Wednesday, July 30, 2008

You Might Be A Woman If You...

Over the last few weeks, with my frenzied Comic-Con postings and scouring of the internet for the latest Tr2n and Wolverine trailer, I was pretty convinced that anyone casually looking at my blog would think I was a dude.

Then Salon's Broadsheet clued me into this site that looks at your browser history and assesses your likely gender based on the ratio of men to women who visit those sites. The editor was pretty snarky when it rated her 99 percent male. "Oops! I guess today we forgot to visit our usual stomping grounds:, and Instead, we've been reading super-serious man stuff like the New York Times, Reuters and the BBC." But there's no judgment--it is simply basing it off of the typical visitors for these sites.

So, drumroll please... the site was 91 percent sure I was female! The typically male things I did was read the news, investigate the value of our house, and look at how-to videos ( and funny videos ( The most male-skewed site I visited was Wired (only 41 percent female). But I also do our banking, travel arrangements, event planning, and work in education, which all tend to skew female (if you remove my work-related surfing, the site's only 60% sure I'm a woman).

So what was the most female thing I did? View socially-conscious videos, I guess. The viewers of, which as you might remember is Al Gore's user-generated video site that allows users to program it's cable TV channel, is apparently 61 percent women.

So then I guess it was a smart idea for Current to start airing a special segment in their InfoMania show called "Target: Women" only, it's no Lifetime channel. Instead, Sarah Haskins, my new favorite webceleb, skewers the way that advertisers and network programmers market to women. If you like Tina Fey and The Daily Show, you'll think she's hilarious. Here's her take on cooking guilt (makes me rethink whether I want a Crock-Pot).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Called It! Dr. Horrible Available on Hulu!!!

Last week Wednesday I did a post on what might be the next step in distribution for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog after it's limited release on the internet earlier this month. In short, I said it would be a good idea for Whedon to put it on Hulu, at least for a time, so more people could discover it rather than only releasing it on DVD and iTunes. Well, it's up there today as the featured program as soon as you arrive! Here's the best 42-minute web musical about an aspiring super-villain ever created, featuring Neal Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day, with limited commercial interruptions between Acts I, II and III (hit Play, or click to view full screen).

Update: The L.A. Times says this will eventually also be licensed to MySpace, and eventually Yahoo!, AOL and others. And NewTeeVee says it will be available for just four months on Hulu.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Snickt! Wolverine Escaped from Comic-Con!

The trailer for X-Men Origins: Wolverine is on the loose!

By the time you read this, these links will probably be dead, so quick, click them now! (Update--too late, they are gone, but this link might still work)

Part 1

Part 2

About all I knew of Wolverine was from Saturday morning cartoons and a few borrowed comic books from my cousin. He was hairy, ill-tempered, and he smoked--eww! Then came Hugh Jackman in X-Men--yum!--all entangled in love triangles with a self-sacrificing sensitive side.

Well, enough of that! This prequel takes him back to his surly fanboy roots--it's all claws and gnashing of teeth. Tony-winning actor Liev Schreiber plays nemesis Sabretooth, but by far the the loudest whoops during the trailer were for Taylor Kitch (Friday Night Lights) as Gambit, the charming, card-throwing Cajun thief--might Jackman have just introduced the heir to the throne?

One Degree: Will Ferrell and Mothers

Wow, I had a lot of new visitors last week! Since some of you are new, I'll reintroduce the game I've got going called One Degree. It's like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, except in this case, you need to figure out what movie or movies two actors other than Kevin Bacon have appeared in together, rather than connecting a string of movies.

First, the answer to last week's challenge. Ron Perlman recently starred in Hellboy 2 as the title character. His co-stars from Hellboy rejoined him in the sequel, but Perlman has also worked with the actors playing the royal elf family. I knew about Luke Goss (Prince Nuada), who worked with Perlman on Blade 2, and later learned that he had also appeared with Anna Walton (Princess Nuala) in The Mutant Chronicles.

But connection that I thought was the coolest was with with 85-year old actor Roy Dotrice--as soon as I saw him appear as King Baylor, I knew I had seen him before. In 1987, Perlman starred opposite Linda Hamilton (before she got buff for Terminator 2) in the TV show Beauty and the Beast in the title role, while Dotrice played his adoptive father.

