Just when you thought you had seen the gamut of web series product integration ideas comes Back on Topps debuting today from Michael Eisner’s web studio Vuguru. The premise is simple, a fictional web series about two sports nut brothers working at a real-life sports card powerhouse. But that’s where it gets interesting. You see that real-life sports card maker, Topps, was actually bought by Michael Eisner earlier this year for $385 million via his investment company, Tornante.
Created by and starring the sports comedy duo The Sklar Brothers (ESPN’s Cheap Seats, Layers), Jason and Randy, The real-life twin brothers play Leland and Leif Topps, would-be heirs to the Topps fortune who show up one day to the office to find out their uncle Marvin has sold the company behind their backs to Eisner. Now the pair find themselves working for a shrewd, heartless new boss Gaylen Briggs, who is just looking for an excuse to fire the bumbling brothers.
Sure, they consider walking out. “You’re thinking about folding up, going home, that’s it?” asks co-worker Beverly, “Yup, like the ’04 Yankees.” Leif replies. A little motivational pep talk later and we have a 17-episode story on our hands. The two decide to make use of the documentary film crew that new CEO Gaylen has following them around to make a web series set at Topps. And, surprise, even Eisner (via phone cameo) loves this idea.
Vuguru creative director Steve Cohen likens the show to “The Office meets the SportsCenter commercials.” And just like those SportsCenter spots, plenty of sports stars will be making acting cameos such as NBA players Kevin Love (in the premiere), Baron Davis, Greg Oden and even former player Dennis Rodman. Of course Topps built its name on baseball, so expect some MLB players throughout, including David Wright, David Ortiz and Russell Martin.
The Sklar Brothers have a healthy mix of sports and comedy roots both on TV and the web, and Topps seems like the perfect mix of their past works. After four seasons as hosts of ESPN’s Cheap Seats, Jason and Randy created the Hollywood agent office comedy Layers for the Turner-backed SuperDeluxe video site. They’ve also guest starred on Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Grey’s Anatomy.
This is the fifth original series from Vuguru who first struck a chord with web fans via its teen thriller Prom Queen and later its follow-up Prom Queen: Summer Heat. This year’s indie-music themed The All-For-Nots and mystery book prequel Foreign Body have fared moderately well, but still not at the level Prom Queen hit. This one clearly takes a higher level of interest for Eisner’s camp, who are looking to revive the once-dominant Topps brand in a declining sports card market. Coming along for the ride is lead sponsor Skype showing off its free video calling services within the show and in brief post-roll ads.
FOXSports.com will get a 12-hour exclusive release of new episodes which come out every Tuesday. Other distribution partners include YouTube, Veoh, Hulu, Blip, Bebo, Metacafe, Dailymotion, MobiTV (for mobile phones), iTunes and backontopps.com.