When an opportunity first arose for you to go out with a group of co-workers, including that cutie you kinda had your eye on, were you lucky enough to have some sort of guide – a moves mentor, if you will – to be straight with you about everything you needed to know? Unlikely, unless you paid this dude a lot of money. Or are lucky enough to have a friend who knows how to work it.
Up in Da Club‘s Evan is that lucky. When he comes running (literally) for help, his buddy Jason tears himself away from a nap long enough to indoctrinate him into the challenges of clubbing: how to get in, how to buy drinks and carry them, and, most crucial, how to get appropriately jiggy.
Created by Philip Wang of the Wong Fu Productions trio, Up in Da Club is one of the freshest web offerings in quite a while, managing to be naturally funny, carry a compelling plot string, and employ solid production values without ever taking itself too seriously.
The carrot driving the horse of the series is the prospect that Evan (Christopher Dinh) will eventually join Stacie the Cute Accountant (Stephanie Reading) and her friends when they go clubbing. And maybe, if Evan plays his cards right, they’ll do some serious “number-crunching” (because she’s an accountant, get it?! His words, not mine).
Up in Da Club’s story begins with a modest, pre-romantic encounter Evan has with Stacie in the elevator at work. After bounding out of his building in a superhero-meets-vintage-music-video style, Evan huffs it over to Jason’s for wisdom. Jason in turn schools him on the ways of the ladies and the clubs, frisking him out of 5 bucks and endangering his safety by having him execute drinks-carrying drills in a parking lot.
Phase two of the ad-hoc street apprenticeship happens over at Lotus’ “studio” (read: garage), where Evan gets more gruffly-delivered lessons in life and club culture, some quasi-homoerotic gestures from Lotus, and some sweet bonding moments to boot.
By the end of episode three (Up in Da Club’s on an episode-a-week pace thus far), the moment of club consummation is eminent, but there’s more to tune in for than just that ultimate pay-off.
As the slightly dorky but endearing Evan, Dinh is a thoroughly convincing protagonist, and indeed the actor has some relatively notable experience, with plenty of believable quizzical expressions to show for it. Wang himself plays Lotus, the closeted dance guru who kicks it in ‘80s fashions (meaning lots of hot pink). But it’s Tom Ngo’s Jason, who gets the best lines in the series (the scene in which he introduces Evan to Lotus is priceless).
As much as we aim to be color blind in responding to the world around us, it should be said that Up in Da Club is an all-Asian-American cast and crew, and Wong Fu Productions essentially acknowledges their role as such. How this factors into the consumption of the series is not without cultural import: Wang and company subtly serve up some of the clichés and expectations brought upon Asian-Americans, and then swiftly smash those perceptions to bits.
On the other hand, whether intentional or not, Wang is further advancing the cause of showing a contemporary Asian-American identity for all of its complexities. It’s a bit like Margaret Cho 2.0, only without all the narcissism. And more dancin’!
Definitely worth the watch at WongFuProductions.com.