I love watching shows get better, and even more so I love watching shows get really good.
Season one of Chris And Josh, a tale of the adventures of two odd ball roommates, had it’s moments but it was more strongly defined by it’s simplicity – counting on the audience to really connect with Chris & Josh as characters. Season one was very much a “let’s get a couple guys together and shoot around the neighborhood” type of show.
Now season two is here and just wow. It’s amazing how extra production value just makes everything better. It turns out that situational humor works so much better when you can put your characters in more elaborate situations!
There is so much to love about season two. While I can’t say this about every episode, most fit into the parody category. The very clever episode “Baking Bad” follows C&J as they bake some complex (for Josh) blue cupcakes that are highly addictive and ultimately poisonous. This is the one episode that is very clearly referencing one thing. Other episodes, while clearly feeling like parodies, aren’t obviously singling any one thing out, rather they feel more like genre parodies, and clearly have a lot of influences.
The opening episode, Murder Mystery, has such a “Psych” vibe to it, as C&J search for the murderer at a funeral. The episode ends with one of the best twists I’ve seen in a comedy in some time. While the creators pointed more towards classic murder mysteries and away from ‘Psych’ as an influence this sequence could’ve fit very easily in the middle of a “Psych” episode.
Even more brilliant than the opening episode, is episode four – “Sitcom.” In this episode Chris & Josh are literally living in a 90’s era sitcom. While Josh plays along and dishes out cheesy one liners for the live studio audience (in their apartment), Chris is thoroughly confused.
This is a rare moment that I actually went back and re-watched an episode while I was writing about it. That’s when you know something is really good. “Sitcom” works because they pull it off perfectly. It really does feel, and look like a 90’s sitcome, complete with 4:3 aspect ratio, and not in HD. Most importantly the writing fits perfectly as well.
This is the key to a great parody. We see a lot of parody in web series, and often times I start to think that I’m just tired of all of it, when in reality, it is simply rare to see it properly executed. References to other things on their own are not funny, what is funny is when you can copy something perfectly, then elaborate with your jokes.
Sometimes less is more. Season one of ‘Chris & Josh’ had an epic 16 episodes! Season two cuts that in half with just eight. The web space is very crowded, and as creators we are also competing against Hollywood, and really all forms of entertainment. There is a certain bar I believe we all have to strive for, and it’s probably getting higher every day. There is this level of production value we need to reach, and that level is whatever makes viewers react with “oooh’s and ahhhhh’s.”
There isn’t much point in getting into this game if you aren’t striving to be among the very best, and doing so takes time, money and effort – all things that can seriously impact your ability to make a lot of content. There are obvious exceptions but unless you are making insanely efficient, vlog style or similar content you are better off just making the absolute best thing you can make, regardless of running time, or total number of videos.
For season 2 of Chris & Josh, the show has changed from a really efficiently produced series, to simply a really good one. Hopefully all of our content can keep moving in that direction.
You can find both seasons of Chris & Josh online at http://chrisandjoshseries.com