Real estate agents. They are that unusual kind of breed that can powder up words so cleverly that a three-walled flat in Al Sadr is ‘charmingly rustic’. The hypocrisy of that business is so ripe for comedic exploration.
Enter Beverly Hills Adjacent, a new animated pilot from creator Jon Dabach, taking place in an upstart Los Angeles real estate agency run by ‘seemingly racist’ owner—who’s kidding who, this guy is deplorably offensive. The show’s setup is somewhere between the well worn Office mockumentary and American Dad’s ultranationalist satire.
But for me the hurdle here is the show’s struggle to overcome its only real comedic crutch—quick one-liners littered with offensive slurs. In the 11-minute pilot (above), no less than five minority groups get direct hits along with gay culture and Catholic priests. Look, almost all of the major animated comedies from South Park, Family Guy, even The Simpsons, have found laughs in tactful (and sometimes tactless) digs on cultural stereotypes, but it’s never the main conceit of the episode.
And that’s the holdup for me, the challenge of actually liking any of the main characters. When the first sentence of the synopsis describes the lead as ‘racist’ he’s already in the hole. Even the dim Peter Griffin on Family Guy has his redeeming moments where we root for him despite some off-color remarks. That’s where Zane Howard needs to be in order to hook an audience beyond just a curious pilot.
Owner and President Zane Howard is the seemingly racist, tell-it-like-it-is boss who acts as our tour guide for the show. Each week he finds himself chasing down new agents, trying to close deals, persuading his staff away from other professions, and convincing his depressed, burnt-out, recently divorced partner that things can be worse. Now that the real estate bubble has burst these workers find themselves pushing harder than ever to close a deal while trying to keep their sanity. They might not always be the nicest to each other, but make no mistake they’re a loyal dysfunctional family and if you cross them you’re going down.
Beverly Hills Adjacent was originally made, like many of the longer-form pilots that pop up online, to shop to TV networks. So far no one has bitten yet, but that doesn’t stop creator Jon Dabach from trying it out on the web. The animator and writer is after all writing what he knows, with a background and a family in real estate business.
“My whole family is in real estate so I’ve been around it my entire life,” said Dabach. “I shadowed a realtor for 2 days and decided it wasn’t for me. I worked as a freelance animator for a couple years and then when the work dried up a bit I ended up taking a job as Creative Director for 3 local Sotheby’s office chains in the LA Valley.”
For now the “fly-on-the-wall docu-reality parody,” as Dabach calls it, is looking for its next move online. Given all of the off-color material I’ve seen out of even the major distributors, this wouldn’t be completely out of line with what’s out there. The animation is certainly up to par for the web, and the sound carries strongly through the quick 11 minutes. But some re-writes might be in order if it’s going to find any real champions in the press.
UPDATE: There is a 5-minute recut online that doesn’t lay out the racial cards quite so plainly.
(Thanks to Tubefilter reader Melinda Augustina for the tip on this one. Got a tip? Email us at tips[at]tubefilter.tv)