So, speaking of parents, here's the new challenge. In the past I just named two actors and asked for the movie they were in together, but I'm rephrasing this to make it Google-proof.
What actress played the stepmom of one of Will Ferrell's characters and will be playing his mother in a movie coming soon?

First person to post the answer gets bragging rights! Answers next week! Here's a Will Ferrell clip to get those neurons firing:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ryan Higa's Movie Title Revealed, Along With Behind the Scenes Footage

Last month I wrote about Ryan Higa being the most subscribed teen vlogger on YouTube and predicted his movie deal was with Derek Zemrak. Tonight he, and friend Sean Fujiyoshi, posted behind the scenes footage from his film, which we now know is titled Ryan and Sean's Not So Excellent Adventure and it does seem to be with Zemrak's company.

As best as I can tell, the plot may combine familiar elements from his videos (big green ball and friend Tim Enos make an appearance) and possible Scary Movie-type movie parodies (there's a character that looks like Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd). As for my concerns of about the ladies Zemrak likes to feature in his movies, well, I was half right: there is a scene of Ryan getting rubbed down by a rather top-heavy lady, but Sean is getting rubbed down by Helga Fawntanilla. As best I can tell, they are going for a Harold and Kumar vibe. No word yet on a release date for DVD--I can't imagine this is really going to theaters, despite the ending of this video.

SNL Stars Wait in "The Line"--Will their online series take off?

Sure they're big on Saturday Night Live, but will Bill Hader and Seth Meyers' new 11-episode video series The Line be a hit online? Should they let their geek flag fly free?
Josh's girlfriend is breaking up with him on the sidewalk: "Josh, this is hard for me, okay? I mean, we were together for a long time..." His gaze shifts across the street to his friend, who is frantically waving at him from in front of a movie theater. Josh, trying to hold on to his relationship, has vacated the coveted spot at the front of the ticket line for Future Space, a huge sci-fi blockbuster debuting in 11 days, and a trio of jealous line-campers are about to enforce the "five minute rule" and usurp his position. "Just give me one..." he pleads as he dashes back to tag his territory and restart the countdown.

Josh is played by Bill Hader, best known as an impressionist on Saturday Night Live and for his roles in Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He co-wrote the series with SNL writer Simon Rich, while fellow SNL performer and head writer Seth Meyers directed. Here's a clip from episode two, "The Five Minute Rule:"

Unlike TV, the short format of online video doesn't give writers time to muck around--you've got to hook the viewers in the first episode (3:19 in this case), get them to tune in again and bring their friends. The first episode, which debuted on July 22, started a little slow, as Josh and his friend Duffy, who camped in line together in high school back in 1996, set up their spot at the front of the line. We are introduced to three guys dressed in white jumpsuits as "The Triplets of Cybar" (or are they costumes?) whose running joke is that they are supposed to speak with "one mind, one voice" but the third guy always ends up missing his cut-off cue and rambles on. So far, it's not as laugh-out-loud funny as The Guild or Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which I wrote about two weeks ago, but as with those series, it's starting to pick up steam in the second episode. In this episode, which was posted on July 25, Josh is literally dumped--his girlfriend played by Liz Cackowski (who also played his wife in Forgetting Sarah Marshall) has unloaded all his worldly possessions on the sidewalk in front of the theater.

Unlike Felicia Day's The Guild, which was self- and PayPal-financed, and Dr. Horrible, which producer Joss Whedon hopes will make money via iTunes and DVD sales, The Line, produced by Broadway Video (Lorne Michael's company), features product placements for upcoming Columbia Pictures movies (owned by Sony, which is sponsoring The Line). These placements are both subtle and jarring--I was puzzled when another camper randomly starts talking about his step brother, until I finally noticed on the third viewing that the camera had panned down to them from the movie poster for Step Brothers.

The series is posted to Crackle (Sony's site), Hulu (a partner of Sony), and YouTube, where they can be viewed with advertising. However, it's not clear why it is posted at YouTube at two channels: Crackle's Cspot channel with ads, and TheLineFutureSpace without ads (Perhaps they are in a catch-22 here: they want to track how much of the volume is based just on The Line, as opposed to the strength of the established channel, but new channel TheLineFutureSpace doesn't have the subscriptions or viewership alone that would qualify for ads).

