In the web television business, 2004 is pre-historic. It was back in ’04 that maniaTV launched as the world’s first internet television studio. I think it is safe to say they have earned this title. Starting off with the daunting mission of providing 24/7 live programming via the internet, they proved they are not afraid to try something that hasn’t been done before. This was a year before YouTube launched, and maniaTV had already added a whole UGC community to its site allowing viewers to upload and share their own videos.
Flash forward to 2008. maniaTV is now boasting 11 million monthly viewers and has relocated from its Denver upbringing to a sizable new production studio in Hollywood. The live-shows-only plan was nixed, along with the UGC area, and today’s maniaTV is a top-notch premium web television studio. With an impressive lineup of non-scripted shows including Dave Navarro’s Spread TV, video-gamer-themed Arcade with Rob and Turtle, All Access music interviews hosted by Samantha Maloney, live music streaming Gibson Garage, and Comedy on Demand featuring National Lampoon’s Lemmings sketch comedy troupe, maniaTV is to the music and gaming world what Revision3 is to the tech set.
With Midnight Rida, maniaTV makes the much-anticipated jump into the heated space of scripted web comedy. Billed as an urban action comedy, Rida is a spoof on the the 80’s classic Knight Rider. Instead of K.I.T.T. as the personified crime-fighting car, there’s G.A.R.I., Ghetto Artificial Replica Intelligence, inside a late model black Cadillac sedan. G.A.R.I is voiced by comic DeRay Davis (Semi-Pro) whose urban slang clashes hilariously with the car’s new driver, Mitch McKnight, a white Texan intern hastily recruited as the shadowy org’s latest secret agent. Chris Spencer (Postal) stars as the head of intelligence, Tyrone Jackson.
We sat down with show creators Devin Boddie and Michael Mihail of Guerilla Hollywood, who pitched the show to maniaTV and landed a 13-episode order. Now working full-time out of the maniaTV studios, the duo brings true urban comedy cred to the team, creating Talib Kweli’s Blacksmith TV and YouTube 11-million-view hit G’Sup TV. Boddie and Mihail grew up basically “on the same block” in LA and have been filmmakers since the early years.
With Rida, the pair set out to make a feature film with the concept but found it could be made much quicker, and with more creative freedom on the web. The way they see it, says Boddie, “everything should be cross-platform.” Veterans on the web front, but relatively new to scripted episodic television, they hired TV comedy writer James Hannah (The Steve Harvey Show; My Wife and Kids ) to spearhead the writer’s room.
Celeb cameos bring a nifty surprise to each episode, and the series should have its fair share of them. Some can’t be announced yet, but one that can is Tommy Davidson (In Living Color; The Proud Family). Landing stars for these cameos has been easier than they thought, says Boddie and Mihail. “Once we had Tommy,” says Boddie, “there was a cascade effect, they hear ‘he’s doing it?’ and they’re in.” The best part about the series? “We’re thrilled to be working with the comedians we grew up watching,” added Mihail.
Sponsorship is maniaTV’s forte, and the studio landed a number of advertisers that can be integrated on a script level from the onset of production, including AT&T and Five Gum. Episode one is out now, with new episodes coming out every Monday on maniaTV.