The Baristas, a workplace comedy set in a Pittsburgh coffee shop called The Affogato, grew out of a different web series from creator Justin Kownacki, Something to Be Desired. Many of the characters (and performers) have rolled in to the new series, which follows the life and love of the five titular baristas – Madison (Jillian Vitko), Gary (Joel Ambrose), Ben (Will McMahon), Dierdre (Lacey Fleming) and Sam (Shaun Starke). (The Affogato itself is sort of a character in the show, and it’s a real location in Pittsburgh.)
The show has a laid-back, unrushed feel, which I enjoyed, but which also makes it feel a bit light on incident. (The entire debut episode focuses on the shop’s decision to hire one new barista for four hours a week!) The actors all have good comic timing, and many of the lines are quite funny, but there’s not a ton of momentum to the proceedings. This is even stranger when you consider the pilot episode introduces no less than 12 characters. That’s a lot to fit in to 9 minutes, and you really only feel like you get to know a few of these people by the time everything winds up.
Still, the ’90s throwback vibe of the entire enterprise (it’s in a coffee shop! I think someone’s even in a flannel!), reminiscent of films like Clerks and Reality Bites, works and feels different enough from the rest of what’s out there to make this show stand out. And I have no doubt that, with Kownacki and his cast’s years of experience in producing original comedy for the Web, they have a few tricks remaining up their sleeve.
The pilot for Baristas is below. New episodes go up on Mondays at 10 am ET.