Stacks is an 11-part web drama series from writer and creator Kathy Forti. We’re currently 6 episodes in at the time of this review.
The story follows struggling writer Cali Cavaleri (played by Jackie Tohn), who discovers a portal to an inter-dimensional repository of knowledge known as the “Library of Truth” after stealing a dead guy’s phone. Why does she steal a dead guy’s phone? It’s not entirely clear…
The show has an admirably far-out premise and definitely goes for broke, working in elements of action, science-fiction and comedy all within the first episode. However, issues of believability pop up right away and persist throughout all 6 episodes I watched. The whole narrative leans on a pretty unbelievable set-up:
The protagonist, a reporter no less, finds a dead body in a parking garage with teeth marks in his neck, steals his cell phone and then takes off because she urgently has to go to…the library. First off, what reporter is doing research in a library in 2011? (The fact that her article is supposedly a tabloid piece about an “alien baby” doesn’t help matters. Do they have an entry on that in Funk & Wagnalls?) Also, that whole “body with teeth marks” thing doesn’t seem like a good tabloid story?
Even more problematic is the overuse of voice-over narration, combined with scenes featuring Cali speaking directly into the camera at her audience. (At times, she’s interrupting her own voice-over to comment into the camera. Which is just confusing.)
It feels at times like writer Forti needed a second or third character. She eventually does add in Zach, the helpful librarian who comes to Cali’s aid, but it takes him so long to arrive on the scene, Cali ends up talking to herself a lot and it bogs down the momentum. The show gets off to a fast-paced start in Episode One, but Episode 2 and 3 basically just recap Episode 1, and feature Cali talking to herself about what she wants to do next. It’s never a good sign when every episode has the same moment in its “last time on Stacks” intro. That means you aren’t answering questions and following up things fast enough.
Stacks is a BIG, high-concept series, and it’s encouraging to see web TV creators going for broke and refusing to hold back on their elaborate or creative visions. However, I can’t really say the show is a complete success, and there are definitely some rough patches to smooth out.