Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Webisodic Soap Opera

Has there been a hole is your heart ever since MTV's Undressed went off the air? In the ensuing five years (the "Dressed Ages" as it has become known) have you matured into an urbane, twenty-something hipster whose heart still secretly years for stories of rocky romance, unrequited lust, and tawdry late night hook-ups? Do you wish there was a current soap opera that spoke to your generation (and your heart) the way Undressed once did, but perhaps with a contemporary documentary sensibility and maybe some nudity? Well, sister, have I got a show for you:

It's called Young American Bodies. The show focuses on the relationships between a bunch of twenty-something Chigacoians as they try to figure out their lives and bone each other. YAB is currently in its second 12 episode season and it is available for free download from the hipster sex-talk site nerve.com. In a lot of ways the show is very much like MTV's Undressed, except it takes place in Chicago instead of a soundstage, the scenes all have a rambling, improvisational feel to them, and occasionally you see pubes. The sex, through tastefully handled, is graphic compared to anything on television and certain acts are clearly unsimulated. It helps that the show is produced by the same twenty-somethings that star in it, which I think (along with the no frills, documentary presentation) keeps the whole thing from seeming cheap and exploitational. Having such explicit (yet not pornographic) sex in a soap opera is interesting territory that a web show is uniquely equipped to mine. There is definitely a template being laid out here for the ways in which a webisodic series could use the freedom of the internet to explore sex and relationships in a very frank and compelling manner. It's unfortunate that Young American Bodies never quite cashes in on that potential.

The show is a little boring, I can't lie. The saving grace is that the episodes are less than ten minutes apiece, so you never feel like you're wasting too much time, but the narrative still manages to meander a lot. I think this has more to do with the loose, improvised vibe than anything. A lot of scenes don't seem to have any real agenda or focus. There are also a lot of scenes of characters sitting by themselves doing nothing. Perhaps if the scripts were tighter the show would have more of a flow to it. The improvisational feel does occasionally work to the show's advantage, as in the case of this episode: "In The Wave" (season 2, episode 3), which manages to really capture the awkward, sweet non-talk between people on the verge of making out for the first time. It's very endearing and makes this episode easily my favorite of the bunch.* Not sfw, btw.

Despite the flaws in Young American Bodies I can't help but find it kind of compelling for a couple reasons: A) I'm a total sucker for soap opera in almost any form. Give me some people longing to be with other people they can never be with, or getting with people they should never get with, and I am a happy camper (eat a dick and sue me) and B) I really enjoy seeing people my age engaged in interesting filmmaking endeavors, even if they are only half successful. Honestly, I'd rather watch two hours of occasionally dull webisodics like this than a lot of things that are in theatres right now. Oh, and C) Sometimes there are boobs.

I wish the Young American Bodies team nothing but the best of luck. Keep on keeping on, guys.

*-To bring you up to speed on this episode: Dia has a serious, long term boyfriend but has recently entered into a secret affair with Emma, her (also ostensibly straight) co-worker at the coffee shop. Meanwhile Ben has been spending a lot of time with his new friend Sarah, an older woman he knows through school, and things appear to be heating up between them. Also, Maggie doesn't know what she wants to do with her life and her boyfriend is kind of a douche.


The Atrox said...

Is this what you do at work all day?

Also, big ol' props for bringing up Undressed.

-Jeff (signed in as The Atrox, it seems)

Paul said...

Let the record show that I was stuck at home all day when I wrote that post.

Lindsay said...

dude, I watched all of these are they are friggin' awesome.
Not only are there BOOBS but DICKS!
And drama!