Ikea Heights

The Swedish, commercial superstore that offers “affordable solutions for better living” is continuing to coast towards pop cultural immortality, via this Jonathan Coulton song, comedian Mark Malkoff, and numerous other send-ups. Ikea Heights takes more of an exploitative route, where the store unwittingly becomes the set for a web series about murder and cracking wise.

Dubbed on its Channel101 homepage as ‘a melodrama shot in an Ikea furniture store in Burbank, CA,’ David Seger, Paul Bartunek and crew have executed a significant coup by guerrilla filming during store hours in the readymade bedrooms, office kiosks and wide walkways presumably unbeknownst to Ikea’s local powers-that-be and eliciting quizzical looks from the clientele

Ikea Heights essentially revolves around two plots: one where leading man, James suspects and subsequently investigates his wife Candice’s affair, and another in which Federico and Nelson are investigated for an in-store murder by crack detective Ron Mathis. Oh, and there’s also James’ struggle to restore his dear brother, who’s suffering from amnesia, back to reality.

It’s all good soft-boiled fun, and the currently three-part series is completely buoyant thanks to its kitschy and somewhat nostalgic backdrop. “This is a land of convenience and murder” grumbles Detective Mathis, and it is at this juncture that Seger manages to mix in a touch of reality as Mathis asks a few of the helpful Ikea customer service folks where he can find the ‘wall of knobs and handles,’ which does in fact exist at Ikea, and plays a key role in the Detective’s investigation.

Ikea HeightsAnd it’s just this commingling of life and art that both distinguishes Ikea Heights from its main predecessor, Illeana Douglas’ Easy to Assemble, but also pull up alongside it (read my review of that show here). Both series’ fill their productions with the minefields of Ikea’s cultural touchstones – the meatballs, the tape measures, uniforms – but whereas Easy to Assemble uses the institution as a launching pad for puncturing the bubble of celebrity worship and narcissism, Ikea Heights always keeps the confines of its environment close at hand, like a mime exploring the parameters of his imaginary box.

At the conclusion of Episode 3, in the Burbank Ikea’s outdoor tent ‘store,’ that box is slashed all the way through with reality. A yellow polo-shirted employee mildly but firmly questions James, his dear brother Samuel, Samuel’s hieroglyphologist girlfriend, and perhaps Seger himself about their un-vetted shoot.

And this is, for the time being, where we’re left: at the crossroads of anarchy and amateurism, before any sh*t hits the fan. The Heights have been doled out in monthly installments, so stay tuned for the denouement in a few more weeks.

Check it out at Vimeo.

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