Also, the YouTube tags for the series feature the Judd Apatow movies Hader and co-star Joe Lo Truglio have appeared in (like the upcoming Pineapple Express which will also be plugged in the series), but I don't see any evidence that The Line is being marketed to it's most natural demographic: fanboys. Hader is an avowed Star Wars fan and both he and Meyers are huge comic book geeks, as demonstrated by the video below from Wizzard TV. Day, who wrote The Guild based on her addiction to World of Warcraft, networked with her fellow gamer geeks to the hilt to get her show noticed. Hader and Meyers ought to play up their nerd cred to get more viewers, but it's like they are ashamed to have their secret identities outed to the mainstream, where they are currrently regarded as cool (you can just hear the fanboys now, calling out "Gooble gobble, one of us!")

Finally, if they are going after Judd Apatow's demographic (a frattier group of kids), why not put this on SNL alum Will Ferrell's site Funny or Die, where Apatow's already got a presence? The product placement in the series supports Columbia Pictures, which is part of Sony. The fact that they don't makes me think Sony sees the series as more than just a commercial for their movies; it's real content and part of a play to build up the channels they have a stake in, Crackle and Hulu.

There is a plethora of web video experiments going on this year and writers, producers, networks, and web portals are trying to figure out the best formats for storytelling and making money with web video. As it is, episode one of The Line has had 14,000 views in five days and the episode two has had 10,000 in two days across and both YouTube sites; about 70 percent of the views are from the CSpot channel on YouTube which has 10,000 subscribers. Dr. Horrible had two million views on three episodes in a similar time period, so it's not a lot. Network TV will cancel a show after one episode if the ratings aren't high enough. Fortunately for Hader, Meyers, and Broadway Video, they're not on network TV and these fledgling online networks have nothing to lose by leaving their videos up while The Line builds an audience. Nonetheless, let's hope the marketing and storyline for the series gains more momentum.

Episode 1 (7/22) Episode 2 (7/25)
YouTube: thelinefuturespace 432 130
YouTube: Cspot 9,178 7,701
Crackle 4,460 2,326
Total on 7/27 14,070 10,157

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Comi-Con Tron 2 Trailer Leaked

I was just a girl in 1982 so I was playing with Strawberry Shortcake instead of seeing Tron, the movie starring Jeff Bridges as a video game creator who gets trapped in his own creation. The rudimentary CGI was cool at the time, but can you imagine that movie remade with today's technology, ala The Matrix? Imagine no more-- the trailer for Tr2n hit Comic-Con on Thursday, and thanks to camera phones, it hit YouTube this morning and it's zooming across the web faster than a light cycle. And it's not a remake--Bridges is back. Check it out:

Update: Sorry, video was removed from YouTube tonight a few hours after I made this post. Here's another link with better closeups and more complete, though this one will probably be removed in a few hours (most of the ones still up are RickRolls). Check out articles below for a description of the trailer.

Here are articles from
SlashDot: Bootleg Tron 2 Trailer Is Out In the Wild
MTV: BREAKING: ‘Tron’ Sequel Teaser Revealed, Jeff Bridges Returns For Tr2n
Ropes of Silicon: 'Tron 2' Teaser Footage Featured at Comic Con
G4: 'Tron 2' Footage Screened At Comic-Con

Gorillaz Creators Take on Beijing Olympics

The Olympics are coming! In anticipation, the BBC commissioned Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn, best known for their Gorillaz videos, to turn the Chinese folktale Journey to the West into an animated intro to their Olympic coverage.

The pair also collaborated on an opera, currently playing at the London Royal Opera House, based on the same story. Albarn composed the opera, which is infused with modern music and Chinese acrobatics, while Hewlett created the conceptual art for the set and costumes.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Muppets 2.0?

