I just watched Venice, Episode 7 for the fourth time. That’s at least two more times than I watched the others, and I have to say, well done, ladies. On the heels of a much improved Episode 6, I am hoping this is a trend of lessons learned, the wheels back on the train, and full speed ahead.
Episode 7 is well shot, well edited, and well acted. There is so much chemistry in the air, it’s as if Crystal Chappell, Jessica Leccia, and Michelle N. Carter sat down to a buffet at the periodic table. Although the beginning scene should have probably been the end of last week’s episode, there are no bells and whistles, no standard dialogue, and no oddly squeezed in exposition to distract my attention. It flows; it is believable; it leaves me interested and more importantly, wanting more.
Prior episodes have been a demonstration in what appears to have been a learning experience. I posted my thoughts on Episode 1 and 2, and the more I think about it, Episode 2 was more like something from an entirely different series. When placed side by side against the rest of the programming, you don’t have to be a Sesame Street alum to know one of these things is not like the others.
Episode 3 left me confused as to what Michael Sabatino’s character portrays. Is he a metro-sexual male with a shoe fetish, or is he a married-to-a-woman gay man who collects Mama Mia memorabilia? I’m still not quite sure, but Michael was good enough to make me wonder. Where I am more “huh?” than curious is what did I miss between Gina (Chappell) and Tracy’s (Lesli Kay) curious playfulness at an afternoon business meeting and their VERY familiar display in public that evening. Soaps are as much about the dance as they are about the pay off, and I would have liked to have seen Gina, fueled by liquid courage, tango with Tracy.
I do get the limitations of a web budget, but skipping the Gina/Tracy date and going right into Episode 4 left a gap in the timing that makes me say, “Show me, don’t tell me.” Build this thing block by block, create a good foundation, and then build the walls for me to scale. Make me wonder; make me want more. Perhaps then, the chemistry between Gina and Tracy would have had more time to react. My praise goes to Hillary B. Smith and Jordan Clarke. Although had I not known from the website the connections these characters have to each other, I might have been somewhat confused. I loved the character confrontation between these two talented, veteran, daytime actors. Guya (Smith) is the maternal champion of this family. This is the cosmic energy I wanted to see out of the essence of Guya, not that quack-job from Episode 2.
By Episode 5 we finally get the date scene, but the chemistry between Lesli and Crystal is just not there. I say this not because I can’t see “Olivia” with anyone else but “Natalia”, because quite frankly I was ready to move on from those two by the time Guiding Light ended. I say this because, for me, there is no spark, no fire, and no smoke. I found Crystal relaxed and attentive, but Lesli as a seductress is posed, and comes off more like late-night cable. I understand the desired effect, but the somewhat-Madonna-ish British accent is distracting and should be dropped.
In Episode 6, Gina Tognoni is introduced as Owen’s (Galen Gering) blind date. The scene is shot up-close in the hatchback of a car and leaves little to distract from the dialogue. Maybe it’s just picky me, but I listen, and you lost me at “small village outside of Zambia”…Zambia is a country, so the geographic possibilities are endless. Galen’s version of the Owen character as gentle giant, little brother buffoon, and screw-up reminds me of all those stoners I once knew. He makes me lean forward in a feeble attempt to hurry his words. I have to believe my perception of bad acting has transcended to be merely an aspect of his character. Episode 6 is beginning to find its way as Crystal Chappell does what she does best, fight scenes. She scores a long overdue TKO as Gina initiates an act of paternal defiance and declares verbal war on her intolerant, homophobic, and hurtful soldier father (Clarke). I heard my audible, “Yes,” as she and Owen slam out of the Colonel’s house. This is what I have been waiting for.
Back full circle to Episode 7, I hope the series continues to get better from here. If such is the case, I would be willing to forget the myriad of technical problems, the platitude of script, the editing problems, the over/under exposition, telling me and not showing me, and yes, Episode 2. Could it be that Jessica Leccia is what we have been lacking so far? I adore the normal, “antithesis-Natalia” that is sweet, quirky, a gentle smart ass, and yes, talented. After seeing Episode 7 several times, my advice for season two would be to cut the cast and shoot episodically around these three core characters, Gina, Ani, and Michele. The waters of Venice Beach will continue to drift characters in and out of the loves and lives of these diverse, engaging, women. When it comes to the future of this webseries, I say take these three actresses, and ride the high tide.