What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. –Ecclesiastes 1:9
I won’t say “most,” but a great number of shows on the web don’t take the above quote to heart. Many work ridiculously hard to create something “unique,” and in the process, somehow find themselves mired in ground that has been retread to death.
Sex Personified tries a little too hard at finding that “twist” that’ll make people watch. The premise is simple enough: The god of sex and the god of violence bet on whether or not the former can get a uptight square laid. Comedies don’t need to be deep, and that’s fine. However, what I’m first struck with as I watched the first three episodes, before even considering the construction of the show itself, was simply: “If they weren’t the gods of sex and violence, would the show be any different?” Adjust a few pieces of dialogue accordingly and, well, no.
As far as the production itself, director Sean Weiner’s use of the documentary style (in camera movements; they don’t get into The Office territory with regarding the camera) is perfectly acceptable, when the camera doesn’t make itself known. But with constant movement, and those quick-zooms in mid-shot that people enamored with that style love so much, I’m constantly pulled out of the moment, and any sense of rhythm is lost. Visually, it’s pretty plain, but it’s a sitcom, so you’re fine as long as the dialogue is recorded clean—it is, for the most part—and the shots are framed up without becoming stale. Quick-zooms notwithstanding, they are framed up nicely, though lighting at times seems dark.
However, while the premise could conceivably be interesting, if very, very familiar, the written material is severely lacking. While you don’t need the deepest of characters, in the pilot alone there’re ten minutes to get us to like these people, and though I don’t despise them, I’m completely ambivalent. The God of Sex doesn’t look like an adonis, nor has any real “it” factor, which, for someone who can sleep with whomever he chooses, one would think that he’d at least have a lot of charisma. Had it been the point that he has women inexplicably lining up despite his myriad of flaws, there’d be a lot of gold to mine there. As it stands now, he’s regarded by others as the embodiment of The Game, yet the audience is given no evidence as to why beyond his title.
Neil, the aforementioned uptight square, is treated like a sad sack – but in the material he’s given, he’s an unrepentant, uncooperative nerd. Had his glasses been cracked at the bridge and repaired with masking tape, the circle would be complete. Personally, I don’t really care if he gets laid, and the show doesn’t make the point that he really doesn’t deserve it.
And I’ve said this in previous reviews, but I can’t stress this enough: Comedy is made or broken by its editing. It’s a very rhythm-based genre, which makes post-production all important in maintaining that pace. In Sex Personified, while not egregiously so, the editing feels like a rough cut. Cuts out of or into scenes are imprecise in their timing, which can (and does) kill the final punchline of the previous scene, or the first joke of the new scene.
Compare early Squatters to later Squatters. The difference in editing is very subtle, but when it tightened that part of the show up, the jokes hit ten times harder, and now I’m calling it the best indie comedy on the Web.
Sex Personified is ultimately a show that feels like it went to production too soon. It tries really hard to be funny without resorting to Jackass-style shenanigans, but the scripts (so far) could’ve used quite a bit of workshopping before it was ready to shoot. It’s not offensively bad, but it’s really just —
Win, Fail or Trainwreck: More on the scale of Sorta There. Overall, production value is fine, beyond the bothersome camera work. Sex Personified‘s biggest flaw is its lack of commitment to the premise. The show dips its toe in the pool, but never jumps in. The show needs confidence in itself, and the writing to be distinctly bolder in this comedy-saturated medium. When there are more comedy videos that I haven’t seen than stars in the sky, I don’t see myself making time for this show. Not without a huge overhaul, at any rate.