Heckle U

Back in February, if anyone had asked me, “Who’s the top college basketball team in the country?” my only plausible response would’ve been “F*ck Duke!”

Other than an innate dislike for Coach K, I was as ignorant about the whole Big Dance as the secretary who inevitably won your office’s March Madness pool. Unlike most white people – who I heartily believe enjoy college hoops more because there is a higher percentage of white guys on the floor (but that’s a topic for a different article) – I prefer to watch the NBA.

Heckle UBut this year I did get into the spirit of March Madness because, let’s face it, when money is riding on something, one tends to care more about the outcome.

Though the standard of play in college is significantly lower than the pros, the crowd participation is far, far superior. Unlike fans in orchestrated NBA arenas, college kids don’t need to be told when to stand or cheer or razz the refs. They bring homemade signs and body paint, and try to wreak as much havoc as possible by heckling. And when they’re good at the latter, it can be like having an extra man on the court.

This year, CBS tried to milk their coverage of the NCAA Final Four with an original web series called Heckle U – a fictional account of two collegiate hecklers that launched just as the first round of 32 games were set to tip off.

Owen Benjamin (Gaytown, Owen Benjamin Presents) and Kirk Fox star as “Chance Stevens” and “Darrell Downing,” Montanans with a mutual love of college basketball and yelling. Capably hammed by Benjamin and Fox, our protagonists recount the tale of how their antics inspired State U to a Cinderella birth in the national championship. The story is predictably goofy and the acting on all fronts passable. I could see Chance & Darrell popping up on The Man Show, except that there’s no girl jumping on a trampoline in the Head & Shoulders funded shower scenes.

A lot of the material in Heckle U pure schlock. The ditzy cheerleader, Duffy (Pepper Binkley) is actually not bad for a played-out stereotype, but the accent-wielding Dutch ‘baller, Johannes “Big Handsome” Janssen (John Behlmann) is just beyond stupid and responsible for much of the not-so-subtle, low-class humor.

After the fellas go professional with their act, the show gains a bit of momentum and the material improves. Chance grows more loathsome by the minute and his YokoHilton hybrid of a girlfriend Carla (Lindsay Campbell) is equally dislikable, but it’s Darrell Downing that deserves his own spin-off .

Allow me to steer away from sports for a moment and put the series in terms I’m more familiar with. Heckle U, at times, can be like a Yes or early Genesis album: a lot of self-indulgent, though easily-ignored, wankery punctuated by moments of brilliance. Ultimately, the show is watchable. It’s better than Charles Barkley’s half-time commentary and you’ll get a few laughs, but don’t expect to have your mind blown.

Check it out at CBS.com.

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