The Muppets haven't had a TV series since 1998, and their last TV movie was 2005, but a series of viral videos featuring Beaker, the Swedish Chef, Animal, Gonzo, and Statler and Waldorf were posted to YouTube between June 27 and July 16 and they are taking off. Ever since Disney bought the rights to the Muppets in 2003, it seemed like they were just living off of royalties and lending out the characters to appear in Pizza Hut commercials rather than creating new shows. The fact that Beaker's video already has over a million hits makes it evident that these guys were sorely missed by a generation of 25 to 40 year olds.

Ode To Joy

Jason Segal, 28-year old star and writer of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, is a huge Muppets fan and will be penning the next Muppet movie. These YouTube vids seem like a good way to build up the Muppet brand again in anticipation of that, since I have a feeling most Millenials know only Sesame Street, not the characters from The Muppet Show. In fact, in another bid to raise the profile of the Muppets, Kermit, Miss Piggy and pals will appear alongside Disney teen idols this Sunday in a special called Studio DC: Almost Live.

Why Disney was just sitting on such a cash cow (and frog and pig) so long is unclear, but it's good they are back and it was genius to do this on YouTube. The short format and random humor of the Muppets is perfectly suited to this medium, plus, as with all economical web clips, all you really need are two or three people to produce each video. The snarky pair Statler and Waldorf, who go by the handle heckleu247, seem particularly at home on the internet despite their age. And Sam the Eagle was Stephen Colbert before there was a Stephen Colbert.

Here are more clips


Classical Chicken

It's Movie Week: Man on Wire

I saw the trailer for Man on Wire on the Apple website last weekend and knew I was going to write about it here, but I wish I had done it earlier and beat NPR's David Edelstein to it. It documents the elaborate scheme of tightrope walker Philippe Petit, who executed his stunt between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. The film won the Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance this year.

If the trailer below piques your interest, visit Edelstein's review. The movie opened today in New York, naturally, and goes into wider release starting August 8, possibly in your town.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's Movie Week: Rockafire Explosion

My father had a restaurant in the eighties that featured white linens, red leather booths, and candlelight. Two doors down, a Showbiz Pizza Place opened. It was a little Disneyland--animatronic animals singing at you while you downed your pepperoni and Coke, played Pac Man and ski-ball, and generally had a good time. While Chuck E. Cheese followed a similar format and survived, Showbiz went the way of legwarmers and Member's Only jackets.

The Rock-afire Explosion Movie Trailer from The Rock-afire Explosion on Vimeo.

But some people never forgot. Rockafire Explosion, named after Showbiz's robot band, is a documentary about Chris Thrash, whose lifelong ambition was to own Billy Bob Brockali, Fatz Geronimo, and Mitzi Mozzarella, to name a few. Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, the band has gained a cult following and owners like Thrash have programed their band to perform the hits of today, like Usher's Love in This Club and Madonna's 4 Minutes. The freaky eighties footage of a factory full of dancing metal frames with smiling bear heads reminds me of fellow documentaries King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control. Let's hope it's as good as both of those films when it comes out this fall.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How Many Fans Does Dr. Horrible have? L.A. Times Breaks the Story

During the week-long run of Joss Whedon's straight-to-the-internet super villain musical Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, there have been numerous articles about the plot line, but also about whether this could possibly be a new model for original shows. For those in the later category, the big question on everyone's mind was viewership--just how many fans does Whedon have? Blogger Jeff McManus recently speculated on how much the show, which was available free and streaming for only a week, will bring in via iTunes sales and how much star Neil Patrick Harris will make from the venture. His estimates of iTunes downloaders ranged from 100,000 to one million--a pretty wide range-- but we finally have some hard figures.

Reporter David Sarno got the traffic data from Whedon today and published it on his blog at the LA Times. In short:

Act One: 1,149,846 streams (but it was down part of first day, due to heavy traffic)
Act Two: 625,552 streams
Act Three: 427,785 streams

Act One was up for six days, Act Two for four, and Act Three was up for two days. I would say the numbers for act three are the most reflective of the number of unique fans who tuned in (speaking as someone who viewed act one and two a dozen times to pacify myself while waiting for the final act).

In his blog, Sarno compares DHSAB to other YouTube hits this week that have been up for comparable durations. Depending on how you look at it, it's on par, especially if you look at daily average for all three acts. Two of the top three biggest YouTube hits were associated with movies: the College movie trailer and fan reactions to The Dark Knight opening. Sarno believes these examples were successful due to corporate promotion, and is quick to mention that DHSAB's success is more impressive in that it was marketed by word of mouth among the Whedonites.

