Comedy Central launched its latest foray into the online world yesterday with Atom.com, a site featuring original web series, short films, and an extensive social network of users and amateur producers. Atom (formerly AtomFilms.com) was bought by Viacom in 2006 as part of the $200 million deal that included Shockwave and AddictingGames.com. Previously a distributor for independent short films, Atom has been trying to branch out into other types of digital content over the past few years.
Stickman Exodus, by far the most original of the three pilots, features a group of animated stick figures trying to escape a high school student’s notebook and encountering all the objects we used to doodle in high school along the way (think “Hangman” and “Tic-Tac-Toe”). The first episode, in which the townspeople try to rescue a victim of a game of “hangman,” is brilliantly funny. A product of Waverly Films, who have done music videos (Death Cab for Cutie, Darude) and commercials (MTV, VH1, Heinz, Sony), this series has a lot of promise.
Benny, Escaped Convict, an animated show created by Nye Warburton (Monster House) and Ryan Levin (Scrubs), follows a stoat (a short tailed weasel), as he runs from the police. In the first episode, he hides in a suburban book club, where he offends the uptight locals with his foul language and sexual references. This show is definitely the weakest of the bunch–its attempt at edgyness and dark humor ends up dull and uninspired.
Border Patrol, the only live action show of the three, is the middle child. It’s a documentary series featuring three mismatched guys who guard the border from illegal Mexicans with vigilante justice. Although the trio’s dynamic has been done before (one of the friends is extremely timid, another is aggressive, and the third plays mediator), the show has a few great moments. At the climax of the pilot episode, the timid friend shares nachos and beer with an illegal (the first they have encountered in their 47 weeks on the job), while the other two are away. Although the pilot episode could have been stronger, Border Patrol still has the potential to be a hit.
We’re still wating to see how Comedy Central plans to integrate Atom. Right now Comedy Central has a slot at 2 a.m. on Monday nights to air Atom’s newest original series, and feature top user content. Whether this will be expanded or not will most likely depend on the kind of traffic that Atom gets over the next few months.