Chris And Josh is an Australian series about two rather zany roommates navigating the challenges of youth and young adulthood together. While being a pretty funny show the series seems to really highlight the importance of casting and what I believe is one of the best formats for a successful web production.
For this week’s show I was able to view the entire first season of ‘Chris And Josh’ which had a nice seventeen episode arch, with about a three minute per episode run time. Each episode was released one at a time, on a Sunday, and highlights a different plot and subject matter every time out. For example episodes ranged from the rather creepy “Mother,” an episode where Chris’s mom stops by and strikes up an awkward, flirtatious relationship with Josh, to the clever dialogue of “Homeless” where Chris and Josh run into a homeless man who, it is ultimately revealed, has simply locked himself out of his house.
Each episode has an engaging enough plot, but the real draw is the dynamic between the characters Chris and Josh. It was pretty clear that the show was scripted, yet Shane Savage and Matt Werkmeister play with the material so well that they make it their own. Creator Matt Smolen described the finished product as having the beginning and end locked in while the middle 70% was open for experimentation. What’s amazing is just how natural the two actors are together. One might be flubbing a scripted line, while the other turns it into an opportunity to make fun of their awkward word choice without missing a beat. I got the impression that the relationship between the writer/director/actors had been something that was nourished over many years. I was surprised to learn that the roles were cast, and while writer/director Matt Smolen had gone to college with Shane, Matt and Shane had only met each other one time before they started production. This just goes to show you how important casting and preproduction can be. Finding two actors with great on screen chemistry is what ultimately allows ‘Chris And Josh’ to put a little room between their show and others created in a similar vein.
If you get a chance to check out the show you’ll notice how basic the set ups are. Episode locations include, someone’s apartment, the back of someone’s car, a park, and the outside of a building / parking lot (or something like that). I wouldn’t be surprised if all these locations were within walking distance of each other. The show’s production is so efficient that the group was able to produce as many as four episodes in a day, for near zero dollars. They even managed to have a respectable crew size for their shoots. The crew was assembled by Smolen who does corporate video as a day job. I suppose it’s not too surprising that crew who work corporate video gigs would be looking for a creative outlet like a web series.
All in all ‘Chris And Josh’ does what I feel is the smart thing and puts the focus on the writing and the acting. With seventeen weeks of content that doesn’t really need to be watched in any specific order, or require much of any back story ‘Chris And Josh’ has been able to slowly build up an audience. Now for a second season, with some pre-built expectations and guaranteed views the team can afford to grow the production and put a little more production value into it. Check out the teaser for season two’s opener ‘Lemonaid Stand Off’ – same quality writing and acting, but now there are smoke machines… and kids! Smolen promises that the series will continue to be driven by the dynamic between the two lead characters, something I think will work out well for them as it’s the one thing that can’t be replicated anywhere else.
You can find ‘Chris And Josh’ (both of them actually) on their YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/chrisandjoshseries/videos