If that's the case though, I think the most apt comparison is to Smosh, which is definitely not corporate and yet had the third most popular video last week. Smosh consists of two college students, Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox, who amassed a huge following ever since they posted a Pokemon lip-dub to YouTube in 2005 (they had to remove it due to copyright issues, but you can see it here). They have since posted 52 random sketches of themselves and have 440,285 subscriptions as of today, the most of any Comedian's channel on YouTube.

Sarno said Smosh's latest video got 550,000 hits in two days. Given that this was produced by two dudes and that the video was just a trailer for an upcoming video (yes, even their videos have trailers), person for person and buck for buck Smosh has done a lot better than Whedon, who used dozens of cast and crew to produce DHSAB and spent in the low six-figures.

How is it possible that two boys could have more fans than an established player like Whedon? While Whedon may have a couple of hit shows under his belt, what he doesn't have is an established channel like Smosh does on YouTube, with thousands of subscribers that will be alerted to every move he makes--80 percent of the views on Smosh's latest video could be accounted for by those subscriptions. Granted, Whedon does have a dedicated fan base over at Whedonesque, but there is nothing like the convenience of being alerted automatically every time your fave auteur posts a new project. Along those lines, it would have been better if Horrible was a series that could build a subscriber base over time, but the WGA strike is what allowed all these actors and writers to be available, so the point is moot.

Despite similar-sized fanbases, Whedon will probably make more money than Padilla and Hecox, who subsist on Google ads and t-shirt sales. One DHSAB revenue stream is the $3.99 download at iTunes which is the only place you can still (legally) get the entire series since it was pulled off of Sunday night. I think Jeff McMannus' first figure of 100,000 downloading fans is more accurate than one million, and based on his estimates, Joss has probably at least made his money back. No doubt some of Whedon's fan base will also pony up for the soon-to-be-released DVD, on which he plans to feature "Commentary: The Musical." Smosh's fans may watch free vids online, but I doubt they would ever pay for them.

Might Whedon also re-netcast Dr. Horrible, this time with ads, at a site like Hulu? DHSAB used the Hulu player merely to embed streaming video on their site, but normally Hulu is a destination in and of itself, a video portal for networks like Fox, NBC and major movie studios. As a portal, it has repeat visitors across a number of genres, something that Whedon could use to find new viewers, so I think it would be a wise move to engage Hulu if he's not already thinking about it. His hardcore fans have probably already gone to iTunes and will buy the DVD. Hulu would allow new watchers who would watch some ads rather than pay for it to casually check it out, perhaps as a recommendation after watching a clip of star Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother.

Shameless plug: now that the power of subscription has been driven home to me, if you like this article, subscribe to me by using the newly added buttons on the top right.

It's Movie Week: Please Vote for Me

There is democracy in China--at least in one third grade classroom in the city of Wuhan. In Please Vote For Me, documentary director Chen Weijun follows the campaigns of three candidates for classroom monitor. Based on the trailers and clip below, it's shockingly familiar for kids who have never seen American democracy in action: the backroom deals, the negative campaigning, the constituencies, the denials. One hardly knows if this is China's way of easing into democracy or to show it's youngsters how democracy can be a popularity contest.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see this at a film festival or on PBS on Independent Lens, so I'm out of luck until August 19 when it becomes available at Amazon. Ryan Stewart at Cinematical did see it, however, and gave it a positive review.

Trailer on YouTube

Alternate trailer

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's Movie Week: The Time Traveler's Wife

In 2003, first time author Audrey Niffenegger published a haunting story about a man who has known his wife for her whole life. However, they are not childhood sweethearts: he has a genetic disorder that causes him to skip through time against his will. He visits her throughout her life, from childhood before she knows who he is, through her twilight years. The rights to The Time Traveler's Wife were purchased by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, so at the time I pictured the power couple in the titular roles. When Angelina came along, I was afraid this movie would languish in the settlement.

