Bitterlawyer.com’s smart comedy web series Living the Dream isn’t about a bitter lawyer, or at least not yet. Set in a top New York City law firm, the series revolves around Nick Conley, a new hire from an average law school trying to fit in amongst the Ivy League legal elite.
Nick, played by John T. Woods, never seems to triumph, a la The Life and Times of Tim. He constantly bumbles chances to kiss butt and kiss girls, but does deliver us a few decent laughs. He’s a little too put together and good looking to be believable as the typical oddball that can’t seem to fit in or get anything right, yet that has never stopped Hollywood before, and John is a quality actor that makes the most of the material.
The production value is excellent and the vast majority of acting is on par with the best of television and the web. I wouldn’t expect much less from writer-director, Rick Eid (a former partner at NY law firm Manatt Phelps) who earned his legal TV stripes as a producer and writer for Law & Order and Dick Wolf’s Conviction.
The first episodes have a few nauseating moments of excessive camera shake but the boat enters calmer waters in progressive episodes. At some point I think they realized that if they aren’t going to break the fourth wall, having the actors acknowledge or talk to the camera, like in The Office, then there’s really no point in the docu-style camera movement keeping us aware of an observer in the room.
This series lends itself to comparison with The Office in other areas as well. Sure it’s web show from a site for lawyers and by lawyers, but it’s a water cooler comedy. Just like when viewing, The Office, anyone that has ever been in a workplace setting and dealt with finding their position in the pecking order can relate. Characters like Nick’s co-worker Rick played by Jason Thompson is your classic credit crook, accepting accolades deserved by others, but with the added dimension of being a smart-talking slippery lawyer on the rise.
My favorite episode(s) is the two-part season finale where Nick is forced to work late and misses being setup with a co-worker’s friend, a lingerie model and confirmed sex-addict. Overworked and under-loved, Nick decides to relieve some tension at his desk unaware that big brother may be watching. In the end, Nick is confronted by the Head of Security, well played by Kevin Ruf from Comedy Central’s Halfway Home, and the episode concludes in a satisfying and comical climax. This type of conclusion is the exception to the rule for Living the Dream which usually relies on single-beat comedy that leaves you hanging and forces you to draw your own conclusions at the end of each episode.
In a field of work like law, obsessed with articulation and clarification, these open endings seem quite ironic and a bit lazy. This is a comedy web series with real potential. With only one 9-episode season online we’ve already seen growth in the production, but what about Nick? Maybe next season we’ll discover some of the reasons why the best, most cutthroat, law firm in New York City took a chance on this guy, and hopefully, like its encouraging finale, the writing will take more chances to play out the comedy in fully developed short-form and not just rely on a quick laugh, quick cut to black, and cool theme song to hold its audience…but even if they don’t, I’ll still watch.