I’m starting to notice another trend in web series that appeal to me. I said it before when I reviewed The Digressions earlier this year, and I’ve said it more than a few other times recently, but there is a distinct culture to web shows. While every show is unique, and there is stuff out there that is completely unclassifiable the trends are clear.
The web series is a format of the people. It’s our own stories told in a manner never before accessible to the individual. For a long time now popular films have been the arena of the escapist – larger than life stories designed to fill us with ah and wonder which take us away from our dreary lives if for only a couple of hours. Still, the very best of those films are the ones that touch on something human, relatable and universal.
So now, a whooping three paragraphs in I’m going to circle around to my point. The trend in web series is in their relatablity. These series that are sticking with me are the ones I identify with, that feel like my life. As a male in my late twenties I’m right there in the main demographic of people who are creating narrative content for internet audiences so I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
What might come as a surprise is that ‘Cost Of Living’ is a female-centric show, with two female leads. The few male characters are either gay, bi, or acting like they are (rim shot!). Still the experience feels universal.
Creators Shannon Bowen and Dave Binegar set out to create a show that showcases just what life is really like as a young adult in a big city – with no trust funds. On the surface this show is about its creator’s love / hate relationship with San Francisco. The show even opens with a gag about the absurdly high rent and the strange compromises one might make in order to get a reasonable price on a room – I’ll give you a hint, ‘gag’ is meant as a pun in that sentence. O_O
Where the show really shines is in it’s strong depictions of friendship, beyond just the good, but right there in your face for the bad. Talk of crippling debt, poor career choices, and student loans over take the comedy by the end of episode two “Lady Date.” It’s a common topic among any group of moderately recent college graduates and I’m sure the phrase “debt herpes” will soon enter into the national lexicon.
While friends are great for confiding in, for being there and for helping you get drunk there are a lot of insecurities that can complicate things, and navigating these lows is as important as creating those highs. While the car-trouble-in-a-parking-lot episode “Oregon Trail” is brilliant on it’s own, if only for the line “We have to push it! This is America!” it’s yet another example of the rough side of friendships coming through. The jealousy, the neediness, and the fear of losing each other all show through as the situation grows darker. I love that these deeper discussions remain meaningful throughout the entire arc of the series right along with the great comedic moments.
The climatic finale of the show “Friendsgiving” depicts the group of friends getting together for Thanksgiving rather than with their families, something that feels like we are going to be seeing a lot more often as time goes on. All the issues and themes in the show come to a head in this episode, which is highlight by some really brilliant and well executed writing.
Jules emotional breakdown is near complete, her Friendsgiving is starting to feel an awful lot like a traditional family Thanksgiving, and her confession to boyfriend Dylan about her having “debt herpes” is seriously touching. What stood out though, was Dylan’s response to her. It’s emotional, heartfelt, deeply romantic, yet utterly stupid. It’s like that scene near the end of The Notebook when Gossling tells her he wrote her every day for five years, but pretend he’s talking about moving to Austin to join a bike club to get out from under all the debt. I’m touched by the sentiments yet I’m cracking up at just how naive and dumb Dylan seems to actually be.
It’d be criminal not to at least make mention of all the great music and the amazing production that went into Cost Of Living. Every episode is full of great stuff that just lifts the show to a whole other level. The plan from the beginning was to get as many local artists involved in the project as possible.
As for the production, the show took about a year to create from page to in the can. More impressive though is that the entire series was filmed over just four days! That’s ten episodes in four days, all for the low low price of around $12,000. One interesting tid bit is that in San Francisco you don’t need film permits to shoot on private property.
Cost Of Living is definitely a standout show. It’s one that sees a little technical improvement over the first few episodes as it goes on, but more importantly it’s a show with solid characters in absurdly relatable situations. You can find it online at, http://costofliving-series.com