What if the characters from the popular comic strip PEANUTS were twenty-somethings? The new comedy web series AMERICA’S NEXT TOP 20 SOMETHING, which debuted on March 4th (with new episodes each Monday on the show’s web site), and was created, written and directed by Jaime Wright, attempts to answer that question.
Wright stars as Thelmahh, a performance artist and recent graduate of a fancy designer art school, who, with no money, and fed up with life in New York, moves back home with her parents. She then reunites with her friend, Louize (played by Kathleen Littlefield), who also lives at home with her folks. Both women connect with a loose group of fellow twenty-somethings, and they begin a humorous quest to find meaning and purpose in their lives. Nine episodes are set for the show’s first season, along with a possible Christmas special, according to Wright.
Like the character she plays, Wright had her own set of experiences that formed the basis of the show’s storyline, which was developed in mid-December of 2011. “After graduating from NYU in May 2011, I spent the next few months misguidedly traipsing through LA (with no funds to purchase a car). A little dejected, I moved back to New York to live with my parents in the suburbs while I spent most of my weeks preparing new monthly shows with my sketch comedy group to be performed at a bar in the East Village where we were ‘in residence’. Though I still spent a good portion of time in the city, I also began to reconnect with my closest two girlfriends from high school/growing up who were also living at home with their parents.
Producing the show was a learning experience for Wright, who had never made a film of any kind before production began on the series, but luckily for her, she was surrounded by a talented group of people, including actors (many of which were friends of Wright), who helped make the daunting task of filming each episode less challenging.
“Leah Bottone (whose best friend from high school was my best friend in college) came to my rescue, and basically taught me what to do from the ground up. (Bottone and Wright are the show’s executive producers). We shot most of the series over the course of a week in Westchester County. It was a lot of running around, picking people up at the train station, and tricking cops into letting us shoot in parking garages, but it was so much fun.” Prior to filming, the show successfully funded its first season through the crowd-funding web site Kickstarter, raising $6,200.
Wright, who cites comedian Louis C.K., writer/director/performance artist Miranda July, Lena Dunham, creator/writer/star of the popular HBO series GIRLS, the PEANUTS comic strip, playwrights Sarah Ruhl and John Patrick Shanley, and famed author J.D. Salinger (CATCHER IN THE RYE), as her primary influences as a writer/filmmaker, set out to create a “thoughtful comedy” that doesn’t rely on conventional set-ups and punchlines for humor, like most other comedies. “This is a webseries dedicated to the art of slow comedy, of a slow unraveling of a humorous, thought-provoking situation. It is incredibly character driven, and there are a ton of characters to follow. It is a series that fetishizes the lameness of the suburban social life. I hope I make everyone who watches want to go have a lame Friday night at a deserted karaoke bar, and end up vomiting in the parking lot outside.”