Show business takes a look in the mirror with Break a Leg, an independent web sitcom created by San Francisco-based brothers Yuri and Vlad Baranovsky. The former The series follows David Penn, a hapless television writer played by Yuri, as he tries to launch his own sitcom, Groommates (about three ex-grooms living with their two ex-wives).
Since the show premiered in December 2006, Break a Leg has unsurprisingly been compared to Arrested Development and The Office and developed a strong fanbase. It follows the same formula of “awkward showbiz hi-jinks mixed with unpredictable improvisation,” except with a more zany and foreboding premise.
Writer David Penn just scored his own sitcom deal for Groommates. He works primarily with two men – a questionably competent producer named Sebastian and a spacey director named Jennifer (yes, Jennifer; “It’s Scandinavian”). Trouble is, getting a show off the ground isn’t easy, and it gets even more complicated when we find out in the very beginning that David might or might not be killed off himself.
Though the sitcom is shot and set in San Francisco, it centers its storyline on Hollywood and all the moral and ethical pitfalls of show business (among other themes like success, love, and death). Some of the best lines of the series capture tinsel town’s sink-or-swim attitude perfectly: “Moral fiber, self-esteem, self-respect – none of these things really stand a chance when there’s a possibility of getting your face on TV,” (pilot, act II); “No money means no show,” (pilot, act III); and my personal favorite, “If you want to make it in L.A., you’re gonna have to drop your pants and kill some people,” (episode 2, act I).
The script takes pains to deliver moments of dry wit, but it would be even funnier and more engaging if the creators tweaked the pacing of the show a bit (each episode currently runs more than 30 minutes in total). Still, with sophisticated camera work, Break a Leg has the air of a high-quality, broadcast-television-show, and the potential to further validate the status of internet sitcoms.
To avoid confusion and get the most out of Break a Leg, it’s essential to start from the beginning. Watch the pilot, which will introduce you to the cast of quirky characters and their back stories. The rest of the show will make a lot more sense.