I have watched the premiere episode of Open Book Production’s Venice several times, and I believe I am prepared to take an honest and constructive look at the new webseries. I approach this endeavor with the same critical eye I apply to all entertainment, and for that matter politics, as I believe they are one in the same. I don’t think Kim, Hope, or Crystal would expect anything less from me.
My favorite part of the five minute episode came in the first thirty seconds. It is the part where the CBS/P&G executive yells, “Cut!”, and Crystal Chappell says, “Fuck you AND your standards and practices.” OK, that scene is in my head, but I see it every time I click “play”.
I believe the script inaugurated the two characters of Gina and Ani very well. It established their relationship obstacle right away, giving an insight to their history and the possible flaming circus hoops to jump through in the future. Complicated is an understatement. Gina is aggressive, broken, and flawed, and for that Kim Turrisi, I say good on you. Meat to chew is so much better than milquetoast to swallow. Speaking from someone who now sarcastically and unfairly equates the phase “I don’t know” with Jessica, it is refreshing to see her play opposite Crystal with desperation and frustration but not with a pabulum resolve.
The first screen shot was generally well constructed. I have to admit, though, the slow pan across the discarded clothes trail revealing a morning-after scene with two perceived as passionate lovers that are HALF-DRESSED leaves me perplexed. I don’t say this as a titillated fan with an overwhelming desire to see the girlie bits. Hell, anyone with access to an internet connection or a Netflix account has seen Jessica naked. This is merely a pet peeve of mine in a PG-13 world. A well placed sheet around “the girls” would have been more realistic.
I would have preferred the Galen character’s familial relevance to have been established with more definition. Unless you are a reader of the soap press or a Twitter hound bird-dogging the series and it’s production team, it’s not necessarily obvious that Owen and Gina are related. Nevertheless, they have a resemblance, and he teased her as a good brother should. I loved the sarcastic little brother “re-tread” line as visually I can see the shiny new facade of the old worn pneumatic unravel and peel away with time. I look forward to more glimpses of why Gina keeps pushing Ani away when clearly in the “body clutch” before the shower scene she loathes herself for not being able to step up. Gina is troubled, emotionally cold, and possibly, a bit mean. Everything I love in a dramatic lead character, but thankfully not in a partner.
How will the other romantic characters play into this broke-back relationship? How does Gina’s family tree shade her truth and her confidence? I have about a week to decide if $9.99 and a Paypal account is the price to pay for my curiosity. No matter the school of thought on this subscription-based internet programming, and there are plenty of opinions out there, I am interested to see where this business model will lead for a “soap” series. Open Book Productions is in a very unique position that many web producers can only hope to be. Crystal Chappell has a pool of friends to pull from that are experienced TV and theater actors that will work for free (for now). Crystal also has a maniacal following willing to finance the initial phase of this dream with Venice swag and in-kind drop off programs. Is the webseries the future of the failing daytime serial model? Are Crystal Chappell and company riding that proverbial elephant I gave them right down the middle of the world wide web, a socially-marketed entertainment juggernaut? Will this niche audience be sustainable? Time will only tell.