Now I'll have to picture Eric Bana (Munich, The Hulk) disappearing on Rachel McAdams (The Notebook). The movie is in post production and should be arriving in December.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's Movie Week: Bottle Shock

In 2004, Sideways made the world safe for movies about wine, so this year, there's Bottle Shock, a movie about the Judgment of Paris, the historic 1976 tasting when Napa wines went up against French blind. It sounds like a documentary but it's a fictionalization featuring Bill Pullman, Alan Rickman, and Chris Pine (For Pine, this may be the last sane moment he will have before he debuts as Captain James T. Kirk in next year's Star Trek reboot).

Incidentally, there is another film being made actually called the Judgment of Paris and the company making that version is suing their rival.

I will feature a new movie from Monday through Friday this week. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

When Hammacher Schlemmer Goes Bad

My husband bought us a Roomba a few years ago and while I was really mad at him for spending that money, it really did work and made our lives easier. However, it has been lying under the couch broken for a year and I think I need an upgrade--what do you think of this product?

Thank you Best Week Ever for the link.

Getcher Dr. Horrible While It's Free!

Why am I still awake? The Dark Knight had me up, then after surfing mindlessly, I realized the third and final act of Dr. Horrible was posted.

In a way, it's a shame it debuted in three parts, because the best songs and humor were in Act II. But how else would it build such buzz?

While you'll be able to buy this on iTunes after Sunday and on DVD, be sure to watch it free this weekend at

Oh yeah, here's NPR's report on the series with commentary from futurist Paul Saffo.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Watchmen Trailer is Out!

I know the entire web is talking about Heath Ledger's performance in The Dark Knight which is well-deserved. But honestly, one of the biggest thrills tonight was seeing the trailer for Watchmen, Zack Snyder's adaptation of Alan Moore's groundbreaking graphic novel. I'm not sure what the folks who hadn't read the comic thought about the trailer when it showed tonight, but I'm even more excited than I already was. Some of my very first entries on this blog were One Degree games with the stars of Watchmen, first with Carla Gugino and Matthew Goode, then with Jackie Earle Haley and Patrick Wilson. I'll be waiting for March 6, 2009 with baited breath.

Monday, July 14, 2008

One Degree: Ron Perlman and a Former Co-star

I took a long break from One Degree. The last one I did was in May for Robert Downey Jr. in honor of his terrific comeback in Ironman. The answers are:
Mel Gibson (Air America, The Singing Detective),
Katie Holmes (Wonder Boys, The Singing Detective)
Elizabeth Shue (Soapdish, Heart and Souls)
Kevin Kline (Soapdish, Chaplin)
Marissa Tomei (Chaplin, Only You)
Ian McKellen (Richard III, Restoration)
Heather Graham (Two Girls and a Guy, Bowfinger)

On to the next superhero movie-- Hellboy II. While I liked Pan's Labyrinth and it's sepia tones, I thought Guillermo Del Toro's ornate creatures and special effects just overwhelmed and swallowed the real star of the movie: big red Ron Perlman and his snappy dialog. So here's the question:
Other than his co-stars from the first Hellboy, which two stars of Hellboy II have appeared with Ron Perlman before in movies or TV?

Answers next week! Leave your answers in the comments!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Willy Wonka" Is Not for Kids

I enjoyed reading Roald Dahl's, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when I was younger, but did not see the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory until after college. Judging by these comedic takes on the 70's Gene Wilder film, perhaps it is just as well:

Marcus on Last Comic Standing (if video disappears, here's the second half)

How It Should Have Ended

And this last one really isn't for kids: "Wonka's Fizzy Lifting Drinks" from College Humor
See more funny videos and funny pictures on CollegeHumor

Update: I have to point to this SNL video featuring Jeff Richards as Willy, Amy Poehler as Charlie, and Al Gore (yes, that Al Gore) as Willy's accountant brother, Glenn Wonka.

If "The Office" Was Populated by Unemployed Gamers, You'd Have "The Guild"

Actress Felicia Day, best known for her role in the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was a hard-core World of Warcraft player for two years before going cold turkey in November 2006. Instead of waiting for auditions, she pulled a Good Will Hunting and started writing a show for herself, called The Guild, about a group of gamers meeting for the first time in the real world.

