(Edit: the video just will not embed… instead I proffer a link to the Venice youtube channel, which has the teasers and the first episode, sorry about the link, right click and copy and paste into your browser… apparently today I am wordpress.com’s bitch…)
Crystal Chappell, Jessica Leccia, Lesli Kay, Galen Gerring, Gina Tognoni, Hillary B. Smith, Michael Sabatino, Nadia Bjorlin, Tina Sloan, Michelle N. Carter, Jordan Clarke and Harrison White.
I must admit, I find this one a hard one to review, I think it’s going to end up rather large and ultimately probably piss off some folk and that is never my intention, but you can’t please everyone and besides I am allowed to have my opinion too. These are my opinions, not fact and I am entitled to them just the same as everybody else is.
Regardless of what I might say in the following, I am enjoying this series, I am looking forward to seeing it every Saturday morning, and I will be following it through to the bitter end, and possibly into further seasons, that being said, it is far from perfect and I won’t hide that fact. I think it is an awesome first production, but like all flaw as it has areas upon which it could build and make even better than they already are.
So, disclaimer firmly in place, let’s proceed.
First off, the season teaser they put up on the web in order to entice.
Some preliminary and general comments on the series as a whole
I like this series, I really do and for the most part I really do… which is nice, however… I appreciate that it is low budget, independently made and a labour of love, all of which I admire and respect and are fantastic things that I like to support. .
However, sometimes it feels like the ‘webisodes’ don’t really tell you anything that forwards the overall plot… such as episode 2, I still cannot fathom why they spent a precious 5-7 minutes on those scenes. There are admittedly five episodes yet to air so perhaps its meaning will become clearer. It’s a short production, about 96 minutes in total, absolute maximum (12 episodes at up to 8 minutes each, though often less) every minute really needs to count in the overall picture.
The other ‘downside’ I find is the script. There’s very little new or innovative material, it’s covering old ground and loaded with clichés and stilted wording. Now, generally I don’t especially notice this or care about this, but every so often I just don’t understand, sometimes its just more jarring and obvious than others.
I am impressed with what they have achieved with such a minimalistic approach, and I appreciate the minimalistic approach (more out of necessity I suspect than desire), it makes a pleasurable viewing change fro the high funded gloss of mainstream shows. I will continue to watch to the end and I admit I am certainly intrigued enough to do so.
Galen’s acting is at times somewhat ‘soapy’ slightly over emphasising things as if to aid the clarity, yet at other times he is quite natural.
I’m not sure I like the high alcohol content of the series, this is emphasised quite clearly by frequent referencing to different types, it seems like they are either trying to be kind of edgy and hip or they are making most of the cast alcoholics, could quite feasibly go either way. Personally I don’t find the appeal, I don’t find drinking ‘cool’ or edgy and it doesn’t mean a great deal to me, but that is a very insular viewpoint of my own.
Throughout the series, I like that they don’t try to include too many characters at any one time, they take their time introducing them all in the first place so as not to confuse and overwhelm the viewer with too much in each 4.30 – 8 minute episode.
I also like the theme song (Jen Foster) though for some episodes it feels like the opening credits last longer than the episode (this is not actually the case, the openers are about 38 seconds give or take).
Overall I think that they are doing a great job, it’s something new to them and they are giving it a really good go, it would be interesting to see what they come away from this project with and how they then apply that knowledge to subsequent seasons.
Finally, before I start rambling about the individual episodes, I should probably comment on the fact that the makers of Venice have put it up as pay per view. The teasers and the first episode were free and available to all, and for that matter remain so. It’s $9.99 a season (at the time I gave in and subscribed it worked out as £6.38 (£6.18 without VAT) for the season in pounds sterling, making each episode about 60p)
There has been much comment about this, at least there was right at the beginning about whether or not it was something that should be done or not (by both the makers and the potential audience). When it comes down to it, they have opted to go with subscriptions to avoid having adverts or anybody involved in their project, they have self funded the making of the series, with some outside contributions but not corporate ones, so we are talking low budget film making. What they have achieved with so little and with such a loyal following via the fans of Otalia (Guiding Light) is nothing short of fantastic.
However, the fact that they chose to make it a subscription service so early on is not necessarily a good thing.
First of all you have the fact that the project will have predominantly started off with just the Otalia and individual performer’s followers, so they have immediately cut off potential audience viewership by segregating it so quickly into the season. Not many new viewers will have heard of it or be willing to risk money on something so new and unproven, though to be fair the episode they chose to air for free will certainly have enticed anybody who did stray across it I am sure.
Secondly, whilst it is reasonably cheap in the grand scheme of things, there are some who just won’t have been able to justify the monetary layout unproven.
Thirdly, given what the second episode was, better to have got people to commit before they saw it, since once you have their money, you have their money, I certainly wouldn’t have committed if I had seen the second episode prior to paying (see my review), though that cannot necessarily be said if a different choice had been made for the second episode so, it’s not all bad by any means.
Finally, despite my initial dismay after viewing the second episode and wondering what in hell I had wasted my money on, so far it has been worth it, it’s not a great deal of money anyway and yes I probably will sign up for further seasons… subject to major changes.