Hold on tight, ‘cause this one’s confusing. Nobody’s Watching is a website airing webisodes featuring Derrick (Taran Killam) and Will (Paul Campbell), two TV-addicted friends from Union, Ohio. These characters are the protagonists of a pilot-only show also titled Nobody’s Watching. The pilot was developed for the WB by Bill Lawrence (Scrubs), and Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan (The Family Guy) in 2005, but was never picked up by the network.
The show was to be about Derrick and Will getting courted by WB executives, interested in the duo because of a video they made complaining about the weak quality of current network sitcoms. The WB flies them out to LA to produce a sitcom of their own while having them followed by a crew recording their every move for a reality show that’s also being made into a show. In the end, Nobody’s Watching is a sitcom in the format of a reality show about the making of a sitcom. Very meta.
But what does this make the website? Turns out that Nobody’s Watching is formatted in the guise of a site created by the fictional characters. They’re still trying to get their “show” (and, of course, the real show) on the air, this time in the hopes of being picked up by NBC, who, in real life—really!—produced the webisodes from late 2006 up until early 2007 after strong response to the leaked pilot even though refusing to give the show a network TV slot. Most of the episodes feature the duo parodying and spoofing other television shows.
Irony comes easy to a show with such fondness for self-reference, and one of the ironies of Nobody’s Watching is that the webisodes are better than the pilot that started it all. The reason for that may be that the pilot is big on clever premise (and an almost Charlie Kaufmanesque schizophrenia regarding multiple layers of fiction) but short on real laughs. The site’s webisodes are mostly just very funny, and can be appreciated without all the post-modern gimmicks (I didn’t even realize the “truth” behind Nobody’s Watching until well into exploring the site). The best are short, minut-and-a-half summations/takedowns of other shows, including According to Jim and Friends, while others goofily mock Derrick and Will’s childlike TV obsession, with the two imitating 24, Lost, and generic sitcom opening credits. There are also less funny, more fan-oriented links to clips of Derrick and Will as extras in NBC shows like How I Met Your Mother and Days of Our Lives (really!) and message boards for fans to sound off about Nobody’s Watching or the sad state of television in general.
Because it’s so unbelievably strange, Derrick and Will’s taping themselves in real time (half an hour) while suffering through watching an entire episode of ‘Til Death must be singled out. Like a Warhol film, it challenges you to blink first, even as it makes its point loud and clear—‘Til Death is a terrible, terrible show. But will anybody be watching?