Can I say that after six months of trying to subsist on a diet of internet-only content, this is the best original show I've seen online? Don't take my word for it--in March, Yahoo, YouTube, and On Networks/SXSW awarded The Guild their best original online series awards this year. Heck, it's better than some shows on extended cable. It's got enough in-jokes about the WoW culture, but I as a non-gamer, I was still laughing out loud.

Episode 1: The Wake Up Call

Day stars as Cyd Sherman, who is so addicted to a nameless game clearly modeled on WoW that her therapist fires her in the first episode. Cyd knows her fellow guild members only by their onscreen names, until Sujan Balakrishnan Goldberg, aka Zaboo the Gnome Warlock, logs off of the game and shows up on her doorstep. He has taken the ;-) her onscreen character Codex has been giving him as a clear signal that she wants to do the horizontal mambo.

Hoping to distract Zaboo from his stalker-like obsession, Cyd suggests that the guild meet at a local restaurant in person. It's then she meets her fellow players face to face: Vork, the leader who plays while preparing himself a BLT on his George Foreman grill (an incident that Day says came from real life), Clara, the stay-at-home mother of three who pens her crying kids in the kitchen so as not to be distracted from the game, Tinkerballa, the short-fused Asian chick who thinks she is too cool to be seen with these geeks, and Bladezz, a teen troublemaker fond of inappropriate comments and extortion who carries an embarrassing secret.

By far, the best character is Clara--never has child neglect been so funny. While her baby teethes on a power strip, Clara apologizes to the guild for stepping away from the game because the nanny didn't feed her two toddlers dinner. "Belle, Gabby" she yells out, "tomorrow Mommy’s teaching you to use the microwave!"

As someone who wanted to quit her own addictions to try to do something slightly more constructive, I have to give massive props to Day. After funding the first 10 episodes of her show with PayPal donations, Day is now seeking production partners who can fund a second season at a rate faster than one episode a month. Given the spate of recent awards, I'm sure she's selecting between suitors. However, it's only got 44,460 subscribers so I've just added this show as my first subscription on YouTube to lend it some support.

Check out her interview from 3:10-5:00 on Epic Fu

Then check out this interview from MahaloDaily.

I found out about The Guild because Day also appears in Buffy creator Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, a musical about an evil supergenius that debuts online in two days. Don't forget to watch it on Tuesday, June 15!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Once More, with Neil Patrick Harris

Aaaah! Thanks to the Writer's Guild of America going on strike, we have another musical from Joss Whedon, who first showed off his musical comedy chops on a very special episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And you won't need a TV, cable, or a ticket to see it! On July 15, part one of the three-part miniseries Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, starring Neil Patrick Harris as wannabe mad scientist Billy and Nathan Fillion as doltish do-gooder Captain Hammer, debuts at*

Matt Roush of TV Guide wrote a nice little article about how the internet musical came to be, and Joss himself writes about how he developed this during the WGA strike at the musical website. Billy, aka Dr. Horrible, develops a crush on a girl at the laundromat, only to have her swept away by his stupid interloper nemesis Captain Hammer. Don't you hate it when that happens?

I can't wait!

Teaser from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on Vimeo.

*Update: At the time that I wrote this, I had no idea who Felicia Day was and did not bother to mention her in this post--big mistake. Day partially inspired Whedon to create a straight-to-the-internet distribution model with her online series The Guild, which she wrote and acted in. The woman is a polymath--went to UT Austin at 16 to major in violin performance, then math. And she can sing!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Local Boy Makes Good: Ryan Higa is the most subscribed teen vlogger on YouTube

Who is on the verge of becoming the number one comedian on YouTube of all time? It's not a viral video star or anyone I've ever wrote about before in this blog. No, the rising star of the internet is a 17-year old boy from Hawaii named Ryan Higa, who's viewership is so high it's even attracting the attention of major stars like Will Ferrell.

By day, he attends Waiakea High School and is a member of the wrestling team, winning the state championship in his weight class of 135 pounds. In his spare time, however "NigaHiga" is climbing the YouTube charts, becoming the number two comedian of all time on YouTube for subscriptions (360,344) and views (110,188,343). He's also the 19th most subscribed channel over all categories, to the point where other kids make parodies of his videos and form fan clubs in his name.

