I’ve felt for a while that the sitcom has needed a jumpstart, and many television shows have certainly been revving the engine in the past few years to push the genre further. Curb Your Enthusiasm combined the tightly-woven plot lines of Seinfeld with the cinema-verite camera-work and spontaneous dialogue we’ve grown accustomed to from the influx of reality television. The Office used a documentary-structure that allowed for humor to originate out of what the characters didn’t want us to see on camera.

Still, I’ve always hoped that the vastness and relative freedom of the web would help to accelerate this process: more shows, more experimentation with producers less beholden to ratings and advertisers.

A year ago I had very little to talk about. The transition from user-generated, youtube-esque videos to more story-driven webisodics was just taking shape (i.e. Lonelygirl15, Something to Be Desired) yet lately new web-exclusive serials spring up almost daily on sites like DotComedy, Super Deluxe, and Funny or Die.

So I’ll be examining whether this influx of new web sitcoms – or “sit-dot-coms” as my friend Eddie ingeniously coined – will indeed push the genre further or whether producers will simply try to do on the Internet what’s already been done on TV (Should we be nervous that both sites mentioned above were created by television entities?).

Check out my take on one of Super Deluxe’s latest efforts after the jump.

I thought I’d start with Bob Odenkirk’s new web-exclusive show on Super Deluxe called Derek and Simon: The Show. Odenkirk, who’s successfully written for television (SNL, The Ben Stiller Show, Mr. Show with Bob and David) is producing and directing 2-5 -minute episodes about two twenty-something dudes (Derek Walters and Simon Helberg) who have girl problems.

In Episode 2, “I Love You,” Derek mistakenly says “I love you” to his girlfriend instead of breaking up with her, and Simon figures the only way to get out of the situation is for Derek to start “loving” everything around him – a bowling ball, loose change, chewing gum.

Yeah, so it’s not the most original premise, yet Odenkirk’s not relying on a zany situation like Two and a Half Mento fuel his comedy. He lets the jokes surface naturally through overlapping dialogue and awkward pauses.



In this way he’s taking cues from sitcoms like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development that both look, feel, and sound different than your average sitcom. Rhythmically, many traditional sitcoms like Everybody Loves Raymond or Two and a Half Men, have predictable arcs to their dialogue. You’re usually able to tell when a joke’s about to happen and pretty certain where you’re supposed to laugh. Yet Arrested and Curb are more nuanced. There’s no laugh-track, and the humor is generated more often from awkward pauses or looks than actual “jokes.”

Odenkirk says in an interview with the AV Club that he’s chosen to work on the web for “the artistic freedom.” “Super Deluxe is really cool. It’s very short-form, so that we can go out and shoot a couple of them at a crack, and I can fit it in between my efforts at these bigger projects, screenplays and films, which take a lot longer to develop. You can just go knock some of these out.”

I’m all for experimentation, though a criticism I’d offer is that episodes sometimes feel like drawn-out sketches, like acting partners that constantly break out of their scenes during intimate moments. I’m hoping for more character development as the series progresses. Nothing overly sentimental is needed, but even Curb interjects moments when Larry and Cheryl hug and demonstrate that they love each other. No matter how short a series is, or how despicable characters might be, you have to deep down care about them in some way in order for a sitcom to work.

This is definitely a show to keep your eye on. Not earth-shattering in terms of advancing the sitcom genre, but the two leads demonstrate a natural acting style that’s rare for such young talent. And Odenkirk’s cameo in episode 3 as an acting coach with a slight lisp is not to be missed.

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