages on this show and didn’t even get a chance to discuss “The Bromecoming King.” Just watch that episode right now, I want to put it on a playlist of amazing and awesome youtube videos. While The Digressions is an amazing show part of my love for it is just how relatable it all is to me. So many aspects of Spencer and Preston’s lives ring true from my own personal experiences as a male growing up in the late 80’s and 90’s. Perhaps there is something to this generational angst, this cynicism towards modern pop culture that cultivates a deeper desire towards a more positive and hopeful outlook. I’d wager that it comes from finally growing up and being forced to deal with the realities of the real world. Somehow the banalities of the Justin Bieber’s of the world that our culture focuses its attention on reminds us of our new found responsibilities and in turn makes us nostalgic for those similar cultural icons from our slightly younger days when we were more carefree.
You can find The Digressions at their lovely WordPress site http://thedigressions.com