Here's the video that launched him last November and has so far earned him 13.8 million hits, How to Be Gangster:

In the video, Higa and his comedic partner 16-year old Sean Fujiyoshi say that to be gangster you need to learn a cool handshake, drink and drive, and cuss all the time. But their handshake devolves into a game of pattycake, Higa's drinking a Capri Sun, and even though he bleeps out what comes after "Mother" and before "Hole," I swear he's only mouthing it because his parents are probably around the corner, watching TV while the boys entertain themselves. His gangster chains are made of aluminum foil.

So what's his appeal? And who is watching him? Although he gets the most Google searches from Honolulu and other cities and countries with high, English-speaking Asian populations, one look at the faces of Higa's subscribers on MySpace and you realize his appeal transcends race and geography--but it is specific to age. So even though this guy looks all the boys I grew up with in Hawaii and I smiled a few times at his videos, I probably would have been ROFL if I was a fourteen-year old in Indiana.

In fact, as far as I can tell, aside from Disney's The Jonas Brothers, Ryan has the most successful YouTube channel of anyone under twenty in any category. Everyone ranking above him is a recording artist, network, or music corporation or in their twenties.

In other words, Ryan is the only real teen on YouTube speaking to teens. While LonelyGirl15 was actually a twenty-year old actress whose vlog was scripted by aspiring filmmakers, Ryan is referencing what appeals to kids his age: farts, diarrhea, Harry Potter, Pokemon, Mortal Kombat, and Soulja Boy. And as a teen, his humor is occasionally less than politically correct, but it is never terribly dirty or mean.

Higa's success is also attracting attention from people born before 1988. First, local marketing agency The KayTee Group started sponsoring him. Then Higa interviewed Hero's star Milo Ventimiglia about his new movie Pathology, no doubt because the movie's marketers saw Higa as a way to get their trailer noticed by teens.

And now, according to a clip posted on June 21 called "The Super Secret," Higa and Fujiyoshi are going to be in a movie themselves. I can only guess this movie will be produced by their new MySpace friend Derek Zemrak, who is acknowledged at the end of the video. Given Higa's fan base of preteen girls, the movie may be like Zemrak's animated production, Bongee Bear and the Kingdom of Rhythm. Then again, since he's also followed by teenage boys, it may be like Zemrock's other low-budget films Ice Scream, Planet Bikini, or Fallen Angels (I could link to the trailers for these films since the starlets are all covered, more or less, but the titles speak for themselves).

If the producers want this movie to be successful, though, let's hope it's not like any of Zemrak's previous films. Higa's appeal is that he's that funny guy everyone wanted to be friends with in school-- only he's got a YouTube account and 40,000 friends on MySpace. Every kid tries to find their identity in their teens, which is what makes Higa's "How To" series so relatable--it's like a homemade version of MTV's Made. But in the end, you can only be who you are-- the Nerd can only stay Nerd--and Higa is funniest when he is just being his own, silly self.

If the movie's truly going to tap into his fan base, it should probably be a horror-comedy written by Higa and friends and the only starlets it should feature are these lovely ladies:

What's Fourth of July Without Eating Sixty Hot Dogs?

Coming back from camping, we stopped by a diner where the TV was tuned to ESPN's coverage of Nathan's annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest. For those of you who don't know, competitive eating has been dominated by a 128-pound Japanese dude named Takeru Kobayashi, who has had back-to-back Nathan wins from 2001 to 2006. Prior to 2001, the previous record had been 25 hot dogs in 12 minutes--Kobayashi ate 50 hot dogs in his rookie year.

However, Joey Chestnut claimed "The Mustard Belt" in 2007 with a whopping 66 dogs in 12 minutes. This year, the contest was reduced to 10 minutes but with Chestnut and Kobayashi both having consumed 59 dogs each when the buzzer went off, the contest went into its first overtime since the contest began in 1916. Chestnut once again emerged as the victor following the "Dog-off," eating five more hot dogs before Kobayashi and claiming the $10,000 prize.

After two defeats, Kobayashi may never reclaim the title as hot dog eating champ of the world but you can relive his glory days when he was immortalized in his own anime series by SNL's TV Funhouse.
Copyright 2008