What happens when you take a talented group of actors and give them a year to make something fun and cool? Well you end up with The Digressions – a fifteen episode look into the more awkward issues facing today’s 30 something’s in New York.

The series was created to give the cast the opportunity to simply go out and make something fun for themselves that they all enjoyed doing. The fact that a primary goal was having fun comes through in the performances. The series itself is a lot of fun with a lot of content stuffed into each episode.

Digressions pokes a lot of fun at what I’ll describe as ‘generational issues’ facing kids born in the early 1980’s, now reluctantly thrust into adulthood. Some of my favorites are obviously recollected from actual discussions on music, love, relationships, social media and movies. If you still love Coldplay is it because they are still relevant musically, or rather because you can’t forget how much you enjoyed those times when their sound first began echoing through your ears? Does it matter if all your friends think a girl is wrong for you when you’re still head over heels in love, despite her listening to her iPod while making love? Is ‘vampires in the 1950’s’ enough material to constitute a movie idea?

One of my favorite parts of the show are the running themes and character traits that continue through the episodes. Perhaps most interestingly are the reversed male / female roles. The female characters are liberated and more liberal, proclaiming the demise of monogamy, and the inconsequence of marriage while listening to their iPods in the sack and breaking up with their well liked boyfriends for being “too nice.” Meanwhile the men fall in love, “make love,” talk about marriage, tickle each other and enjoy ‘Gilmore Girls.’  #SaveKevin

Setting up a shot

From a writing standpoint it’s great to see a singular perspective come through. Far too often writing is all over the place, and lacks an individual voice. It is nice to watch a series all the way through and feel like the episodes built upon each other.

The Digressions is interesting to me in part because it seems to be ready made for YouTube consumption, but without completely taking advantage of it. Some series are simply far too complex and involved to be produced in any other manner than the traditional film style that Digressions uses, but this show is chock full of web video potential with several elements that have been proven to work very well on YouTube. Let me make a short list.

  • every video, sans the finale, features just two characters.
  • every video can stand completely on its own merits.
  • there are strong character lines that make watching multiple episodes rewarding.
  • episodes are typically shot with the actors not in the scene running the crew; camera, slate, and sound.
  • every episode is a single location.
  • There aren’t any crazy explosions, tracking shots or overly complex production elements
  • Most episodes clock in around 4:30 minutes long

Because of all these elements The Digressions team was able to crank out fifteen episodes in one year, culminating in thirteen consecutive weeks of content (not to mention weekly blogs on the series web site). Now with their season two production nearly in full swing the group behind the series feels like they have found their stride, stream lining their production and becoming more efficient.

Still there are a couple of things they are not doing that are very common methods of YouTube success. Here are a few of my production nitpicks.

  • Episodes are released week to week, leaving roughly 35 consecutive weeks without content.
  • There isn’t really any bonus content on the YouTube channel, sans a couple of trailers.
  • They couldn’t get Scott Bakula to cameo in an episode, and there is no collaboration outside of the group itself.

That last one is half serious, but this article is on the heels of last week’s Yoga Town which featured a cameo from Sarah McLaughlin. Collaborating with other audiences is a proven way to get yourself seen and grow your audience.

As for the week to week episode releases, the group explained that this is a result of their production process that begins with writing all the episodes, and then shooting them. This is a de-facto style for most web series because it is the most efficient way of creating quality content at a certain level of complexity. Jordan McArthur and Andrew Dahl believe that altering production methods would hurt the overall quality of the show. That said the method makes it difficult to release consistent content – and consistent content has shown time and time again to be the only real way of growing an audience on the good ol’ ‘Tubes.

Obviously I digressed a bit away from the show itself… ar ar ar. The Digressions is ultimately a vehicle for a talented group of actors and writers to get out of the house, get together and create something worthwhile. You can find every episode, blog and update for the show at their official site http://thedigressions.com