For the fully-independent sitdotcom, Life From The Inside, Kathy Harmening, Tanya Ihnen and Robb Padgett pull triple duty as producers, actors and off-set friends and significant others. A couple since college, Robb and Tanya met future co-producer Kathy as all three struggled in the often brutal Los Angeles acting scene, searching for a creative outlet that wouldn’t involve “background artistry.”
As series head writer and lead actor, Robb created his role of Mason, an agoraphobic novelty songwriter, who hasn’t left his one-bedroom apartment in five years. “We formed Katr Pictures and shot a short film together that I wrote and directed. We had a good time, so we decided to branch out into something more ambitious. A full-length web sitcom seemed like something new and different,” Robb explained via e-mail.
Mason achieves his dream of retirement at age 25, courtesy of several foreign language “hits.” However, in the first episode, he finds his bank account depleted by his ditsy manager Kate, who invested his funds in a crash diet plan. In spite of his isolationist beliefs, Mason finds his apartment continuously invaded by uninvited friends: the dimwitted, unemployed Guy and the snarky sommelier Ashleigh. There’s also the matter of his crush on the cute building superintendent Jennifer, a dark-eyed beauty from Washington State adjusting to life in Los Angeles and clogged toilets on every floor.
After losing his monetary cushion, Mason returns to work as a jingle writer and again contends with daily avoidance of the outside world. Check out the trailer for a breezy two-minute introduction and you’ll be caught up.
###With the standard webisode hovering at the three minute mark, Life dares to match the running time of a network broadcast sitcom. “We felt that the web community would find respite in a longer show. Everything else online is bite-sized and we thought that we might be able to set ourselves apart. The feeling being that hors d’ouvres are nice, but 50 crab cakes don’t make a meal. What we’ve found is that a lot of web viewers really like crab cakes. But the idea of the longer format is starting to catch on.”
With that length, Life shares more in common with old-school sitcoms like Three’s Company or Fawlty Towers than the new wave of doc-style web shows like Wainy Days or Derek and Simon. “Our biggest influences I would say were News Radio and Arrested Development. We were drawn from the beginning towards a more farcical type show. The concept of broad farce in a realistic setting was something we wanted to do.”
As with any farce, Mason’s problems involve evading compromising situations. His agoraphobia conveniently confines the budget-conscious show to the apartment, with rare excursions to a carport or driveway. In episode three, Mason ducks an amorous Norwegian reporter by hiding in his car, where a homeless man has taken up permanent residence. Even in the face of poisonous fumigation, Mason avoids vacating his apartment by cleverly manipulating feminine fascination with Guy’s motorcycle helmet.
Unfortunately, sometimes Life can feel like a throwback in more ways than one. Excessive dialogue and theatrical staging can seem downright anachronistic compared to the improv-heavy fare dominating internet comedy. The relative inexperience of the cast and crew is evident, but the achievement is still notable, and the characters have room to grow.
“Our expectations for the show have grown a lot. Not necessarily in the way of sponsorship or having someone pull a truckload of money up to the set, but we’re really starting to see what our show can be. Since Internet content has seen such a boon lately we have more viewers. And having more viewers inspires us to make the show bigger and better. Of course, we won’t turn down the truckload.”